Hobbes asserts that in a state of nature there is neither justice nor injustice, and then a few pages later explains in some detail the applicability of justice in a state of nature. To explain away the appearance of contradiction, I adapt Martinich’s distinction between the primary and secondary states of nature: rather than his view, according to which the primary state of nature abstracts from all law and even from God’s existence, I contend that only atheists occupy the primary state of nature. The primary/secondary distinction turns on submission: those in the primary state of nature submit to nobody, whereas those in the secondary state of nature submit to God but no civil sovereign. This account explains how we might conceive of a situation where the concept of justice lacks application without running afoul of Hobbes’s theism and the normative scope of the laws of nature.


Primary State Legal Obligation Main Clause Secondary State Common Power 
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Copyright information

© Michael Byron 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kent State UniversityUSA

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