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Why Settle for Hobbes's Sovereign When You Could Have a God-Emperor?

Dune and Philosophy (ed. Kevin S. Decker)



This chapter argues that the political environment of the pre-Leto-II Dune-iverse is roughly analogous to Thomas Hobbes's 'state of nature' thought experiment (most famously articulated in his 1651 masterwork, Leviathan). For Hobbes, without a sufficiently powerful and singular leader ("a common power to keep [the population] in awe"), members of would-be political community will be hopelessly pitted against each other to all-around bad effect. The only way out of this conundrum, for Hobbes, is to institute a leader who can effectively make and enforce the laws, and to whom the populace has contracted to transfer virtually all of their rights or liberties. Hobbes's prescription seems unacceptably authoritarian to many of us, but he maintains that it is our best chance for political stability, a commodious life, and long-term survival. In the Dune-iverse, our scope of concern is much broader than the individual life or empire. The chapter asks, if a Hobbesian Sovereign can be justified by individual survival concerns, can a God-Emperor like Leto II be justified by species survival concerns?

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