Liberty, Law and Leviathan. Of Being Free from Impediments by Artifice

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The argument in this paper is that Hobbes’ theory of freedom in Leviathan allows for four ways of being free to act – corporal freedom by nature, freedom from obligation by nature, the freedom to disobey, and the freedom of no-rule – each corresponding to a particular absence, some of which make sense only in the civil state. Contrary to what some have claimed, this complexity does not commit Hobbes to an unarticulated definition of freedom in tension with the only one that he explicitly offers, which is that freedom consists of nothing other than the absence of external impediments of motion. To be free from obligation is to be free from impediments. As a political subject in the state, the power that is blocked or compelled by law is a person’s power to perform artificial acts as her will directs. Laws and prior commitments are external impediments that block or compel making an artificial, institution dependent act either impossible or unavoidable. The bonds of law bind artificially yet corporally given that the power that makes them is, quite literally, an external body that moves at will.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
JournalTheoria: a Swedish Journal of Philosophy
Issue number131
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Philosophy, Ethics and Religion


  • Hobbes
  • liberty
  • law
  • Leviathan
  • artifice
  • obligation
  • impediment
  • act
  • institution


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