Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

Leviathan

Thomas Hobbes took a new look at the ways in which society should function, and he ended up formulating the concept of political science. His crowning achievement, Leviathan, remains among the greatest works in the history of ideas. Written during a moment in English history when the political and social structures as well as methods of science were in flux and open to int...

Title:Leviathan
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0140431950
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:736 pages

Leviathan Reviews

  • Charissa

    Not only did I disagree with Hobbes' conclusions, I find his assumptions (his arguments based entirely in Christian perspective) essentially worthless. The only value this tract served to me is to "know thy enemy". This is a classic example of mental circus tricks being used to justify the march of Christian dominance across the globe. I can't think of any written text that I despise more, except perhaps Mein Kempf.

    Hobbes is my least favorite philosopher. He embodies everything I despise in West

    Not only did I disagree with Hobbes' conclusions, I find his assumptions (his arguments based entirely in Christian perspective) essentially worthless. The only value this tract served to me is to "know thy enemy". This is a classic example of mental circus tricks being used to justify the march of Christian dominance across the globe. I can't think of any written text that I despise more, except perhaps Mein Kempf.

    Hobbes is my least favorite philosopher. He embodies everything I despise in Western thought. If I met Hobbes in the street I would flash him my tits and then slap him in the face and call him a pervert.

  • Rowland Bismark

    , Hobbes's most important work and one of the most influential philosophical texts produced during the seventeenth century, was written partly as a response to the fear Hobbes experienced during the political turmoil of the English Civil Wars. In the 1640s, it was clear to Hobbes that Parliament was going to turn against King Charles I, so he fled to France for eleven years, terrified that, as a Royalist, he would be persecuted for his support of the king. Hobbes composed Leviathan whil

    , Hobbes's most important work and one of the most influential philosophical texts produced during the seventeenth century, was written partly as a response to the fear Hobbes experienced during the political turmoil of the English Civil Wars. In the 1640s, it was clear to Hobbes that Parliament was going to turn against King Charles I, so he fled to France for eleven years, terrified that, as a Royalist, he would be persecuted for his support of the king. Hobbes composed Leviathan while in France, brilliantly articulating the philosophy of political and natural science that he had been developing since the 1630s. Hobbes's masterwork was finally published in 1651, two years after Parliament ordered the beheading of Charles I and took over administration of the English nation in the name of the Commonwealth.

    Leviathan's argument for the necessity of absolute sovereignty emerged in the politically unstable years after the Civil Wars, and its publication coincided with that of many Republican treatises seeking to justify the regicide (killing of the king) to the rest of Europe (John Milton's Tenure of Kings and Magistrates is a famous example of these regicide tracts). Not only was the political argument of Leviathan controversial at the time of its publication, but the philosophical method employed by Hobbes to make his claims also scandalized many of his contemporaries--even those writers, such as Robert Filmer (the author of the Royalist tract Patriarcha), who otherwise supported Hobbes's claims for absolute sovereignty.

    Hobbes's materialist philosophy was based upon a mechanistic view of the universe, holding that all phenomena were explainable purely in terms of matter and motion, and rejecting concepts such as incorporeal spirits or disembodied souls. Consequently, many critics labeled Hobbes an atheist (although he was not, in the strict sense). Associated with both atheism and the many deliberately terrifying images of Leviathan, Hobbes became known as the "Monster of Malmsbury" and the "Bug-bear of the Nation." In 1666, Hobbes's books were burned at Oxford (where Hobbes had graduated from Magdalen College in 1608), and the resulting conflagration was even blamed in Parliament for having started the Great Fire of London. The chaotic atmosphere of England in the aftermath of the Civil Wars ensured that Hobbes's daring propositions met with a lively reaction.

    Hobbes knew that Leviathan would be controversial, for not only did the text advocate restoration of monarchy when the English republic was at its strongest (Oliver Cromwell was not instituted as Lord High Protector until 1653, and the Restoration of Charles II did not occur until 1660), but Hobbes's book also challenged the very basis of philosophical and political knowledge. Hobbes claimed that traditional philosophy had never arrived at irrefutable conclusions, that it had instead offered only useless sophistries and insubstantial rhetoric; he thus called for a reform of philosophy that would enable secure truth--claims with which everyone could agree. Consequently, Hobbesian philosophy would prevent disagreements about the fundamental aspects of human nature, society, and proper government. Furthermore, because Hobbes believed that civil war resulted from disagreements in the philosophical foundations of political knowledge, his plan for a reformed philosophy to end divisiveness would also end the conditions of war. For Hobbes, civil war was the ultimate terror, the definition of fear itself. He thus wanted to reform philosophy in order to reform the nation and thereby vanquish fear.

