Biography

  • Born in Westport England, 1588
  • Hobbes’ father (a vicar) abandoned the family when Hobbes was young
  • Graduated from Magdalen Hall 1608
  • Tutor to young William Cavendish, with whom, he travelled through continental Europe
  • While spending time in Paris, Hobbes began to consider himself a philosopher
  • Wrote The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic while in Britain
  • Fled to France after the Parliamentarian victory in
    Britain
  • While in France, he wrote Leviathan (1651)
  • Returned to a (forced) partial-retirement in England
    after publishing Leviathan
  • Died in 1679, uttering the words “A great leap in the
    dark.”

Leviathan

  • An analysis of the structure of society and of legitimacy of government
  • On of the first modern examples of the social contract theory, as well as the state of nature
  • Was written as a strong supporter of absolutism
  • Consists of four parts building onto each other
    1. Of Man
    2. Of Common-wealth
    3. Of a Christian Commonwealth
    4. Of the Kingdom of Darkness

Part 1: Of Man

  • Outlines the importance of perception for humans
    -What is “Good” is simply something that an individual likes, while “Evil” is something that an individual hates.
  • Hobbes describes man as selfish, greedy and only
    concerned with their own survival
  • Without society, man is a “state of nature” or “war”
  • Hobbes outlines three reasons for conflict during a
    state of nature: Competition, Diffidence and Glory.
  • Also highlights Hobbes’ laws of nature:
    1. Man should seek “peace”, but can use all rights
    while in a state of war.
    2. To obtain a state of “peace” an individual must give
    up some rights (The Social Contract)

Part 2: Of Commonwealth

  • The reason for a commonwealth is “…the introduction of that restraint upon themselves, in which we see them live in Commonwealths, is the foresight of their own preservation, and of a more contented life…”
  • Outlines the rights of the sovereign
    -Made to protect the sovereign and the state of “peace”
  • Speculates that there are only three true forms of commonwealth: Aristocracy, Democracy, and Monarchy
    -All other versions of such are a matter of perception (e.g. an Oligarchy)
  • States that a monarchy is the best system because:
    -Corruption is less likely because the success of the sovereign is dependent on the success of the people
    -It removes morals from decision making (Legal Positivism)
  • Suggests that taxation should be equivalent to how useful a
    person is to the commonwealth

Part 3 & 4: Of Christian Commonwealth and Of The Kingdom of Darkness

  • Religion is a matter of the state and sovereign
  • It is impossible to tell who truly has a divine right to rule
  • Therefore civil power trumps religious power
  • “Kingdom of Darkness” is the ignorance of knowledge and misinterpretation of religious text
  • Hobbes throws his support behind protestant ideas
  • Hobbes scolds the church for it’s denial of sciences
  • Only in matters of civil disorder should they be stopped

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