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Leviathan Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes (1588-1769) Son of a priest (who had to flee) was educated by a wealthy uncle. Thomas read and wrote at 4, learned Greek & Latin at 6, and went to Oxford at 15. Tutor of the Cavendish, had to live in exile more than once

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Thomas Hobbes

thomas hobbes 1588 1769
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1769)
  • Son of a priest (who had to flee) was educated by a wealthy uncle.
    • Thomas read and wrote at 4, learned Greek & Latin at 6, and went to Oxford at 15.
  • Tutor of the Cavendish, had to live in exile more than once
  • Context: religious struggle & Civil war
    • Problems: religious liberty & legitimate authority (the King or the Parliament?)
  • De Cive, 1642
  • Leviathan, 1651
biblical monsters
Biblical Monsters
  • Behemoth, the hippopotamus
  • Leviathan, the crocodile (Job, Ch.41). Leviathan: “There is no power upon the earth which is compared with him”.

Hobbes builds an immanent justification for absolutism that does not require of God.The need for Leviathan (mortal God) is self-evident

  • Hobbes permanently appeals to God and the Bible (parts 3 and 4 of Leviathan are devoted to discuss the Christian commonwealth and the Kingdom of Darkness), but...
  • His theory builds on assumptions other than theological (natural laws)
  • Natural Sciences
  • Geometry: Hobbes seeks to build a “geometry of power”, to find out the natural laws that regulate society
  • His theory is actually framed as a theorem: he settles his premises one by one... And once you accept them, there is no way to escape the necessity of the conclusion.
hobbes theory of power
Hobbes’ Theory of Power
  • Hobbes builds a theoretical argument through which we must accept to subject ourselves to an absolute power due to the way we are.

More than a theory of power, Hobbes’ is a Theory of Obedience


Hobbes deduces the need for Leviathan and sovereignty from human nature.So, obedience towards the Sovereign is both rational and convenient for us.

fear to violent death is the main force that feeds the organization and preservation of leviathan
Fear to violent death is the main force that feeds the organization and preservation of Leviathan.
First Part: lays the foundation of the system (Laws of Nature)Second Part: theorizes the conditions for the emergence of Leviathan
ch 13 nature has made men equal
Ch. 13: Nature has made men equal…

In ability, in both

  • Strength: Bodily differences are not that big that the weakest cannot kill the strongest…
  • Mind: similarities are even greater… “For Prudence, is but Experience”.

...and in hope


“there is no way for any man to secure himselfe, so reasonable, as Anticipation” by subjecting as many other men as possible in order to achieve his own conservation


“men have no pleasure, (but on the contrary a great deale of griefe) in keeping company, where there is no power able to over-awe them all”

causes of quarrell in human nature




In seeking...




Causes of quarrell in human nature
“Hereby it is manifest, that during the time men live without a common Power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called Warre...”
  • “...the nature of War, consisteth not in actual fighting, but in the known disposition thereto, during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is PEACE.”
  • “every man is Enemy to every man”
  • “In such condition, there is no place for Industry... And consequently no Culture of the Earth...”
  • “...and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.”
no moral implications
No moral implications...
  • “The Desires, and other Passions of man, are in themselves no Sin. No more are the Actions, that proceed from those Passions, till they know a Law that forbids them...”
  • “To this warre of every man against every man, this also is consequent; that nothing can be Unjust. The notions of Right and Wrong, Justice and Injustice have there no place.”
ch 14 natural laws contracts
Ch. 14: Natural Laws & Contracts
  • “The RIGHT OF NATURE... Is the Liberty each man hath... To use his own power, as he will himselfe, for the preservation of his own Nature, that is to say, of his own Life...”
  • Liberty = “absence of externall Impediments”
law of nature
Law of Nature
  • “Precept, or generall Rule, found out by Reason, by which a man is forbidden to do, that, which is destructive of his life... And to omit, that, by which he thinketh it may be best preserved.”

Right  Law

(liberty to do) (bound to do it)


“And because the condition of Man... Is a condition of Warre of every one against every one; in which case every one is governed by his own Reason; and there is nothing he can make use of... In preserving his life against his enemyes; It followeth, that in such a condition, every man has the Right to every thing; even to one anothers body”

“Justice is the constant Will of giving to every man his own. And therefore wehre there is no Own, that is, no Propriety, there is no Injustice; and where there is no coerceive Power erected, that is, where there is no Common-wealth, there is no Propriety; all men having Right to all things: Therefore where there is no Common-wealth, there nothing is Unjust.”

Equality“there is nothing to which every man had not Right by Nature” (92)Insecurity “as long as this natural Right of every man to every thing endureth, there can be no security to any man...”


