6th Pavia Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/van Apeldoorn

Laurens van Apeldoorn

Hypothetical Consent and Political Obligations in the Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes

Hypothetical consent theory – the idea that moral principles can be deduced from what agents choose in a hypothetical choice situation – has often been criticized as a flawed account of state legitimacy because of its inability to show how individuals acquire political obligations. Ronald Dworkin, in particular, argues that it presents a vacuous argument in which the normative work is done by the independent principles to which the hypothetical actors subscribe, rather than by the hypothetical choices they make. This paper tries to rescue hypothetical consent theory from this objection, using a hypothetical consent interpretation of Thomas Hobbes’s argument for the legitimacy of the sovereign as an example.