Liberty, Law and Leviathan

Project: Research

Layman's description

Thomas Hobbes claims in Leviathan (1651) that liberty in the commonwealth depends on the silence of the laws. This project investigates the possibility that Hobbes still regarded law as a facilitator of action of a certain kind. Without law the category of acting as subject would not exist. This reading centres on the idea of the political as a distinct mode of existence, constituted by law.

This is a project within the research programme “Understanding Agency. Conceptions of Action, Human Nature and Value in the Western Philosophical Tradition”, which is funded by the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation and involves researchers from several universities with Uppsala university as host. The project revolves around the issue of institutions as restrictive and enabling conditions for acting and as contexts for the meaning of action. In the absence of institutions it may be impossible for individuals to act rationally or justly for collective reasons. This is important for understanding Thomas Hobbes’ case for the commonwealth in Leviathan (1651). In the absence of the institution of law – the presence of which requires the constitution of the commonwealth – there can be no collective reasons for action because there is no collective. This study will analyse how law restricts action but also makes action possible. Since Hobbes is famous for arguing that liberty in the commonwealth depends on the silence of the laws, it would at first glance look like a misconception to say that he regarded law as a facilitator of action. To understand how we need to account for how activity may be not only regulated by rules, but constituted by them.
Effective start/end date2010/01/012013/12/31


Related research output

Lena Halldenius, 2012, In : Tidskrift för politisk filosofi. 16, 2, p. 28-39

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Lena Halldenius, 2012, In : Theoria. 59, 131, p. 1-20

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

View all (2)