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« Quentin Skinner on Hobbes on the State | Main | Onora O'Neill on Medical Consent »

October 21, 2007



I enjoy all of your podcasts. I found this one to be particularly interesting. Mr. Skinner's responses and explanations were very well phrased. Thanks,


Gregg Miller

With all due respect, I would want Q. Skinner to reconsider the significance of Leviathan, chapter 17. There Hobbes tells us of the Covenant which creates the Leviathan. The words Hobbes complicates Skinner's view that that Hobbesian citizens are individuals, first and foremost, both before and after the installation of Leviathan.

Hobbes says that the coming together to invent politics, to generate that great Leviathan is "more than consent or concord; it is a real unity of them all, in one and the same person . . . ."

For the case of an individualistic reading, we may consider that Hobbes allows for individuals to always hold up their own security as a litmus test for the legitimacy of the state. But, Hobbes gives us even more than this minimal criterion to cling to.

Proto-citizens and citizens alike are held to value prestige and honor, and what could be more honorific than to join one's own individual power with other like-minded folk and combine into a superpower, a Leviathan, which one may identify with (almost) wholly, such that one may now take one's own sense of pride and worth from the honor accorded one's State.

Does this allow for a (fantastical) unity between individuals to produce the state, or is this better conceived of as the state which IS the "real unity of them all"?

Rather than arguing that Hobbes does not believe in the unity of the people as a body, I am more comfortable thinking that Hobbes' produces his own account of this unity, a depiction of a mimetic identification of the citizen with the State---as illustrated graphically in the famous frontispiece---which then may stand side-by-side with a more individualistic defense of his political theory.

Hobbes is offering at least two (not one) rhetorics in defense of Leviathan, and he does this because he is less keen on a methodologically pure mode of convincing us to accept the state, and more keen that we do accept it, however we might be convinced.

Gregg Miller
Seattle, WA

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