Hobbes and the Artificial Man as Sovereign

Primary version of this post at Barry Stocker’s Weblog, with picture of Hobbes!

This is amended from a previous version, before I remembered to check De Homine which corresponds to Leviathan Part I Of Man. Of course the last section of De Homine ‘On Artificial Man’ corresponds with the Leviathan discussion, which is at the end of Part I. The hazards of blogging about thoughts in midstream. Anyway there are interesting differences in the two presentations, and of De Cive no where has an equivalent of the leviathan monster. I will deal with those differences in the post date July 10 2009. Actually I have only had to very slightly amend the text below, not much hangs on my forgetting about the last part of De Homine, fortunately.

Currently I studying the development of the political thought of Thomas Hobbes from De Cive (1641)to Leviathan (1651). There is a lot of continuity, but one variation is with regard to the notion of an Artificial man in Leviathan, that artificial man is the leviathan, the monstrous thing necessary to prevent the return of a violent and chaotic state of nature. The artificial man is the thing we all construct, were ‘we’ is the members of a commonwealth and personates us. That is, it stands in for us so that we are the authors of its acts. At one level this is argument for autocracy, and that’s how Hobbes tends to be presented in brief explanations, and he is often taken as a negative example of the defender of unlimited state powers. But, Hobbes makes an enormous concession to democracy but saying that the power of the artificial man comes from the multitude (Leviathan XVI ‘Of Person, Authors, and Things Personated’). In De Cive, Hobbes has already said that the power of the monarchy (or aristocracy) comes from the people (De Cive VIII ‘Of the Three Kinds of Government’, 11). In both books the multitude becomes a people when it is represented by a sovereign. In both cases, the single sovereign acts according to the will of the people. What Hobbes is saying is that it must be assumed that the sovereign acts according to the will of the people. The explanation of this in the later text requires fictional artificial persons who are actors. The move from the popular origin of sovereignty to the leviathan is the move into the fictional and artificial in law, which explains how we covenant our will to a king.

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