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Philosophy Today

Volume 64, Issue 3, Summer 2020

Special Topic: Vulnerability

James Griffith
Pages 617-636

Fantasy, Counter-fantasy, and Meta-fantasy in Hobbes’s and Butler’s Accounts of Vulnerability

Hobbes and Butler both conjure images of an abandoned infant in their respective discussions of vulnerability. Leviathan uses this image to discuss original dominion, or natural maternal right over the child, while for Butler rights discourse produces fantasies of invulnerability that derealize other lives. However, Hobbes’s infant in nature has no rights and can only consent to being nourished. Only when able to nourish itself can it claim rights to transfer through the covenant producing a fantasy of individual invulnerability. Vulnerability in the state of nature and the commonwealth’s fantasy of invulnerability are together a counter-fantasy to the fantasies of invulnerability of Hobbes’s time, through heaven or eternal glory. In question is whether Butler, in her reimagining of community, is, like Hobbes, producing a fantasy, but a meta-fantasy that community can be taken as fantasy without derealizing the fantastic or that fantasizes an honesty about its being fantasy.

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