Hobbes Studies 29 (2):148-167 (2016)

Marcus Schultz-Bergin
Cleveland State University
_ Source: _Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 148 - 167 Thomas Hobbes’s attempt to resolve the problem of commanded blasphemy in _Leviathan_ results in a dilemma for his theory. According to what I call the _Authority Dilemma_, Hobbes is simultaneously committed to subjects being the authors of all that the sovereign does and commands as well as to the sovereign being the sole author of commanded blasphemy, meaning the subjects are _not_ the authors of that command. I review a variety of ways Hobbes and various commentators have attempted to resolve this tension, but ultimately suggest that the tension persists. I spell out the implications of both horns of the authority dilemma: if subjects authorize all actions and commands, then the possibility of commanded blasphemy risks the stability of the commonwealth; if subjects do not authorize all actions and commands, then the commonwealth is not properly unified and thus cannot be stable. Thus, either way, Hobbes fails to establish how individuals can form a stable commonwealth. I conclude with a Hobbesian inspired solution that accepts that subjects authorize all actions and commands, including blasphemy. However, I leverage two recent lines of scholarship – one regarding the inalienable right of self-preservation and the other regarding the fear of eternal damnation – to provide a means for disobedience without the risk of instability.
Keywords sovereignty   self-preservation   representation   authorization
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DOI 10.1163/18750257-02902003
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