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Nature and Artifice in Hobbes’s International Political Thought

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This article argues that the artificiality of Hobbesian states facilitates their coexistence and eventual reconciliation. In particular, it is suggested that international relations may be characterised by an artificial equality, which has a contrary effect to the natural equality of human beings. Unlike individuals in Hobbes’s account of the state of nature, sovereigns are not compelled to wage war out of fear and distrust, but have prudential reasons to exercise self-restraint. Ultimately rulers serve as disposable figureheads who can be replaced by a foreign invader. Thus, this article highlights the implications of Hobbes’s views on sovereignty by acquisition, which allow for states to be decomposed and reassembled in order to re-establish lasting peace. It is concluded that these findings help to explain why Hobbes does not provide something akin to modern theories of international relations, as foreign affairs appear to be reducible to a matter of either prudence or political philosophy.

Affiliations: 1: University of St Andrews, School of International Relations, Arts Faculty Building, The Scores, St Andrews, ky16 9ax, UK, mj327@st-andrews.ac.uk

10.1163/18750257-02801003
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/content/journals/10.1163/18750257-02801003
2015-04-24
2018-05-27

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