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Limiting Leviathan Hobbes on Law and International Affairs



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Oxford University Press
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This is the edition with a publication date of 11/15/2013.
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Thomas Hobbes wrote extensively about law and was strongly influenced by developments and debates among lawyers of his day. And Hobbes is considered by many commentators to be one of the first legal positivists. Yet there is no book in English that focuses on Hobbes's legal philosophy. Indeed, Hobbes's own book length treatment of law, A Dialogue Between a Philosopher and a Student of the Common Laws of England, has also not received much commentary over the centuries. Larry May seeks to fill the gap in the literature by addressing Hobbes's legal philosophy directly, and comparing Leviathan to the Dialogue, as he offers a new interpretation of Hobbes's views about the connections among law, politics, and morality.

May argues that Hobbes is much more amenable to moral, and even legal, limits on the law--indeed closer to Lon Fuller than to today's legal positivists--than he is often portrayed. He shows that Hobbes's views can provide a solid grounding for the rules of war and international relations generally, contrary to the near universal belief that Hobbes is the bete noir of international law. To support these views, May holds that Hobbes places greater weight on equity than on justice, and that understanding the role of equity is the key to his legal philosophy. Equity also is the moral concept that provides restrictions on what a sovereign can legitimately do, and if violated is the kind of limitation on sovereignty that could open the door for possible international institutions.

Author Biography

Larry May is a political philosopher who works on issues of collective responsibility and the just war; and he also works on the normative foundations of international criminal law. He has published a dozen book-length monographs, which have won awards in philosophy, law, and international relations. He has also authored over one hundred articles that have been translated into French, German, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Serbian, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. He is past president of AMINTAPHIL, the American Section of the International Society of Philosophy of law and Social Philosophy, and of the American Society of Value Inquiry. He has served on the board of officers of the American Philosophical Association, and has advised the US State Department, the CIA, and the Indiana Senate.

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