Berkeley, Hobbes, and the Constitution of the Self

In Sébastien Charles (ed.), Berkeley Revisited: Moral, Social and Political Philosophy. Voltaire Foundation. pp. 69-81 (2015)
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By focusing on the exchange between Descartes and Hobbes on how the self is related to its activities, Berkeley draws attention to how he and Hobbes explain the forensic constitution of human subjectivity and moral/political responsibility in terms of passive obedience and conscientious submission to the laws of the sovereign. Formulated as the language of nature or as pronouncements of the supreme political power, those laws identify moral obligations by locating political subjects within those networks of sensible signs. When thus juxtaposed with Hobbes, Berkeley can be understood as endorsing a theologically inflected version of deontological ethics in which moral laws are linked directly to the constitution of the self.

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Stephen H. Daniel
Texas A&M University


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