Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

July 2024 Forums General discussion Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

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    Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

    Has anybody read this book or snippets/articles of it. Very interesting read and I think some of his work in there that is classed as unacceptable by todays standards is still quite interesting to think about if it were to be enacted.


    The key book to read on him is C. B. Macpherson's The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke.For something on the neglected 3rd and 4th parts of Leviathan, see this article from The Skeptic in 2006. It begins:

    Anyone who had to study philosophy at university will have had to have read Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan that was published in English in 1651. Normally, they will only have been encouraged to read the first two of its four parts — on the theory of knowledge (of Man) and on the theory of the State (Of Common-Wealth) — and so probably won't have read the last two, on the Christian theory of the State (Of A Christian Common-Wealth) and on the pretensions of the Roman Catholic Church (Of the Kingdom of Darknesse). The main thrust of these last two parts is to reinforce the argument of the second that political obedience is owed to the secular rulers of the State (however chosen) not to any church. But, at the same time, they contain arguments about ghosts, miracles and angels that are of interest to sceptics.

    Although he took the side of the royalists in the English Civil War his arguments here against Roman Catholicism and its superstitions displeased some of the king's other supporters. If you read them you can see why. 

    steve colborn

    A book I read during my degree. As with "most" works of political philosophy, Leviathan has to be read, taking into account, the particular historical context, evinced at the time.Although one can read these works now, take them outside of their "time" and they are less relevant. The one outstanding instance, (and the reason I placed most, in inverted commas earlier) is the work of Marx. That he is as relevant today is, to my mind, incontestable!Doing the course, "The History of European Political Thought", also gave me the sense, of the evolution of not only thinking, but of the society it took place within.When we eventually reach a Socialist world, it would be nice to think, that some future thinker on political philosophy, would produce a summation of this history and extricate the threads that bind them.


    I agree that Leviathan needs to be read in its historical context but I think it has relevence  as a justification of the modern state . According to Hobbes, without the state, society would be in a ‘state of war’ of  ‘all against all’ and  life would be "nasty, brutish and short": a common misconception even today and a view of society that hinders the development of socialist consciousness.He was also a propenent of a form of materialism and the secular state. Macpherson is a good read          


    Try and read the very short biography of Hobbes written by John Aubrey in his Brief Lives. It depicts him as a tetchy but likeable old bastard one could get to like. Every time I read Leviathan I hear his soft Witshire burr. Honest. As for Leviathan — is it a political theory, or is it really a theory of human nature?

    HollyHead wrote:
    As for Leviathan — is it a political theory, or is it really a theory of human nature?

     I think it is both!  As is all politacl theory. The political solution is based on a conception of human nature. I hope I don't sound too much like Louis Althusser 

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