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Encyclopedia > Leviathan (book)
Frontispiece of "Leviathan," by Abraham Bosse, with input from Hobbes
Frontispiece of "Leviathan," by Abraham Bosse, with input from Hobbes

Leviathan, or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil, commonly called Leviathan is a book written in 1651 by Thomas Hobbes. It is titled after the biblical Leviathan. The book concerns the structure of society (as represented figuratively by the frontispiece, showing the state giant made up of individuals), as is evidenced by the full title. Look up leviathan in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (525x805, 125 KB) Description Source http://www. ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (525x805, 125 KB) Description Source http://www. ... Categories: Stub | 1604 births | 1676 deaths | Engravers ... // Events January 1 - Charles II crowned King of Scotland in Scone. ... “Hobbes” redirects here. ... This Gutenberg Bible is displayed by the United States Library. ... This article is about the biblical creature. ... For other uses, see Society (disambiguation). ... In architecture, a frontispiece constitutes the elements that frame and decorate the main, or front, door to a building; especially when the main entrance is the chief face of the building, rather than being kept behind columns or a portico. ...


In the book, Thomas Hobbes argues for a social contract and rule by an absolute sovereign. Influenced by the English Civil War, Hobbes wrote that chaos or civil war - situations identified with a state of nature and the famous motto Bellum omnium contra omnes ("the war of all against all") - could only be averted by strong central government. He thus denied any right of rebellion toward the social contract, which would be later added by John Locke and conserved by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. However, Hobbes did discuss the possible dissolution of the State. As the social contract was made to institute a state that would provide for the "peace and defence" of the people, the contract would become void if the government no longer protected its citizens. In such a case, man would automatically return to a state of nature until the creation of a new social contract. John Lockes writings on the Social Contract were particularly influential among the American Founding Fathers. ... “Sovereign” redirects here. ... For other uses, see English Civil War (disambiguation). ... State of nature is a term in political philosophy used in social contract theories to describe the hypothetical condition of humanity before the states foundation and its monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force. ... Bellum omnium contra omnes, a Latin phrase meaning the war of all against all, is the description that Thomas Hobbes gives to human existence in the state of nature thought experiment that he conducts in Leviathan (1651). ... The right of rebellion is a right permitted by John Locke in his social contract theory. ... For other persons named John Locke, see John Locke (disambiguation). ... Jean-Jacques Rousseau, (June 28, 1712 – July 2, 1778) was a Genevan philosopher of the Enlightenment whose political ideas influenced the French Revolution, the development of socialist theory, and the growth of nationalism. ... A peace dove, widely known as a symbol for peace, featuring an olive branch in the doves beak. ...

Contents

Part I: Of Man

In Part I, Hobbes attempts an analysis of society from first principles, beginning with Man and the Senses. He develops this in a sequence of definitions (for example: Imagination is "nothing but decaying sense" and is the same as Memory). He points out the Necessity of Definitions, which is a hint that he is attempting an axiomatisation of humanity in line with the programme of Geometry. He defines various Passions in an unsentimental way: e.g. "But whatsoever is the object of any man's appetite or desire, that is it which he for his part calleth good; and the object of his hate and aversion, evil; and of his contempt, vile and inconsiderable. For these words of good, evil, and contemptible are ever used with relation to the person that useth them: there being nothing simply and absolutely so; nor any common rule of good and evil to be taken from the nature of the objects themselves…". A whole sequence of such definitions follows (Appetite with an opinion of attaining, is called Hope… Honourable is whatsoever possession, action, or quality is an argument and sign of power.). Chapter XIII is an exposition "Of the Natural Condition of Mankind, as concerning their Felicity, and Misery" and contains the famous quotation describing life in the state of war of every man against every man: Bellum omnium contra omnes, a Latin phrase meaning the war of all against all, is the description that Thomas Hobbes gives to human existence in the state of nature thought experiment that he conducts in Leviathan (1651). ...

the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short

Hobbes finds three basic causes of the conflict in this state of nature: competition, diffidence and glory, The first maketh men invade for gain; the second, for safety; and the third, for reputation. His first law of nature is that that every man ought to endeavour peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek and use all helps and advantages of war. In the state of nature, every man has a right to every thing, even to one another's body but the second law is that, in order to secure the advantages of peace, that a man be willing, when others are so too… to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men as he would allow other men against himself. This is the beginning of contracts/covenants; performing of which is the third law of nature. Injustice, therefore, is failure to perform in a covenant; all else is just. State of nature is a term in political philosophy used in social contract theories to describe the hypothetical condition of humanity before the states foundation and its monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force. ... A law of nature, as used in Leviathan (book) by Thomas Hobbes is a precept, or general rule, found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do that which is destructive of his life, or takes away the means of preserving the same; and to omit that...


Part II: Of Common-wealth

The purpose of a commonwealth is given at the start of Part II: THE final cause, end, or design of men (who naturally love liberty, and dominion over others) in 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 thereby; that is to say, of getting themselves out from that miserable condition of war which is necessarily consequent, as hath been shown, to the natural passions of men when there is no visible power to keep them in awe, and tie them by fear of punishment to the performance of their covenants.... For other uses, see Commonwealth (disambiguation). ...


The commonwealth is instituted when all agree to: I authorise and give up my right of governing myself to this man, or to this assembly of men, on this condition; that thou give up, thy right to him, and authorise all his actions in like manner.


The sovereign has twelve principal rights:

  1. because a successive covenant cannot override a prior, the subjects cannot (lawfully) change the form of government.
  2. because the covenant forming the commonwealth is the 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 selection of sovereign is (in theory) by majority vote; the minority have agreed to abide by this.
  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. following this, 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 of honour and a scale of worth.

Hobbes explicitly rejects the idea of Separation of Powers, in particular the form that would later become the separation of powers under the United States Constitution. Part 6 is a perhaps under-emphasised feature of Hobbes's argument: his is explicitly in favour of censorship of the press and restrictions on the rights of free speech, should they be considered desirable by the sovereign in order to promote order. The Politics series Politics Portal This box:      Separation of powers, is a term coined by French political Enlightenment thinker Baron de Montesquieu[1][2], is a model for the governance of democratic states. ... Wikisource has original text related to this article: The United States Constitution The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the United States of America. ...


Types of commonwealth

There are three (monarchy, aristocracy and democracy): For the documentary series, see Monarchy (TV series). ... Forms of government Part of the Politics series Politics Portal This box:      The term aristocracy refers to a form of government where power is held by a small number of individuals from an elite or from noble families. ...

The difference of Commonwealths consisted in the difference of the sovereign, or the person representative of all and every one of the multitude. And because the sovereignty is either in one man, or in an assembly of more than one; and into that assembly either every man hath right to enter, or not every one, but certain men distinguished from the rest; it is manifest there can be but three kinds of Commonwealth. For the representative must needs be one man, or more; and if more, then it is the assembly of all, or but of a part. When the representative is one man, then is the Commonwealth a monarchy; when an assembly of all that will come together, then it is a democracy, or popular Commonwealth; when an assembly of a part only, then it is called an aristocracy. Other kind of Commonwealth there can be none: for either one, or more, or all, must have the sovereign power (which I have shown to be indivisible) entire.

And only three:

There be other names of government in the histories and books of policy; as tyranny and oligarchy; but they are not the names of other forms of government, but of the same forms misliked. For they that are discontented under monarchy call it tyranny; and they that are displeased with aristocracy call it oligarchy: so also, they which find themselves grieved under a democracy call it anarchy, which signifies want of government; and yet I think no man believes that want of government is any new kind of government: nor by the same reason ought they to believe that the government is of one kind when they like it, and another when they mislike it or are oppressed by the governors.

And monarchy is the best, on practical grounds: This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ... Forms of government Part of the Politics series Politics Portal This box:      Oligarchy (Greek , Oligarkhía) is a form of government where political power effectively rests with a small, elite segment of society (whether distinguished by wealth, family or military powers). ...

The difference between these three kinds of Commonwealth consisteth, not in the difference of power, but in the difference of convenience or aptitude to produce the peace and security of the people; for which end they were instituted. And to compare monarchy with the other two, we may observe: first, that whosoever beareth the person of the people, or is one of that assembly that bears it, beareth also his own natural person. And though he be careful in his politic person to procure the common interest, yet he is more, or no less, careful to procure the private good of himself, his family, kindred and friends; and for the most part, if the public interest chance to cross the private, he prefers the private: for the passions of men are commonly more potent than their reason. From whence it follows that where the public and private interest are most closely united, there is the public most advanced. Now in monarchy the private interest is the same with the public. The riches, power, and honour of a monarch arise only from the riches, strength, and reputation of his subjects. For no king can be rich, nor glorious, nor secure, whose subjects are either poor, or contemptible, or too weak through want, or dissension, to maintain a war against their enemies; whereas in a democracy, or aristocracy, the public prosperity confers not so much to the private fortune of one that is corrupt, or ambitious, as doth many times a perfidious advice, a treacherous action, or a civil war.

Succession

The right of succession always lies with the sovereign. Democracies and aristocracies have easy succession; monarchy is harder:

The greatest difficulty about the right of succession is in monarchy: and the difficulty ariseth from this, that at first sight, it is not manifest who is to appoint the successor; nor many times who it is whom he hath appointed. For in both these cases, there is required a more exact ratiocination than every man is accustomed to use.

Because in general people haven't thought carefully. However, the succession is definitely in the gift of the monarch:

As to the question who shall appoint the successor of a monarch that hath the sovereign authority... we are to consider that either he that is in possession has right to dispose of the succession, or else that right is again in the dissolved multitude. ... Therefore it is manifest that by the institution of monarchy, the disposing of the successor is always left to the judgement and will of the present possessor.

But, it is not always obvious who the monarch has appointed:

And for the question which may arise sometimes, who it is that the monarch in possession hath designed to the succession and inheritance of his power

However, the answer is:

it is determined by his express words and testament; or by other tacit signs sufficient.

And this means:

By express words, or testament, when it is declared by him in his lifetime, viva voce, or by writing; as the first emperors of Rome declared who should be their heirs.

Note that (perhaps rather radically) this does *not* have to be any blood relative:

For the word heir does not of itself imply the children or nearest kindred of a man; but whomsoever a man shall any way declare he would have to succeed him in his estate. If therefore a monarch declare expressly that such a man shall be his heir, either by word or writing, then is that man immediately after the decease of his predecessor invested in the right of being monarch.

However (reverting to the reality of the times...)

But where testament and express words are wanting, other natural signs of the will are to be followed: whereof the one is custom. And therefore where the custom is that the next of kindred absolutely succeedeth, there also the next of kindred hath right to the succession; for that, if the will of him that was in possession had been otherwise, he might easily have declared the same in his lifetime...

So we end up back at the first-born son, in practice.


Part III: Of a Christian Common-wealth

In Part III Hobbes seeks to investigate the nature of a Christian commonwealth. This immediately raises the question of which scriptures we should trust, and why. If any person may claim supernatural revelation superior to the civil law, then there would be chaos, and Hobbes' fervent desire is to avoid this. Hobbes thus begins by establishing that we cannot infallibly know another's personal word to be divine revelation: For other uses, see Christian (disambiguation). ... Many religions and spiritual movements hold certain written texts (or series of spoken legends not traditionally written down) to be sacred. ... Look up Supernatural in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Revelation of the Last Judgment by Jacob de Backer Revelation is an uncovering or disclosure via communication from the divine of something that has been partially or wholly hidden or unknown, which could not be known apart from the unveiling (Goswiller 1987 p. ... For other uses, see Divinity (disambiguation) and Divine (disambiguation). ...

When God speaketh to man, it must be either immediately or by mediation of another man, to whom He had formerly spoken by Himself immediately. How God speaketh to a man immediately may be understood by those well enough to whom He hath so spoken; but how the same should be understood by another is hard, if not impossible, to know. For if a man pretend to me that God hath spoken to him supernaturally, and immediately, and I make doubt of it, I cannot easily perceive what argument he can produce to oblige me to believe it.

This is good, but if applied too fervently would lead to all the Bible being rejected. So, Hobbes says, we need a test: and the true test is established by examining the books of scripture, and is: This article discusses the term God in the context of monotheism and henotheism. ... This Gutenberg Bible is displayed by the United States Library. ...

