Hobbesian Political Authority and the Right of Resistance

Dissertation, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1994)

Andrew I. Cohen
Georgia State University
Besides commanding coercive power, a political authority is supposed to offer directives which ought to exclude private judgment. Any defense of inalienable rights or limited rights of resistance suggests some legitimate residual private judgment. Such retained rights threaten to undermine the binding force of authoritative directives. ;The case of Hobbesian sovereignty typifies this problem. Hobbes claims agents must establish permanent and absolute political authorities, and they can do so only by completely submitting themselves to a sovereign power whose public will stand for their own. Hobbesian political obligation consists in being bound not to act on one's own judgment, but even Hobbes allows for limited rights of resistance. ;Building on the work of Joseph Raz, I show how political authority binds our conduct by providing special reasons not to act on our private judgment. I explain how there can be scope and jurisdictional limitations on political authority, indeed, Hobbesian political authority. Any given subject might not completely authorize political power, but such power can still be absolute. Since private judgment endures in a civil society, subjects are in some position to evaluate the legitimacy of authoritative directives. To the extent authority binds and neither merely advises nor merely coerces, subjects must have reasons why they should not act on their private judgments
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