    Earlier in the seventeenth century, Francis Bacon--for whom Hobbes had served as secretary in his youth--had also proposed a reform of philosophy, a reform he called the "Great Instauration." Bacon's program was an inductive philosophy based upon the observation of natural facts ("inductive" reasoning derives general principles from particular instances or facts); the experimental manipulation of nature of Bacon's scheme was very influential for the development of the historical period commonly called the Scientific Revolution, and also formed the backbone of the English Royal Society. Like Hobbes's, Bacon's system rejected traditional philosophical knowledge as untrustworthy, instead embracing nature as the only sure basis for all claims for truth. But Hobbes argued that the experimentalist program was also unsuccessful in providing secure, indisputable knowledge. Hobbes therefore rejected the Baconian system and argued vehemently against it. Hobbes's own deductive scientific philosophy was not experimental--in "deductive" reasoning, a conclusion follows necessarily from the stated premises, rather than being inferred from instances of these premises--but Hobbes maintained that it provided better understanding of the universe and society than both traditional philosophy and experimental science.

    Leviathan attempted to create controversy in politics and in science, radically challenging both contemporary government and philosophy itself; yet, despite its very invocation of controversy, Leviathan sought ultimately to annihilate controversy for good. Hobbes's philosophical method claimed to provide indisputable conclusions, and its depiction of the Leviathan of society suggested that the Hobbesian method could put an end to controversy, war, and fear. Hobbes's philosophy was highly influential in certain sectors (Hobbesism was a fashionable intellectual position well into the eighteenth century). However, Hobbes, who died in 1679, never lived to see his work achieve the widespread and totalizing effects for which he had hoped. Excluded from the Royal Society for his anti-experimentalist stance and derided by many contemporaries as an immoral monster, Hobbes neither transformed the nation nor reformed philosophy as he had envisioned. Nonetheless, Hobbes has had a lasting influence in the history of Western philosophy, as he is credited with inaugurating political science; his crowning achievement, Leviathan is still recognized as one of the greatest masterpieces of the history of ideas. Written during a moment in English history when the political structure, social structure, and methods of science were all in flux and open to manipulation, Leviathan played an essential role in the development of the modern world.

    Leviathan is divided into four books: "Of Man," "Of Common-wealth," "Of a Christian Common-wealth," and "Of the Kingdome of Darknesse." Book I contains the philosophical framework for the entire text, while the remaining books simply extend and elaborate the arguments presented in the initial chapters. Consequently, Book I is given the most attention in the detailed summaries that follow. Hobbes begins his text by considering the elementary motions of matter, arguing that every aspect of human nature can be deduced from materialist principles. Hobbes depicts the natural condition of mankind--known as the state of nature--as inherently violent and awash with fear. The state of nature is the "

    ," in which people constantly seek to destroy one another. This state is so horrible that human beings naturally seek peace, and the best way to achieve peace is to construct the Leviathan through social contract.

    Book II details the process of erecting the Leviathan, outlines the rights of sovereigns and subjects, and imagines the legislative and civil mechanics of the commonwealth. Book III concerns the compatibility of Christian doctrine with Hobbesian philosophy and the religious system of the Leviathan. Book IV engages in debunking false religious beliefs and arguing that the political implementation of the Leviathanic state is necessary to achieve a secure Christian commonwealth.

    Hobbes's philosophical method in Leviathan is modeled after a geometric proof, founded upon first principles and established definitions, and in which each step of argument makes conclusions based upon the previous step. Hobbes decided to create a philosophical method similar to the geometric proof after meeting Galileo on his extended travels in Europe during the 1630s. Observing that the conclusions derived by geometry are indisputable because each of constituent steps is indisputable in itself, Hobbes attempted to work out a similarly irrefutable philosophy in his writing of Leviathan.

  • Marts  (Thinker)

    Thomas Hobbes discourse on civil and ecclesiatical governance, he analyses this in four parts, firstly via a discourse of man and the first principles of society; secondly he looks at the institution of a commonwealth and varying principles governing such, as here listed:

    "The sovereign has twelve principal rights:

    1. because a successive covenant cannot override a prior one, the subjects cannot (lawfully) change the form of government.

