Hobbes’s paradox redux
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The article focuses on a paradox that Carl Schmitt either detects or perhaps fabricates in Hobbes's text, concerning the possibility of deducing viable normative arrangements from psychological facts. The paradox concerns a difficulty in the 'attribution of accountability' to individuals in principle ignorant of the clues required to engage proficiently in normative tasks. This 'attribution of accountability' was seen by both the early Schmitt (in 1917) and the legal theorist Hermann Heller (in 1927) as a critical condition in order for the 'empirical' individuals to be able to treat each other as normatively capable, namely, as reliable and accountable 'contractual parties'. Schmitt's solution of the paradox was supported by a suitable reading of Hobbes's text: given that no normative outcome could ever come from the psychologies of each single empirical individual, it is a 'decision' that introduces a first basic normative distinction within the norm-free zone of the state of nature.