“The Non-Normative Nature of Hobbesian Natural Law”

Gary Herbert, Hobbesian Studies, 22, no. 1 (2009): 3-28

Abstract: In this paper, I attempt to defend an older, non-normative approach to Hobbes’s philosophy. I argue, against recent theories that maintain Hobbes’s philosophy contains a normative theory of human behavior “which prescribes proper or morally permissible modes of action both within civil society and outside it”, that Hobbesian natural right and natural law are not normative postulates of a moral (normative) theory of political obligation but, rather, were considered by Hobbes to be, in the case of natural right, empirically verifiable hypotheses about human nature, and in the case of the laws of nature, nothing more than rationally consistent principles of natural self-interest, or the logic of natural right, based on the principles of Hobbes’s physics and psychology.