    2. because the covenant forming the commonwealth results fro

    Thomas Hobbes discourse on civil and ecclesiatical governance, he analyses this in four parts, firstly via a discourse of man and the first principles of society; secondly he looks at the institution of a commonwealth and varying principles governing such, as here listed:

    "The sovereign has twelve principal rights:

    1. because a successive covenant cannot override a prior one, the subjects cannot (lawfully) change the form of government.

    2. because the covenant forming the commonwealth results from subjects giving to the sovereign the right to act for them, the sovereign cannot possibly breach the covenant; and therefore the subjects can never argue to be freed from the covenant because of the actions of the sovereign.

    3. the sovereign exists because the majority has consented to his rule; the minority have agreed to abide by this arrangement and must then assent to the sovereign's actions.

    4. every subject is author of the acts of the sovereign: hence the sovereign cannot injure any of his subjects and cannot be accused of injustice.

    5. the sovereign cannot justly be put to death by the subjects.

    6. because the purpose of the commonwealth is peace, and the sovereign has the right to do whatever he thinks necessary for the preserving of peace and security and prevention of discord. Therefore, the sovereign may judge what opinions and doctrines are averse, who shall be allowed to speak to multitudes, and who shall examine the doctrines of all books before they are published.

    7. to prescribe the rules of civil law and property.

    8. to be judge in all cases.

    9. to make war and peace as he sees fit and to command the army.

    10. to choose counsellors, ministers, magistrates and officers.

    11. to reward with riches and honour or to punish with corporal or pecuniary punishment or ignominy.

    12. to establish laws about honour and a scale of worth. " (got this list from wikipedia but this is in chapter 18 of part one)

    The types of commonwealth are also considered; monarchy, aristocracy and democracy... so too succession, religion, taxation etc. etc.

    Thirdly, Hobbes considers a 'Christian commonwealth' and governance based on 'the scriptures', considering discrepancies between scriptural and civil law...

    Fourthy, the 'kingdom of darkness' is considered in reference to ignorance, and the absence of the light of knowledge.

    Leviathan was written during the English Civil War and Hobbes reiterates his views on sovereignity and social contract theory...

    Overall I think this was a rather interesting read and would recommend it to anyone who makes politics thier interest.

  • Edward

    --Leviathan, or The Matter, Forme, & Power of a Common-Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill

  • Alex MacMillan

    Hobbes’s Leviathan appears draconian to most Americans who ascribe to classical liberal values. Their rejection of his social contract coincides with an optimistic Lockean faith in the capabilities and moral fortitude necessary for negative liberties to survive. This naïveté in political legitimacy is analogous to the popularity of the New Testament compared to the Old because, while both texts share equal moral instruction, we fervently prefer a loving and forgiving God to a brutal taskmaster.

    Hobbes’s Leviathan appears draconian to most Americans who ascribe to classical liberal values. Their rejection of his social contract coincides with an optimistic Lockean faith in the capabilities and moral fortitude necessary for negative liberties to survive. This naïveté in political legitimacy is analogous to the popularity of the New Testament compared to the Old because, while both texts share equal moral instruction, we fervently prefer a loving and forgiving God to a brutal taskmaster. Hobbesian pessimism in human nature is a cold bucket of water tempering our enthusiastic assumption of a free polis because it demonstrates how democratic freedom is contingent upon the behavior everyone demonstrates.

    My political science professor’s ad hominem disparagement of Hobbes as paranoid and neurotic was troubling, given that Hobbes’s support for a Leviathan with absolute sovereignty remains a soberly empirical definition of power and fundamental governmental purpose. Fear of death is the primary motivation for our surrender to political authority. A government's legitimacy therefore necessitates the capacity for retributive action against internal and external threats. The power of the individual and group is relational to the behavioral impact they exact on others. Individual rights and liberties independent of government remain the exception, not the rule, of most persons throughout recorded history, past and present.

    How and why do the rights outlined by John Locke, that we often take for granted, exist at all? They depend on the internal morality of the individual who receives them, which themselves depend on Enlightenment values held dear by everyone around that person. I do not think that we are born blank slates in the state of nature, or cynically view moral sentiments as a vacuous social construct. Reading Hobbes’s brutal state and laws of nature, however, brought to mind the inculcations of parents, Sunday School instructors and Sesame Street screenwriters. Socrates’s description of a rational portion of our brain that holds back the appetitive beast within us, for example, is emblematic of an internal Leviathan each individual conscience tacitly consents to for a free society to be possible.

