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Unwritten law in Hobbesian political thought

Cromartie, A. (2000) Unwritten law in Hobbesian political thought. The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 2 (2). pp. 161-178. ISSN 1369-1481

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/1467-856X.00032


In Hobbesian terminology, ‘unwritten laws’ are natural laws enforced within a polity, by a non-sovereign judge, without some previous public promulgation. This article discusses the idea in the light of successive Hobbesian accounts of ‘law’ and ‘obligation’. Between De Cive and Leviathan, Hobbes dropped the idea that natural law is strictly speaking law, but he continued to believe unwritten laws must form a part of any legal system. He was unable to explain how such a law could claim a legal status. His loyalty to the notion, in spite of all the trouble that it caused, is a sign of his belief that moral knowledge is readily accessible to all.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Politics and International Relations
ID Code:32410

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