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Thomas Hobbes


 

 

Thomas Hobbes

English philosopher

born April 5, 1588, Westport, Wiltshire, Eng.
died Dec. 4, 1679, Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire

Main
English philosopher, scientist, and historian, best known for his political philosophy, especially as articulated in his masterpiece Leviathan (1651). Hobbes viewed government primarily as a device for ensuring collective security. Political authority is justified by a hypothetical social contract among the many that vests in a sovereign person or entity the responsibility for the safety and well-being of all. In metaphysics, Hobbes defended materialism, the view that only material things are real. His scientific writings present all observed phenomena as the effects of matter in motion. Hobbes was not only a scientist in his own right but a great systematizer of the scientific findings of his contemporaries, including Galileo and Johannes Kepler. His enduring contribution is as a political philosopher who justified wide-ranging government powers on the basis of the self-interested consent of citizens.

Early life
Hobbes’s father was a quick-tempered vicar of a small Wiltshire parish church. Disgraced after engaging in a brawl at his own church door, he disappeared and abandoned his three children to the care of his brother, a well-to-do glover in Malmesbury. When he was four years old, Hobbes was sent to school at Westport, then to a private school, and finally, at 15, to Magdalen Hall in the University of Oxford, where he took a traditional arts degree and in his spare time developed an interest in maps.

For nearly the whole of his adult life, Hobbes worked for different branches of the wealthy and aristocratic Cavendish family. Upon taking his degree at Oxford in 1608, he was employed as page and tutor to the young William Cavendish, afterward the second earl of Devonshire. Over the course of many decades Hobbes served the family and their associates as translator, traveling companion, keeper of accounts, business representative, political adviser, and scientific collaborator. Through his employment by William Cavendish, the first earl of Devonshire, and his heirs, Hobbes became connected with the royalist side in disputes between the king and Parliament that continued until the 1640s and that culminated in the English Civil Wars (1642–51). Hobbes also worked for the marquess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a cousin of William Cavendish, and Newcastle’s brother, Sir Charles Cavendish. The latter was the centre of the “Wellbeck Academy,” an informal network of scientists named for one of the family houses at Wellbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire.


Intellectual development
The two branches of the Cavendish family nourished Hobbes’s enduring intellectual interests in politics and natural science, respectively. Hobbes served the earls of Devonshire intermittently until 1628; Newcastle and his brother employed him in the following decade. He returned to the Devonshires after the 1640s. Through both branches of the Cavendish family, and through contacts he made in his own right on the Continent as traveling companion to various successors to the Devonshire title, Hobbes became a member of several networks of intellectuals in England. Farther afield, in Paris, he became acquainted with the circle of scientists, theologians, and philosophers presided over by the theologian Marin Mersenne. This circle included René Descartes.

Hobbes was exposed to practical politics before he became a student of political philosophy. The young William Cavendish was a member of the 1614 and 1621 Parliaments, and Hobbes would have followed his contributions to parliamentary debates. Further exposure to politics came through the commercial interests of the earls of Devonshire. Hobbes attended many meetings of the governing body of the Virginia Company, a trading company established by James I to colonize parts of the eastern coast of North America, and came into contact with powerful men there. (Hobbes himself was given a small share in the company by his employer.) He also confronted political issues through his connection with figures who met at Great Tew; with them he debated not only theological questions but also the issues of how the Anglican church should be led and organized and how its authority should be related to that of any English civil government.

In the late 1630s Parliament and the king were in conflict over how far normal kingly powers could be exceeded in exceptional circumstances, especially in regard to raising money for armies. In 1640 Hobbes wrote a treatise defending King Charles I’s own wide interpretation of his prerogatives. Royalist members of Parliament used arguments from Hobbes’s treatise in debates, and the treatise itself circulated in manuscript form. The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic (written in 1640, published in a misedited unauthorized version in 1650) was Hobbes’s first work of political philosophy, though he did not intend it for publication as a book.

The development of Hobbes the scientist began in his middle age. He was not trained in mathematics or the sciences at Oxford, and his Wiltshire schooling was strongest in classical languages. His interest in motion and its effects was stimulated mainly through his conversation and reading on the Continent, as well as through his association with the scientifically and mathematically minded Wellbeck Cavendishes. In 1629 or 1630 Hobbes was supposedly charmed by Euclid’s method of demonstrating theorems in the Elements. According to a contemporary biographer, he came upon a volume of Euclid in a gentleman’s study and fell in love with geometry. Later, perhaps in the mid-1630s, he had gained enough sophistication to pursue independent research in optics, a subject he later claimed to have pioneered. Within the Wellbeck Academy, he exchanged views with other people interested in the subject. And as a member of Mersenne’s circle in Paris after 1640, he was taken seriously as a theorist not only of ethics and politics but of optics and ballistics. Indeed, he was even credited with competence in mathematics by some very able French mathematicians, including Gilles Personne de Roberval.