So that it is manifest that the teaching of the religion which God hath established, and the showing of a present miracle, joined together, were the only marks whereby the Scripture would have a true prophet.

And Seeing therefore miracles now cease this means that only the books of the Bible can be trusted. Hobbes then discusses the various books which are accepted by various sects, and the question much disputed between the diverse sects of Christian religion, from whence the Scriptures derive their authority. To Hobbes, it is manifest that none can know they are God's word (though all true Christians believe it) but those to whom God Himself hath revealed it supernaturally. And therefore The question truly stated is: by what authority they are made law? A miracle, derived from the old Latin word miraculum meaning something wonderful, is a striking interposition of divine intervention by God in the universe by which the ordinary course and operation of Nature is overruled, suspended, or modified. ... For other senses of this word, see Prophet (disambiguation). ... This article is about religious groups. ...


Unsurprisingly, Hobbes concludes that ultimately there is no way to determine this other than the civil power: He therefore to whom God hath not supernaturally revealed that they are His, nor that those that published them were sent by Him, is not obliged to obey them by any authority but his whose commands have already the force of laws; that is to say, by any other authority than that of the Commonwealth, residing in the sovereign, who only has the legislative power.


He discusses the ten commandments, and asks who it was that gave to these written tables the obligatory force of laws. There is no doubt but they were made laws by God Himself: but because a law obliges not, nor is law to any but to them that acknowledge it to be the act of the sovereign, how could the people of Israel, that were forbidden to approach the mountain to hear what God said to Moses, be obliged to obedience to all those laws which Moses propounded to them? and concludes, as before, that making of the Scripture law, belonged to the civil sovereign. This article is about a list of ten religious commandments. ... Moses with the Tablets, 1659, by Rembrandt This article is about the Biblical figure. ...


Finally: We are to consider now what office in the Church those persons have who, being civil sovereigns, have embraced also the Christian faith? to which the answer is: Christian kings are still the supreme pastors of their people, and have power to ordain what pastors they please, to teach the Church, that is, to teach the people committed to their charge. For the architectural structure, see Church (building). ... Topics in Christianity Movements · Denominations Ecumenism · Preaching · Prayer Music · Liturgy · Calendar Symbols · Art · Criticism Important figures Apostle Paul · Church Fathers Constantine · Athanasius · Augustine Anselm · Aquinas · Palamas · Luther Calvin · Wesley Arius · Marcion of Sinope Archbishop of Canterbury · Catholic Pope Coptic Pope · Ecumenical Patriarch Christianity Portal This box:      A pastor is an...


There is an enormous amount of biblical scholarship in this third part. However, once Hobbes's initial argument is accepted (that no-one can know for sure anyone else's divine revelation) his conclusion (the religious power is subordinate to the civil) follows from his logic. The very extensive discussions of the chapter were probably necessary for its time. The need (as Hobbes saw it) for the civil sovereign to be supreme arose partly from the many sects that arose around the civil war, and to quash the Pope of Rome's challenge, to which Hobbes devotes an extensive section. Topics in Christianity Movements · Denominations Ecumenism · Preaching · Prayer Music · Liturgy · Calendar Symbols · Art · Criticism Important figures Apostle Paul · Church Fathers Constantine · Athanasius · Augustine Anselm · Aquinas · Palamas · Wycliffe Tyndale · Luther · Calvin · Wesley Arius · Marcion of Sinope Pope · Archbishop of Canterbury Patriarch of Constantinople Christianity Portal This box:      The Pope (from Latin...


Part IV: Of the Kingdom of Darkness

Hobbes named Part IV of his book Kingdom of Darkness. By this, Hobbes does not mean Hell (he did not believe in Hell or Purgatory), but the darkness of ignorance as opposed to the light of true knowledge. Hobbes' interpretation is largely unorthodox and so sees much darkness in what he sees as the misinterpretation of scripture. For other uses, see Hell (disambiguation). ... Illustration for Dantes Purgatorio (18), by Gustave Doré, an imaginative picturing of Purgatory. ...

