New article on Equity and Inequity in Thomas Hobbes’s Dialogue

Corbin, Thomas (2022): On Equity and Inequity in Thomas Hobbes’s Dialogue, in: The Southern Journal of Philosophy,

The concept of equity is clearly important in Thomas Hobbes’s philosophy. In his writings he repeatedly employs it in significant load bearing ways, particularly in the areas of civil law and governance. Equity is, however, not directly addressed in a sustained way in his core works and—perhaps even more frustratingly—it is often applied in ways which ask more questions about the concept than they answer. This presents an impediment to accurately understanding what equity really means to Hobbes. His late Dialogue Between a Philosopher and a Student of the Common Laws of England (1681) seems to offer a solution to this challenge. This work contains extensive discussion on equity, including on the application of equity in relationship to absolute rule. However, equity in the Dialogue is not always the same as what we see in Hobbes’s core works. The question is, did Hobbes change his mind on equity? This article argues no. Hobbes did not change his mind on equity; rather, within the Dialogue he is engaging with a common understanding of the term as it existed in English law. Consequently, Hobbes’s discussions here should not inform us about how equity fits into his philosophy.