Self-taught in the sciences and an innovator at least in optics, Hobbes also regarded himself as a teacher or transmitter of sciences developed by others. In this connection he had in mind sciences that, like his own optics, traced observed phenomena to principles about the sizes, shapes, positions, speeds, and paths of parts of matter. His great trilogy—De Corpore (1655; “Concerning Body”), De Homine (1658; “Concerning Man”), and De Cive (1642; “Concerning the Citizen”)—was his attempt to arrange the various pieces of natural science, as well as psychology and politics, into a hierarchy, ranging from the most general and fundamental to the most specific. Although logically constituting the last part of his system, De Cive was published first, because political turmoil in England made its message particularly timely and because its doctrine was intelligible both with and without natural-scientific preliminaries. De Corpore and De Homine incorporated the findings of, among others, Galileo on the motions of terrestrial bodies, Kepler on astronomy, William Harvey on the circulation of the blood, and Hobbes himself on optics. The science of politics contained in De Cive was substantially anticipated in Part II of The Elements of Law and further developed in Leviathan; or, The Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil (1651), the last—and in the English-speaking world the most famous—formulation of Hobbes’s political philosophy (see below Hobbes’s system).


Exile in Paris
When strife became acute in 1640, Hobbes feared for his safety. Shortly after completing The Elements of Law, he fled to Paris, where he rejoined Mersenne’s circle and made contact with other exiles from England. He would remain in Paris for more than a decade, working on optics and on De Cive, De Corpore, and Leviathan. In 1646 the young prince of Wales, later to become Charles II, sought refuge in Paris, and Hobbes accepted an invitation to instruct him in mathematics.


Political philosophy
Hobbes presented his political philosophy in different forms for different audiences. De Cive states his theory in what he regarded as its most scientific form. Unlike The Elements of Law, which was composed in English for English parliamentarians—and which was written with local political challenges to Charles I in mind—De Cive was a Latin work for an audience of Continental savants who were interested in the “new” science—that is, the sort of science that did not appeal to the authority of the ancients but approached various problems with fresh principles of explanation.

De Cive’s break from the ancient authority par excellence—Aristotle—could not have been more loudly advertised. After only a few paragraphs, Hobbes rejects one of the most famous theses of Aristotle’s politics, namely that human beings are naturally suited to life in a polis and do not fully realize their natures until they exercise the role of citizen. Hobbes turns Aristotle’s claim on its head: human beings, he insists, are by nature unsuited to political life. They naturally denigrate and compete with each other, are very easily swayed by the rhetoric of ambitious men, and think much more highly of themselves than of other people. In short, their passions magnify the value they place on their own interests, especially their near-term interests. At the same time, most people, in pursuing their own interests, do not have the ability to prevail over competitors. Nor can they appeal to some natural common standard of behaviour that everyone will feel obliged to abide by. There is no natural self-restraint, even when human beings are moderate in their appetites, for a ruthless and bloodthirsty few can make even the moderate feel forced to take violent preemptive action in order to avoid losing everything. The self-restraint even of the moderate, then, easily turns into aggression. In other words, no human being is above aggression and the anarchy that goes with it.

War comes more naturally to human beings than political order. Indeed, political order is possible only when human beings abandon their natural condition of judging and pursuing what seems best to each and delegate this judgment to someone else. This delegation is effected when the many contract together to submit to a sovereign in return for physical safety and a modicum of well-being. Each of the many in effect says to the other: “I transfer my right of governing myself to X (the sovereign) if you do too.” And the transfer is collectively entered into only on the understanding that it makes one less of a target of attack or dispossession than one would be in one’s natural state. Although Hobbes did not assume that there was ever a real historical event in which a mutual promise was made to delegate self-government to a sovereign, he claimed that the best way to understand the state was to conceive of it as having resulted from such an agreement.

In Hobbes’s social contract, the many trade liberty for safety. Liberty, with its standing invitation to local conflict and finally all-out war—a “war of every man against every man”—is overvalued in traditional political philosophy and popular opinion, according to Hobbes; it is better for people to transfer the right of governing themselves to the sovereign. Once transferred, however, this right of government is absolute, unless the many feel that their lives are threatened by submission. The sovereign determines who owns what, who will hold which public offices, how the economy will be regulated, what acts will be crimes, and what punishments criminals should receive. The sovereign is the supreme commander of the army, supreme interpreter of law, and supreme interpreter of scripture, with authority over any national church. It is unjust—a case of reneging on what one has agreed—for any subject to take issue with these arrangements, for, in the act of creating the state or by receiving its protection, one agrees to leave judgments about the means of collective well-being and security to the sovereign. The sovereign’s laws and decrees and appointments to public office may be unpopular; they may even be wrong. But unless the sovereign fails so utterly that subjects feel that their condition would be no worse in the free-for-all outside the state, it is better for the subjects to endure the sovereign’s rule.

It is better both prudentially and morally. Because no one can prudently welcome a greater risk of death, no one can prudently prefer total liberty to submission. Total liberty invites war, and submission is the best insurance against war. Morality too supports this conclusion, for, according to Hobbes, all the moral precepts enjoining virtuous behaviour can be understood as derivable from the fundamental moral precept that one should seek peace—that is to say, freedom from war—if it is safe to do so. Without peace, he observed, man lives in “continual fear, and danger of violent death,” and what life he has is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” What Hobbes calls the “laws of nature,” the system of moral rules by which everyone is bound, cannot be safely complied with outside the state, for the total liberty that people have outside the state includes the liberty to flout the moral requirements if one’s survival seems to depend on it.

The sovereign is not a party to the social contract; he receives the obedience of the many as a free gift in their hope that he will see to their safety. The sovereign makes no promises to the many in order to win their submission. Indeed, because he does not transfer his right of self-government to anyone, he retains the total liberty that his subjects trade for safety. He is not bound by law, including his own laws. Nor does he do anything unjustly if he makes decisions about his subjects’s safety and well-being that they do not like.

Although the sovereign is in a position to judge the means of survival and well-being for the many more dispassionately than they are able to do themselves, he is not immune to self-interested passions. Hobbes realizes that the sovereign may behave iniquitously. He insists that it is very imprudent for a sovereign to act so iniquitously that he disappoints his subjects’s expectation of safety and makes them feel insecure. Subjects who are in fear of their lives lose their obligations to obey and, with that, deprive the sovereign of his power. Reduced to the status of one among many by the defection of his subjects, the unseated sovereign is likely to feel the wrath of those who submitted to him in vain.

Hobbes’s masterpiece, Leviathan (1651), does not significantly depart from the view of De Cive concerning the relation between protection and obedience, but it devotes much more attention to the civil obligations of Christian believers and the proper and improper roles of a church within a state. Hobbes argues that believers do not endanger their prospects of salvation by obeying a sovereign’s decrees to the letter, and he maintains that churches do not have any authority that is not granted by the civil sovereign.

Hobbes’s political views exerted a discernible influence on his work in other fields, including historiography and legal theory. His political philosophy is chiefly concerned with the way in which government must be organized in order to avoid civil war. It therefore encompasses a view of the typical causes of civil war, all of which are represented in Behemoth; or, The Long Parliament (1679), his history of the English Civil Wars. Hobbes produced the first English translation of Thucydides’ History of the Pelopponesian War, which he thought contained important lessons for his contemporaries regarding the excesses of democracy, the worst kind of dilution of sovereign authority, in his view.

Hobbes’s works on church history and the history of philosophy also strongly reflect his politics. He was firmly against the separation of government powers, either between branches of government or between church and state. His ecclesiastical history emphasizes the way in which power-hungry priests and popes threatened legitimate civil authority. His history of philosophy is mostly concerned with how metaphysics was used as a means of keeping people under the sway of Roman Catholicism at the expense of obedience to a civil authority. His theory of law develops a similar theme regarding the threats to a supreme civil power posed by common law and the multiplication of authoritative legal interpreters.


Return to England
There are signs that Hobbes intended Leviathan to be read by a monarch, who would be able to take the rules of statecraft from it. A specially bound copy was given to Prince Charles while he was in exile in Paris. Unfortunately, Hobbes’s suggestion in Leviathan that a subject had the right to abandon a ruler who could no longer protect him gave serious offense to the prince’s advisers. Barred from the exiled court and under suspicion by the French authorities for his attack on the papacy (see below), Hobbes found his position in Paris becoming daily more intolerable. At the end of 1651, at about the time that Leviathan was published, he returned to England and made his peace with the new regime of Oliver Cromwell. Hobbes submitted to that authority for a long time before the monarchy was restored in 1660.

