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Of Leviathan and lockdowns
21.08.2021 CHRISTIAN OLIVER
Politics
Thomas Hobbes

The coronavirus has propelled Thomas Hobbes, one of philosophy’s leading bogeymen, back into the spotlight.

It’s unsurprising that two conservative publications in the U.S., the National Review and the American Conservative, have already cast the epidemic as the resurgence of Leviathan, Hobbes’s 17th century vision of a mighty state whose restrictions we accept in a grand bargain to save our lives.

There are certainly grounds to support this view of Hobbes as the hard-line “Monster of Malmesbury.” England’s first heavyweight philosopher did indeed argue that we should submit (in terror!) to the power of Leviathan, the “mortal God” of state power that protects us. You can safely say that this is a man who would argue you have zero right to flout life-saving lockdowns to down a few tankards of ale with your mates.

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