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Why Hobbes Cannot Limit the Leviathan

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A Critical Commentary on Larry May’s Limiting Leviathan

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This commentary contends that Larry May’s Hobbesian argument for limitations on sovereignty and lawmaking in Limiting Leviathan does not succeed. First, I show that Hobbes begins with a plausible instrumental theory of normativity. Second, I show that Hobbes then attempts, unsuccessfully – by his own lights – to defend a kind of non-instrumental, moral normativity. Thus, I contend, in order to successfully “limit the Leviathan” of the state, the Hobbesian must provide a sound instrumental argument in favor of the sovereign limiting their actions and lawmaking. But, I argue, neither Hobbes nor May provides such an argument.

Affiliations: 1: University of Tampa, Department of Philosophy, 401 W. Kennedy Blvd, Box: R, Tampa, FL 33606, USA,


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