Hobbes: Patriarch of Legal Positivism, or Reinventor of Natural Law?
THE BLOOMSBURY COMPANION TO HOBBES, S.A. Lloyd, ed., London: Continuum Press, 2012
12 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2012 Last revised: 4 Oct 2012
Date Written: August 18, 2012
In this brief entry for the Bloomsbury Companion to Hobbes, I argue that the dilemma posed in the title about Hobbes is a false one: he is both an important and inspirational figure in the legal positivist tradition and makes a novel contribution to natural law theory. But understanding how this is so requires a more complex taxonomy of the possible views one can take about law, both concerning what it is and how we know it. I argue that while Hobbes was a natural law theorist about the existence conditions of law, he was a positivist about how we come by knowledge of the law. His 'epistemic' positivism is what primarily inspired later positivists, and is an underappreciated view in contemporary jurisprudence.
Keywords: Hobbes, jurisprudence, legal positivism, natural law, law, obligation
JEL Classification: K10, K30
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation