The Leviathan

The Leviathan

3.3 13
by Thomas Hobbes
     
 

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After the publication of his masterpiece of political theory, Leviathan, Or the Matter, and Power of Commonwealth Ecclesiastic and Civil, in 1651, opponents charged Thomas Hobbes with atheism and banned and burned his books. The English Parliament, in a search for scapegoats, even claimed that the theories found in Leviathan were a likely cause of the Plague of 1665… See more details below

Overview

After the publication of his masterpiece of political theory, Leviathan, Or the Matter, and Power of Commonwealth Ecclesiastic and Civil, in 1651, opponents charged Thomas Hobbes with atheism and banned and burned his books. The English Parliament, in a search for scapegoats, even claimed that the theories found in Leviathan were a likely cause of the Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666.

For the modern reader, though, Hobbes is more recognized for his popular belief that humanity's natural condition is a state of perpetual war, with life being "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Despite frequent challenges by other philosophers, Leviathan's secular theory of absolutism no longer stands out as particularly objectionable. In the description of the organization of states, moreover, we see Hobbes as strikingly current in his use of concepts that we still employ today, including the ideas of natural law, natural rights, and the social contract. Based on this work, one could even argue that Hobbes created English-language philosophy, insofar as Leviathan was the first great philosophical work written in English and one whose impact continues to the present day.


About the Author:
Thomas Hobbes was born on Good Friday in 1588. Despite growing up in an impoverished clerical family, he was precociously intelligent and completed a classical education at Oxford. He decided not to follow in his father's footsteps, though, and instead became a tutor within an aristocratic family. When these royalist political connections and a number of personal writings in support of monarchical authority got Hobbes centrally involved in the turmoil of the English Civil War, he feared for his safety and fled to France in 1640. It was while in exile in France that he wrote Leviathan, the work that cemented Hobbes' philosophical reputation as the pre-eminent modern theorist of secular absolutism.

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Editorial Reviews

George Wright University of Wisconsin
"Internationally renowned Hobbes scholar A.P. Martinich has produced the definitive version of Leviathan for student use. Handsomely turned out by Broadview Press, this edition features a highly informative introduction, a brief chronology of Hobbes's life, as well as some useful notes on the text itself. Of special value are seven appendices drawn from the writings of contemporary critics of Hobbes's thought, including Filmer, Lawson, Bramhall, Hyde and others. Martinich has made a difficult but essential text as accessible to students as it is likely ever to become."
Kinch Hoekstra Balliol College
"An admirably accessible edition of Hobbes's masterpiece. The work is presented clearly, in its entirety, and with generous excerpts from Hobbes's formidable contemporary critics."
Thomas Christiano University of Arizona
"This very readable edition of Hobbes's Leviathan is an excellent resource for students of political philosophy and its history. The collection of published responses to Leviathan by some of Hobbes's most prominent contemporaries provides insight into the historical context in which he was writing, and philosophically challenging commentary on this great work of political philosophy."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780192823922
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
08/15/1996
Series:
World's Classics Series
Pages:
574
Product dimensions:
5.13(w) x 7.75(h) x 1.23(d)

Meet the Author

Peter Berkowitz is among the preeminent scholars in political theory today and presents a probing criticism of the Leviathan. He earned his Ph.D. in political science from Yale University, teaches law, and chairs the Hoover Task Force on the Virtues of a Free Society.

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