From the time of the Restoration in 1660, Hobbes enjoyed a new prominence. Charles II received Hobbes again into favour. Although Hobbes’s presence at court scandalized the bishops and the chancellor, the king relished his wit. He even granted Hobbes a pension of £100 a year and had his portrait hung in the royal closet. It was not until 1666, when the House of Commons prepared a bill against atheism and profaneness, that Hobbes felt seriously endangered, for the committee to which the bill was referred was instructed to investigate Leviathan. Hobbes, then verging upon 80, burned such of his papers as he thought might compromise him.


Optics
Hobbes’s most significant contributions to natural science were in the field of optics. An optical theory in his day was expected to pronounce on the nature of light, on the transmission of light from the Sun to the Earth, on reflection and refraction, and on the workings of optical instruments such as mirrors and lenses. Hobbes took up these topics in several relatively short treatises and in correspondence, including with Descartes on the latter’s Dioptrics (1637). The most polished of Hobbes’s optical works was A Minute or First Draught of the Optiques (1646).

In its mature form, Hobbes’s optical theory held that the dilations and contractions of an original light source, such as the Sun, are transmitted by contact with a uniform, pervading ethereal medium, which in turn stimulates the eye and the nerves connected to it, eventually resulting in a “phantasm,” or sense-image, in the brain. In Hobbes’s theory, the qualities of a sense-image do not need to be explained in terms of the qualities of a perceived object. Instead, motion and matter—the motion of a light source, the disturbance of a physical nervous system, and sensory membranes—are all that have to be invoked. In contrast, traditional optics—optics as developed within Aristotle’s framework—had held that seeing the colour of something—the redness of a strawberry, for example—was a matter of reproducing the “form” of the colour in the sense organs; the form is then abstracted from the sense organs by the mind. “Sensible forms,” the characteristic properties transmitted by objects to the senses in the act of perception, were entirely dispensed with in Hobbes’s optics.


Hobbes’s system
Theories that trace all observed effects to matter and motion are called mechanical. Hobbes was thus a mechanical materialist: He held that nothing but material things are real, and he thought that the subject matter of all the natural sciences consists of the motions of material things at different levels of generality. Geometry considers the effects of the motions of points, lines, and solids; pure mechanics deals with the motions of three-dimensional bodies in a full space, or plenum; physics deals with the motions of the parts of inanimate bodies insofar as they contribute to observed phenomena; and psychology deals with the effects of the internal motions of animate bodies on behaviour. The system of the natural sciences described in Hobbes’s trilogy represents his understanding of the materialist principles on which all science is based.

The fact that Hobbes included politics as well as psychology within his system, however, has tended to overshadow his insistence on the autonomy of political understanding from natural-scientific understanding. According to Hobbes, politics does not need to be understood in terms of the motions of material things (although, ultimately, it can be); a certain kind of widely available self-knowledge is evidence enough of the human propensity to war. Although Hobbes is routinely read as having discerned the “laws of motion” for both human beings and human societies, the most that can plausibly be claimed is that he based his political philosophy on psychological principles that he thought could be illuminated by general laws of motion.


Last years and influence
Although he was impugned by enemies at home, no Englishman of the day stood in such high repute abroad as Hobbes, and distinguished foreigners who visited England were always eager to pay their respects to the old man, whose vigour and freshness of intellect remained unquenched. In his last years Hobbes amused himself by returning to the classical studies of his youth. The autobiography in Latin verse with its playful humour, occasional pathos, and sublime self-complacency was brought forth at the age of 84. In 1675 he produced a translation of the Odyssey in rugged English rhymes, with a lively preface, “Concerning the Virtues of an Heroic Poem.” A translation of the Iliad appeared in the following year. As late as four months before his death, he was promising his publisher “somewhat to print in English.”

Hobbes’s importance lies not only in his political philosophy but also in his contribution to the development of an anti-Aristotelian and thoroughly materialist conception of natural science. His political philosophy influenced not only successors who adopted the social-contract framework—John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant, for example—but also less directly those theorists who connected moral and political decision making in rational human beings to considerations of self-interest broadly understood. The materialist bent of Hobbes’s metaphysics is also much in keeping with contemporary Anglo-American, or analytic, metaphysics, which tends to recognize as real only those entities that physics in particular or natural science in general presupposes.

