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Leviathan or the Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiastical and Civil

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Leviathan or the Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiastical and Civil

Summary

Thomas Hobbes has discussed his beliefs regarding the downfalls of the government and achieving perfect commonwealth by the humans, in his treatise Leviathan. The book presents various opinions regarding humanity which are presented by Thomas Hobbes with a setback of civil war and strong opinions on its causes and how it can be avoided in the near future. Therefore the book gives out a loud call for undivided and strong government. The work has been considered as a one of the most influential social contract theory.

Book 1: Of Man

This book focuses on human nature where Hobbes explains various aspect related to human nature. He adds that not a single thing about humans is intelligent or divine, straining on the meaningless-ness of terms like “evil” and “good”. He adds that morality is nowhere connected to human psychology. The author strongly believes that fear of death is the factor which drives human nature.

The absence of government is presented as anarchy by Hobbes which forces the men to be at war continuously and constantly. This leads to deprivation of arts, crops, invention, knowledge, industry, society etc. The fear of death leads to arising of political systems.  In this book he has discussed 19 laws of nature where the primary law states that humans are in constant need of peace. Second law of nature asks humans to quit the state of nature and start a commonwealth instead.  Thereby the author stresses on seeking peace and how important it is which can only be attained by commonwealth. ‘For it can never be that war shall preserve life, and peace destroy it’ (Hobbes, page 97). Another 17 laws were added so as to conclude that a sovereign is required for humans for representing them.

Book 2: Of Commonwealth

This book addresses the list of rights for the sovereign representing the people. After which, three commonwealth types are discussed namely the monarchy, the aristocracy, and the democracy. Hobbes presents the difference between them by stating the sovereign type where a single man (monarchy), group (aristocracy) and everyone (democracy) and adding explicitly that only these are the existing form of government. According to him, the best form of government is monarchy by describing the state of matter ……..”and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” ( Hobbes, Page 78). According to him, the lives are not worth living without existence of a sovereign government. The discussion is then turned towards religion where the sovereign must impose the people with a religion. In case, it is not done, it will lead to a discord by giving example of England. The book end with discussion of taxes. According to him, tax must be equal.

Book 3: Of a Christian Common-Wealth

This book begins with varying attacks being done on the religious writings by repeating again that religion must be provided to people by the government. As per his beliefs, all the sovereigns must be Christians because of the scope of being a good leaders to their people. A varying religious arguments from Books of Samuel, Book of Judges, Books of the Kings, and the two Books of the Chronicles etc. have been presented in this book, signifying his familiarity with religion.

Book 4: Of Kingdom of Darkness

Hobbes does not believe in the concept of hell and therefore, he does not refer to hell while presenting this part of the book. He defines ignorance as the kingdom of darkness. According to him, reading of scriptures leads to discord and ignorance. Fear and not faith is the factor where the Kingdom of Darkness is found. “And this fear of things invisible is the natural seed of that which every one in himself calleth religion; and in them that worship or fear that power otherwise than they do, superstition.” (Hobbes, 66)

Analysis

Hobbes has utilized the moral language expressed in the form of empirical science, precise vocabulary of geometry and physics.  Hobbes in this political ethical theory is based on causal-mechanical as well as materialistic metaphysical theory. Hobbes has utilized the scientific and mathematical study in his study and has not incorporated any ethically neutral or value-free perspective. The mechanistic scientific model presented by Hobbes is an explanatory for all type of existence due to the existence of universe with interconnected matter in motion. Hobbes’ has deduced the complex political theory along with a set of ethical arguments using his pessimistic interpretation on the human nature associated with primitive, original or the condition. The self-interests of humans are persuaded competitively due to anarchic, highly unstable and violent state of nature. Using …….. and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” ( Hobbes, Page 78), the author has depicted bleak realism. Here the author has admitted to a period of time which might not have occurred and is considered to be highly hypothetical, the evidences can be seen in the civil war times and the ‘savages’ in history. However, the existence of this state of nature is inconsequential because the arguments placed by Hobbes’ are highly psychological instead of being historical in nature. Furthermore, according to Hobbes, his arguments can easily be validated recursively and we can only wait to see if the factors deriving him to state his theory of human nature is valid or not.

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