A History of Philosophy [Vol V] by Frederick Charles Copleston

By Frederick Charles Copleston

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Hobbes came home, but it was because he would not trust his safety with the French clergy'. 8 But though Hobbes was justified in saying that he had not written his work to flatter Oliver Cromwell and that he had not intended to defend rebellion against the monarch, it remains true that his political theory is favourable neither to the idea of the divine right of kings nor to the Stuart principle of legitimacy. And commentators are right in drawing attention to the 'revolutionary' character of his theory of sovereignty, an aspect of his thought which is apt to be overlooked precisely because of his authoritarian conception of government and his personal predilection for monarchy.

And if he advocated centralized power and authority, this was because he saw no other way of promoting and preserving the peace and security of human beings, which constitute the purpose of organized society. But though authoritarianism is certainly a prominent feature of Hobbes's political philosophy it should be emphasized that this authoritarianism has no essential connection with the theory of the divine right of kings and with the principle of legitimacy. Hobbes certainly speaks as though the sovereign is in some sense the representative of God; but in the first place monarchy is not for him the only proper form of government.

For the word 'sovereign'in Hobbes's political writings we are not entitled simply to substitute the word 'monarch'; but the principle on which he insists is that sovereignty is indivisible, not that it should neces. sarily be vested in one man. And in the second place sovereignty, whether vested in one man or in an assembly of men, is derived from the social covenant, not from appointment by God. Further, this fiction of the social covenant would justify any de facto government. It would justify, for example, the Commonwealth no less than the rule of Charles I, as long, that is to say, as the latter possessed the power to rule.

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