Tom Sorell

 

 


LEVIATHAN:
Or, The Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil
 

Type of work: Philosophy of politics
Author: Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
First published: 1651

 

To appreciate the range of Hobbes's subject matter in the Leviathan one may first consider the entire title: Leviathan: Or, The Matter, Form, and Power of a Common-wealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil. In considering the "matter, form, and power" of the commonwealth, or state, Hobbes was doing far more than describing governments as he found them. His goal was to explain the origin of political institutions and to define their powers and proper limits. To this end he drew an analogy between man and the commonwealth. In drawing the analogy he first described man, giving to the description a thoroughly mechanistic bias. He then proceeded to explain the state as man's artful creation, designed to put an end to the continual state of war that is man's lot in his natural state.
The state, "that great Leviathan," is but an "Artificial Man," writes Hobbes. The sovereign is an artificial soul, the officers of the state are artificial joints, reward and punishment are nerves, wealth and riches are strength; the people's safety is the business of artificial man; the laws are its reason and will; concord, its health; sedition, its sickness; and civil war, its death.
According to Hobbes men's ideas originate in sense, that is, they are derived from sense impressions. All sen-sation is a result of external bodies pressing upon the sense organs. Imagination is "nothing but decaying sense," the effect of sense impressions after the external body has ceased to press upon the organs. If one wants to emphasize the past cause of the impression, one calls the fading image a "memory" image; if one wishes to emphasize the image as one not now related to any pres-ent cause, one calls it "fancy" or "imagination."
The passions are the "interior beginnings of voluntary motions," according to Hobbes. Since for Hobbes everything can be understood in terms of bodies in motion, it is not surprising that even the emotions are simply motions inside the body. Motion toward something is desire; motion away, aversion. In terms of these two basic motions, Hobbes defined the other passions.
While for Hobbes all knowledge stems from sense experience, true wisdom is the product of reason, from which one obtains such immutable truths as found in geometry. Hobbes believed that the way to true knowledge is through definition. From these ideas, Hobbes developed a complex theory of language and naming. Names serve as signs of man's thinking processes. Some names refer to objects, others refer to more abstract entities. For Hobbes, to say that something is "infinite" is simply to mean that one cannot conceive of its boundaries. Names such as "man" or "tree" refer to objects and indicate something more definite than words such as "infinite." This, however, is not to say that objects which can be called "tree" or "man" partake of some universal form of "treeness" or "manness." Thus, Hobbes denied the Platonic doctrine of forms.
After considering the intellectual virtues and defects, the two kinds of knowledge (knowledge of observed fact, and the conditional knowledge of science), and the powers and manners of men, Hobbes considered the question of religion. Hobbes was careful to delineate in his philosophy the proper domains of faith and of knowledge. He outlined a theory to explain the roots of religion and of superstition and spent much time interpreting the Scriptures. His primary aim in this area was to analyze religion to understand how it served as a source of civil discord. Thus, Hobbes was interested in religion primarily as it affected the state.
Hobbes's notion of God is complex. God's nature is incomprehensible to man. He must exist, since existence must be an attribute of God, that is, a part of God's definition. Through reason one can know what God is not, that is, finite, figured, having parts, and so on. Words such as "infinite" or "incomprehensible" are really no more than expressions of an inability to grasp the essence of God. Words such as "holy" or "most high," on the other hand, are simply expressions of man's admiration or reverence for God. Thus, rational arguments about God are pointless and a dishonor to Him.
For Hobbes, the differences between men are not so marked as the similarities, and there is no natural sanction for one man's assuming authority over another. Because men are similar, they sometimes come to desire the same thing; if they cannot both enjoy the object of their desire, they become enemies and war over the object. There are three principal causes of conflict between men: competition, diffidence, and glory. While men have no common power over them to keep them all in check, they are in "that condition which is called Warre; and such a warre, as is of every man, against every man." There are many inconveniences to war, and the fact that in a state of war there is no injustice (since there is no natural law governing action) in no way makes that state of affairs satisfactory. In order to secure peace, men enter upon certain agreements by which they bring about a transferring of rights. It is possible for men to make such agreements, or contracts, because they have certain natural rights to use their power however they choose in order to preserve themselves.