This considered, the kingdom of darkness… is nothing else but a confederacy of deceivers that, to obtain dominion over men in this present world, endeavour, by dark and erroneous doctrines, to extinguish in them the light… [1]

Hobbes enumerates four causes of this darkness. This article does not cite any references or sources. ...


The first is by extinguishing the light of scripture through misinterpretation. Hobbes sees the main abuse as teaching that the kingdom of God can be found in the church, thus undermining the authority of the civil sovereign. Another general abuse of scripture, in his view, is the turning of consecration into conjuration, or silly ritual. “Kingdom of Heaven” redirects here. ... To consecrate an inanimate object is to dedicate it in a ritual to a special purpose, usually religious. ... A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value, which is prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. ...


The second cause is the demonology of the heathen poets concerning demons, which in Hobbes opinion are nothing more than constructs of the brain. Hobbes then goes on to criticise what he sees as many of the practices of Catholicism: "Now for the worship of saints, and images, and relics, and other things at this day practised in the Church of Rome, I say they are not allowed by the word of God". “Fiend” redirects here. ... Catholic Church redirects here. ... In traditional Christian iconography, Saints are often depicted as having halos. ... Look up icon in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... A relic is an object, especially a piece of the body or a personal item of someone of religious significance, carefully preserved with an air of veneration as a tangible memorial, Relics are an important aspect of Buddhism, some denominations of Christianity, Hinduism, shamanism, and many other personal belief systems. ...


The third is by mixing with the Scripture diverse relics of the religion, and much of the vain and erroneous philosophy of the Greeks, especially of Aristotle. Hobbes has little time for the various disputing sects of philosophers, and objects to what people have taken From Aristotle's civil philosophy, they have learned to call all manner of Commonwealths but the popular (such as was at that time the state of Athens), tyranny. At the end of this comes an interesting section (darkness is suppressing true knowledge as well as introducing falsehoods), which would appear to bear on the discoveries of Galileo Galilei. "Our own navigations make manifest, and all men learned in human sciences now acknowledge, there are antipodes" (ie, the Earth is round) "…Nevertheless, men… have been punished for it by authority ecclesiastical. But what reason is there for it? Is it because such opinions are contrary to true religion? That cannot be, if they be true." However, Hobbes is quite happy for the truth to be suppressed if necessary: if "they tend to disorder in government, as countenancing rebellion or sedition? Then let them be silenced, and the teachers punished" — but only by the civil authority. This article is about the philosopher. ... Galileo redirects here. ...


The fourth is by mingling with both these, false or uncertain traditions, and feigned or uncertain history.


Hobbes finishes by inquiring who benefits from the errors he diagnoses:

CICERO maketh honourable mention of one of the Cassii, a severe judge amongst the Romans, for a custom he had in criminal causes, when the testimony of the witnesses was not sufficient, to ask the accusers, cui bono; that is to say, what profit, honour, or other contentment the accused obtained or expected by the fact. For amongst presumptions, there is none that so evidently declareth the author as doth the benefit of the action.

Hobbes concludes that the beneficiaries are the churches and churchmen. For other uses, see Cicero (disambiguation). ...


See also

Bellum omnium contra omnes, a Latin phrase meaning the war of all against all, is the description that Thomas Hobbes gives to human existence in the state of nature thought experiment that he conducts in Leviathan (1651). ... Social contract is a phrase used in philosophy, political science, and sociology to denote a real or hypothetical agreement within a state regarding the rights and responsibilities of the state and its citizens, or more generally a similar concord between a group and its members. ... Behemoth was a history of the Long Parliament by Thomas Hobbes which was banned by the Crown from publication, and subsequently published posthumously in 1682. ...

External links

Wikisource has original text related to this article:

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Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary - Leviathan (book) (2423 words)
Leviathan is the most famous and influential book of political philosophy by Thomas Hobbes, published in 1651.
The book concerns the structure of society (as represented figuratively by the frontispiece, showing the society giant made up of individuals), as is evidenced by the full title "Leviathan or the matter, forme and power of a common-wealth ecclesiasticall and civill".
There be other names of government in the histories and books of policy; as tyranny and oligarchy; but they are not the names of other forms of government, but of the same forms misliked.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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