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Hobbes on Fidelity to Law

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I will attempt to explicate Hobbes's conception of legal obligation by trying to understand what factors would lead people, on his view, to agree to obey a legal authority as well as to accept a legal system as deserving of respect. I am mainly concerned to understand Hobbes's curious claims that those who have been legitimately condemned to death and those who have been legitimately commanded to serve in combat situations may nonetheless justifiably disobey the law. Such claims seem to undermine fidelity to law, at least as that concept was understood by Plato in The Crito. As a result it might appear that Hobbes provides too simplistic a view of legal obligation. On the contrary, I will argue that Hobbes supports quite a plausible and subtle view of legal obligation which has several advantages over various other views of legal obligation.

Affiliations: 1: Washington University (St. Louis)


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