    The gradual shift in favorability towards democracy, from Socratic aversion to Jeffersonian approval based upon Locke, reflected the piecemeal formation of internal Leviathans that made democracy possible. Plato’s polemical attack in the Republic against democracy as an ideology suited for morally relativistic pigs made sense, given the amorality of those around him who ignored philosophic truth and diffidently sentenced Socrates to death. His opposition to democracy reflected the observable reality of Hobbes’s first law of nature, namely an avaricious Tony Montana attitude commonly held towards other individuals and groups at that time. Democracy only became a viable alternative to absolute sovereignty after the humble and prudential values diffused by the burgeoning bourgeoisie of Locke’s time attained widespread acceptance. If the hypothetical man of the state of nature is self-reliantly rational and reasonable rather than nasty and brutish, we can entrust him with freedom without risking our security from death.

    The American middle class is often derisively mocked at my University for the values its members hold dear. Their sexual abstention, proudly traditional religiosity, and lowly aspirations for a quiet life of monetary gain with a nuclear family strike many supposed “free spirits” as an archaic edifice to topple. The eternal Hobbesian preeminence of security within us, however, makes it wiser to consider the utilitarian importance of their self-restraint for the preservation of any freedom at all.

  • Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog)

    Since some reviewers here seem to rate this work unfairly low because of their disagreements, ignoring both the importance of Leviathan and the basic power of the argument Hobbes forwards in it, I'll refer a couple of good, measured reviews with history and backdrop also found here-

    Originally I planned to adapt an essay I wrote at univers

    Since some reviewers here seem to rate this work unfairly low because of their disagreements, ignoring both the importance of Leviathan and the basic power of the argument Hobbes forwards in it, I'll refer a couple of good, measured reviews with history and backdrop also found here-

    Originally I planned to adapt an essay I wrote at university on Hobbes and Leviathan (with comparisons against Locke, Rousseau and others) to serve as a review, but it's rather unwieldy and a few of its less esoteric and elaborate points have been made very well and succinctly in some of the accounts above.

    Hobbes is the most influential figure in political thinking when it comes to what might broadly be called 'pessimistic philosophy' (contra Leibniz), and in this sense he makes an excellent, more formal and treatise-like accompaniment to the works of Voltaire (whose '

    ' especially are, beyond the characteristic wit on display, also immensely enjoyable; Kafka, and to certain more personal extent Beckett, are also commendable reads). He doesn't so much set out a modus operandi for a ruler as the Arthshastra or The Prince attempt to do, but tries to justify the power to be accorded a ruler, basically obliterating some of the more open concerns a statesman might have to tactically contend with in Machiavelli. But it may be that of all of Leviathan's contributions, the eponymous Leviathan in the sense of an absolute monarch is the superfluous part.

    Given its age, the language of Leviathan is remarkably clear and precise, emphatic as necessary and quite accessible. Hobbes sets out his arguments with almost mathematical proof-like care however, and the book may require patience. I had lecture notes to guide me through when I first read important selections, and perhaps something of that nature will be helpful.

    I more recently found it a fascinating exercise to study the thought of this 'school' (roughly speaking) in the context of modern evolutionary thinking as found in very accessible but also rigorous accounts like

    by Richard Dawkins.

    Of course, just as science with its empirical concerns does not prescribe but might inform efficient and effective methods for achieving an aim, the pessimists are not prescriptive- they simply caution in the way dystopia in fiction doesn't provide constructive commentary as utopia does, but serve (when done right, in the manner of Orwell for instance) as elaborate warning tales. It is wrong to think of them, especially Hobbes, as social Darwinists. There is willful misinterpretation on nearly every side of modern politics when it comes to philosophers like Hobbes so that arguments which come from the pedestrian self-help-esque philosophy of the likes of Ayn Rand or readings that miss the outré humour of de Sade can be cloaked in the appearance of erudition and thus made less incendiary when shamelessly carted out. This propensity is far from lessened by the argument in Leviathan for monarchy and the easy clamour citing this gains from those blinded and made to follow complacently by the very term 'democracy', whether true in fact or not.