“every man, ought to endeavour Peace, as farre as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek, and use, alll helps, and advantages of Warre.”

First (Fundamental) Law of Nature:

the second law follows
The second Law follows...
  • “That a man be willing, when others are so too, as farre-forth, as for Peace, and defence of himself he shall think it necessary, 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 himselfe.”
achieving peace
Achieving Peace...
  • In order to gain Security and the preservation of our own life
  • Requires we renounce our rights...
  • Rights may be
    • Renounced
    • Transferred
Contract: mutual transference of Rights (inmediate). “All Contract is mutuall translation, or change of Rights”(95).
  • Covenant (or Pact): one of the parts agrees in delivering the Thing contracted and leave the other to perform his part at some determinate time after
men are freed from covenants
Men are freed from Covenants...
  • By Performing them
  • By being Forgiven
ch 15 other laws of nature
Ch. 15: Other Laws of Nature
  • 3rd Law:
    • “That men performe their Covenants made” (100)
    • “the Keeping of Covenant, is a Rule of Reason, by which we are forbidden to do any thing destructive to our life; and consequently a Law of Nature.” (103)
does faith allows to break covenants
Does Faith allows to break Covenants?
  • “because there is no naturall knowledge of mans estate after death; much lesse of the reward that is then to be given to breach of Faith; but onely a beliefe grounded upon other mens saying, that they know it supernaturally... Breach of Faith cannot be called a Precept of Nature, or Nature.” (103)
the only natural right i cannot give up
The only natural right I cannot give up...
  • “A Covenant not to defend my selfe from force, by force, is alwayes voyd” (98).
c ovenants without the sword are but word leviathan 111
“[C]ovenants, without the sword, are but word” (Leviathan:111)
  • The model of the state of nature is the foundation that serves Hobbes to justify the creation of the Leviathan, or artificial man, as the most rational solution to overcome the state of war between human beings.
  • Power simply is. We either have power or not.
  • Power does not accept degrees: Power is either absolute or it is not power.
a theory of obedience
A Theory of Obedience
  • Hobbes  St. Paul’s
  • (but)
  • St. Paul founds his system on God, Hobbes does it without any necessity of God.
  • Hobbes builds a bourgeois justification of absolute power, by which the Commonwealth appears as a necessary outcome deduced from human nature.
  • “But as men, for the attaining of peace, and conservation of themselves thereby, have made an artificial man, which we call a commonwealth; so also have they made artificial chains, called civil laws, which they themselves, by mutual covenants, have fastened at one end, to the lips of that man, or assembly, to whom they have given the sovereign power; and at the other end to their own ears.” (144)
  • Cause: “foresight of their own preservation, and of a more contended life thereby”
  • Conditions: Individuals renounce all their power to the Assembly, which gives shape to the sovereign power. After that moment the rest become subjects. The only right that I keep is not to obey the sovereign if he orders me to hurt myself.
  • Gains and losses: individuals get peace and security, but also accept inequality-emergence of propriety (119;164)-and the alienation of their will and rights.
forms of constitution
Forms of constitution
  • By Institution
  • By acquisition
by institution
By institution
  • Individuals decide to stop the state of nature, or the permanent state of war of all against all, and agree everyone with everyone to institute an order. (chap.XVIII,1)
by institution43
By Institution
  • “[T]he multitude so united in one person, is called a COMMONWEALTH, in Latin CIVITAS this IS the generation of that great LEVIATHAN, or rather (to speak more reverently) of that Mortal God, to which we owe under the Immortal God, our peace and defence.” (114).
by institution44
By Institution
  • Leviathan has similar attributions that Yahve in the Genesis.
  • Fear of each other supports this covenant.
by institution three moments






By Institution (three moments)
by institution46
By Institution
  • The covenant transforms individuals in subjects.
  • Subjects are neither a multitude nor they are a people. They become a part of the body of Leviathan
by acquisition
By acquisition:
  • Men authorize the actions of those who have them in their hands by using force. Fear to others(or the Other, the conqueror) lies behind this covenant.
leviathan s body a metaphor
Leviathan’s Body, a Metaphor?
  • The image looks like more than a metaphor
  • Leviathan’s structure (Human Body)
  • Systems  muscles
  • Public ministerorgans
  • Functions -nutritionpropriety, commodities
  • Procreation colonies 
  • The Sovereign is a “mortal God.”
  • Sovereigntyis
    • Absolute: there is no power bigger than it.
    • Indivisible: power is one by its nature. If two powers emerge, war is going to decide between them up to they unify again.
    • Incommunicable
    • Inseparable
    • Unlimited
the sovereign is the only one who is not obliged by the covenant and keeps the natural condition
The sovereign is the only one who is not obliged by the covenant, and keeps the natural condition.