Leviathan Hobbes Essay

Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan

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Thomas Hobbes wrote Leviathan as a testament on how to run a country. In fact, it is very comparable to Machiavelli and his works. Hobbes is a monarchist, and an absolutist as his works reflect. His work came about during political instability, as it was published in 1651. Though his philosophy of the universe is fairly elementary, his views on absolute sovereignty and commonwealths are brilliant.

The introduction states Hobbes’ belief that civil peace and social unity are best achieved by the establishment of a commonwealth through social contract. His ideal commonwealth is ruled by a sovereign power responsible for protecting the security of the commonwealth and granted absolute authority to ensure the common defense. In his introduction he refers to the commonwealth as an “artificial person” that mimics the human body.

The first three chapters explain Hobbes’ ideas on the mechanics of the human mind, the topics of sense, imagination, and train of thought. Hobbes finds that humans are in fact very closely related to nature. He feels that nature is all around us, yet we are part of it as well. He envisions the world as matter constantly colliding into each other. This, in turn, creates his philosophy that the universe eventually transfers into the skin, causing eyes, nose, tongue, and skin to physically move. His “sense” refers to this physicality and the messages sent to the brain, and the action of external bodies colliding with our sensitive organs. As stated above, matter cannot move itself. If an object is left lying on the ground undisturbed it will remain undisturbed forever. Likewise, if matter were left in motion it would remain in motion unless acted upon by other matter. Hobbes believes that the never-ending motion is responsible for “imagination.” He explains through an example of remaining vision after one has closed their eyes. His idea states that this is simply matter that has not left the body and has caused a new set of motions by which imagination is possible. Train of thought is likewise committed by a series of imagination. Hobbes sees everything as one internal sensation provoking the next.

Chapters four and five explain the necessity of speech, reasoning, and science. Speech, according to Hobbes, was invented in order to verbalize our thoughts. He also identifies four uses, and four abuses of speech. Science is reason, and reason is needed to explain the consequences of everything; its use is needed to explain the past, as well as predict the future.

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In chapters thirteen through sixteen Hobbes tells the reader about equality among men. He states that all men are created equal. Although one may be physically stronger, the weak man may be just as dangerous because of a secret weapon, militia, or other talent. Warfare stems from a situation where two men want the same thing, a thing that both cannot have. He also explains the “laws of nature.” The laws are mostly examples of ‘moral’ judgment. For example, one law is very similar to the golden rule ‘treat others how you want to be treated.’

The seventeenth chapter begins to talk about Hobbes’ idea of sovereign authority. The sovereign is needed to force people to uphold laws. This sovereign is supposed to be established by the people, and endowed with the individual powers and wills of all. The authority is authorized to punish anyone who breaks the laws, and, in turn, the sovereign works through fear. The sovereign could have been one person or a group of people, and at his time they would have been men. Hobbes also describes his commonwealth, which can be established only by force or though agreement. He proves in chapters seventeen through twenty-two his favor of monarchies.

Hobbes discusses the possibility of a weak, or defective commonwealth in chapters thirty and thirty-one. The office of the sovereign is designed to protect the safety of the people. When the office is not held the soul disappears from the commonwealth. Sovereignty also dissolves during civil war, and also during an international war when an enemy wins. Once the commonwealth vanishes the citizens are thrust back into nature, and are left to protect themselves. In order to curb this outcome, Hobbes deducts that it is necessary to follow the philosophy of his texts. He states that man must avoid civil punishment, but that by God as well. One must be educated in the laws of God, which are dictated by natural reason. Hobbes sees God as the being that moves all of matter.

Hobbes’ ideas of the universe, commonwealth, and man are all rather extraordinary. He wrote only a few hundred pages, yet he explained all aspects of the world. Not only does he explain these things, he also provides a well thought out argument that can still hold true today.



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