    It is perfectly fair to say that Hobbes, with interests very relevant to him personally in his day, fails to give due consideration to other forms of governance than the one he advocates, but this shortcoming does not invalidate or at all detract from the conundrum he poses about trust within his 'state of nature', or the dangers of it. The situation is akin to the

    from game theory and there is the question of what's rational for the society on the whole against what is rational for the individual at each decision. The implications from biology of trust-favouring behaviours and the evolutionarily stable equilibria which may come about through such strategies further elucidate our notions on the human condition when considered alongside the basic problem.

  • Nikos Tsentemeidis

    Κατ’ αρχάς μια πολύ ωραία και προσεγμένη έκδοση. Είναι το έργο ζωής του Thomas Hobbes, άγγλου φιλόσοφου, γιου προτεστάντη κληρικού, που έζησε τον 17ο αιώνα.

    Μέρος πρώτο: περί ανθρώπου. Εξαιρετικό.

    Μέρος δεύτερο: περί πολιτικής κοινότητας. Αναπτύσσει την βασική του πολιτική φιλοσοφία, βέβαια θεωρώ πως είναι ξεπερασμένη σήμερα.

    Έως εδώ καλά!

    Μέρος τρίτο & τέταρτο: περί χριστιανικής πολιτικής κοινότητας και βασιλείου του σκότους. Δηλαδή περί θαυμάτων, περί της σημασίας του λόγου των προφητών, περί

    Κατ’ αρχάς μια πολύ ωραία και προσεγμένη έκδοση. Είναι το έργο ζωής του Thomas Hobbes, άγγλου φιλόσοφου, γιου προτεστάντη κληρικού, που έζησε τον 17ο αιώνα.

    Μέρος πρώτο: περί ανθρώπου. Εξαιρετικό.

    Μέρος δεύτερο: περί πολιτικής κοινότητας. Αναπτύσσει την βασική του πολιτική φιλοσοφία, βέβαια θεωρώ πως είναι ξεπερασμένη σήμερα.

    Έως εδώ καλά!

    Μέρος τρίτο & τέταρτο: περί χριστιανικής πολιτικής κοινότητας και βασιλείου του σκότους. Δηλαδή περί θαυμάτων, περί της σημασίας του λόγου των προφητών, περί του σκότους που προέρχεται από κενή φιλοσοφία και ποιοι το καρπώνονται και άλλα τέτοια κουλά. Εν ολίγοις μου προκάλεσε απογοήτευση και διάβασα μόνο τους τίτλους.

  • Sarah Karimia

    ارزش یا قدر انسان مثل ارزش و قدر همه ی چیزهای دیگر در بهای اوست یعنی در همان مبلغی ست که به ازای استفاده از قدرت او پرداخت می گردد و بنابراین ارزش انسان مطلق نیست بلکه وابسته به نیاز و ارزیابی دیگران است. فرمانده ی توانای سپاهیان در زمان وقوع جنگ و یا احتمال وقوع آن ارزش بسیاری دارد ،اما در زمان صلح چنین نیست.قاضی دانا و پاک و با وجدان ارزش و قدر بسیاری در زمان صلح دارد نه در زمان جنگ.و در مورد انسان ها نیز مثل هر چیز دیگر نه فروشنده بلکه خریدار قیمت را تعیین می کند. زیرا اگر کسی والاترین ارزش م

    ارزش یا قدر انسان مثل ارزش و قدر همه ی چیزهای دیگر در بهای اوست یعنی در همان مبلغی ست که به ازای استفاده از قدرت او پرداخت می گردد و بنابراین ارزش انسان مطلق نیست بلکه وابسته به نیاز و ارزیابی دیگران است. فرمانده ی توانای سپاهیان در زمان وقوع جنگ و یا احتمال وقوع آن ارزش بسیاری دارد ،اما در زمان صلح چنین نیست.قاضی دانا و پاک و با وجدان ارزش و قدر بسیاری در زمان صلح دارد نه در زمان جنگ.و در مورد انسان ها نیز مثل هر چیز دیگر نه فروشنده بلکه خریدار قیمت را تعیین می کند. زیرا اگر کسی والاترین ارزش ممکن را هم برای خودش قائل شود( چنانکه بیشتر آدمیان چنین کنند)با این حال ارزش واقعی وی چیزی بیش از آن نیست که دیگران برایش قائل می شوند.

    "از متن کتاب"


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