Hobbes: Patriarch of Legal Positivism, or Reinventor of Natural Law?

THE BLOOMSBURY COMPANION TO HOBBES, S.A. Lloyd, ed., London: Continuum Press, 2012

Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 12/75

12 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2012 Last revised: 4 Oct 2012

Michael Sevel

The University of Sydney Law School

Date Written: August 18, 2012

Abstract

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

Sevel, Michael, Hobbes: Patriarch of Legal Positivism, or Reinventor of Natural Law? (August 18, 2012). THE BLOOMSBURY COMPANION TO HOBBES, S.A. Lloyd, ed., London: Continuum Press, 2012; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 12/75. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2131957

Michael Sevel (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

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