Hobbes argues, in the second part of Leviathan, that the commonwealth is brought into being in order to enable men to escape from the state of war. Loving liberty and dominion over others, men agree to make some person sovereign over them all to work for their peace and benefit. The sovereign is not bound by the contract or covenant; the contract is among those who are to be ruled. If the ruler turns out to be a despot, it must be remembered that it is better to be ruled in a commonwealth than to be in a state of nature and, consequently, a continual state of war.
Hobbes considers three kinds of commonwealth: monarchy, democracy, and aristocracy—the latter being ruled by an assembly of part of the commonwealth. There are certain advantages to the monarchial form of government, according to Hobbes: A monarch combines the private and public interest; he is better able to consult with men who have knowledge he needs; the only inconstancy the monarch has to put up with is his own; he cannot disagree with himself; and although it is some-times inconvenient to have power vested in one man, particularly when the monarch may be an infant because of succession, the disadvantages are no greater than they are in other forms of government.
The subjects in a commonwealth are not entirely subject to the sovereign. The basic principle is that they cannot be compelled to act against that natural inclination toward self-preservation which the commonwealth is supposed to serve. They cannot be bound to injure them-selves or to wage war—although this is a dubious right since the sovereign is free to imprison or execute them for disobedience. If the sovereign is not able to protect his subjects, the subjects are absolved of obedience to him.
The civil law of a commonwealth is made up of those rules that prescribe what is right and wrong for the sub-jects; and since the commonwealth itself is no lawmaker, the sovereign must be the legislator. He is not subject to civil law, and only he can abrogate the law. Since an undeclared law is no law at all, and since law is not binding unless it is clearly commanded by the sovereign, the sovereign must make the law known and understood, and he must see to it that it be known as his law. The only laws that need not be published are laws of nature, and they can be contained in one sentence: "Do not that to another, which thou thinkest unreasonable to be done by another to thy selfe."
Hobbes regarded crime as resulting from some defect of the understanding, or from some error of reasoning, or from some force of the passions. He declares that "No law, made after a Fact done, can make it a Crime," and that although ignorance of natural law is no excuse, ignorance of civil law may excuse a man provided he had not the opportunity to hear the law declared. Punishment is not fundamentally retributive in Hobbes' scheme: "A Punishment, is an Evil inflicted by the publique Authority, on him that hath done, or omitted that which is Judged by the same Authority, to be a Transgression of the Law; to the end that the will of men may thereby the better be disposed to obedience."
Like anything made by men, a commonwealth can perish. Its infirmities result from what Hobbes calls an "Imperfect Institution"—errors in the creation of the commonwealth. Perhaps the sovereign is not given enough power, or every man is allowed to be a judge, or conscience is authoritative in moral judgment, or supernatural inspiration is given precedence over reason, or the sovereign is held to be subject to civil law, or it is supposed that every man has some absolute property which the sovereign cannot touch, or it is supposed that sovereign power can be divided. Other difficulties, such as the lack of money, the presence of monopolies and corrupt politicians, the popularity of certain subjects, the greatness of a town, or the invasion by a foreign power can lead to the dissolution of the commonwealth.
Part 3 of Leviathan is concerned with showing the relations between a Christian commonwealth and commonwealths in general. Hobbes uses hundreds of biblical references, as interpreted by him, to support his conclusion that it is possible to reconcile our obedience to God with our obedience to a civil sovereign, for either the sovereign is a Christian or he is not a Christian. If he is a Christian, then, even if he may sometimes err in sup-posing that some act is God's will, the proper thing for the subject, who has no right to judge, is to obey. If the sovereign is an infidel, then the subject must obey because the law of nature justifies the sovereign's power in a commonwealth, and to disobey would be to disobey the laws of nature which are the laws of God. No church leader, even a pope, can rule the sovereign; and this situation is not contrary to God's law, for the Church works through civil government.
The concluding section, "Of the Kingdome of Darknesse," argues that spiritual darkness has not been completely eliminated from the Church—by which Hobbes means the Church of Rome. His principal attack on the Church of Rome is based on his claim that the Scripture is misinterpreted in order to justify the assumption of temporal power by the popes.
Although Hobbes maintains that his entire argument is based upon a study of nature and of man's natural inclinations, it is clear that a large part of his discourse is an expression of his own preference for absolute monarchy. On this account he tends to overlook the possibility of restraining the power of a sovereign by democratic procedures. Nevertheless, Leviathan is a remarkable attempt to explain and justify the institution of government, and it remains one of the masterpieces of political thought.

 

 

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