Hobbes’ Sovereign is Leviathan’s Vicar

It is interesting that while Hobbes makes the commonwealth, that anthropomorphic leviathan, out to be a ‘natural’ social organism at least in the sense that the laws of nature he enumerates (of which there are 19, and to them may be added a twentieth by implication, namely that all subjects are obliged to the sovereign) make the commonwealth necessary. He makes this whole civil kingdom out to be a something not altogether different from the Roman Catholic Church. Like the Church, he personifies the commonwealth. Like the Church, the commonwealth is established by a covenant. What is even more interesting is that, when it comes to his secular ecclesiology, he appoints a sovereign who is nothing but the vicar of the ‘person’ identical to the commonwealth; the person whose ‘body’ is the commonwealth. Moreover, he says:

“For the nature of the law consists not in the letter of the law but in the meaning, the authentic interpretation of the law, which is the sense of the legislator. So the interpretation of all laws depends on the sovereign authority, and interpreters must be appointed by the sovereign, to whom alone the subject owes obedience. Otherwise, an ingenious interpreter could make the law bear a sense contrary to that of the sovereign, by which means the interpreter would become the legislator.”
~Leviathan ch. 26

It makes it sound, here, like Hobbes is defending the commonwealth against the possibility of a secular protest-ant ‘Reformation’. Indeed, it sounds as though there is a legal magisterium, whose head is just the sovereign. It is interesting to note that Hobbes sees the value of positing an authoritative interpreter in matters judicial, but, like every good protestant, sees not the value of Christ instituting the same office in the visible Church.


About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
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