Front Page Titles (by Subject) Hobbes, Natural Law, and Historiography - Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1980, vol. 3, No. 3
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Hobbes, Natural Law, and Historiography - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1980, vol. 3, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Hobbes, Natural Law, and Historiography
“Political Theory and Historiography: A Reply to Professor Skinner on Hobbes.” The Historical Journal 22, 4(December 1979):931–940.
Warrender addresses Professor Quentin Skinner's criticism of those theoretical interpretations of Hobbes (such as Warrender's) which allegedly ignore the historical climate of ideas and thus distort interpretations. Warrender has claimed that Hobbes was essentially a natural law thinker. If Skinner believes this is a historically absurd interpretation, what historical standard is he interested in? If the standard is the history of natural law, then Warrender's judgment is justified: Hobbes believes law involves principles which apply to all persons, that these laws are knowable by reason, and that they are superior to laws of individual states.
If the standard is Hobbes's political and cultural milieu, then several questions arise. First, whom do we select as Hobbes's contemporaries? Skinner has cited some half dozen theorists who claimed Hobbes as one of their own, as evidence against Warrender's view. But against this, we must set Hobbes's repeated references to the law of nature, Hobbes's more sophisticated interpreters (e.g. Puferdorf), the fact that no one even suggested that Hobbes abandoned natural law until the late nineteenth century, and the fact that even the de facto theorists were not clearly opposed to natural law since they did not believe that political obligation could be validated by civil law alone.
Another question asks from what standpoint we should understand “historical absurdity.” If history is an account of what happened, then we cannot ignore the fact that Hobbes wrote frequently about natural law nor can we dismiss Hobbes's references to God and the Bible as mere window dressing to conceal his intentions. If we are to take the historical evidence seriously, we must account for all of the elements in Hobbes's thought—both the power analysis, the functional interpretation of sovereignty with its de facto implications, as well as the elements listed above.
But if we are to take all of these elements into account, we need not simply a historical but also a theoretical account of how they all fit together. The fact is that Hobbes frequently makes extreme and drastic statements (e. g. “Covenants without swords are but words.”) which sound absolutist, but are qualified in many ways (e. g. the individuals' right to self-defense, to run away in battle, not to accuse himself, etc.). These qualifications may only make a slight ripple in the history of political ideas, but they are vital if we are to understand Hobbes.