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What is the Leviathan of Thomas Hobbes?

What is the Leviathan of Thomas Hobbes?

August 10, 2022

The idea that the human being is fundamentally selfish has been nurtured by many thinkers over the centuries, and that has partly influenced the way we understand our mind.

The philosopher Thomas Hobbes, for example, is one of the great representatives of this ideological tradition, and it is partly because of one of the most famous concepts he developed: the Leviathan .

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What is Leviathan in philosophy?

The Leviathan, in English, or Leviathan, as it is popularly known, is surely the most important and transcendental work of the seventeenth-century English philosopher, politician and thinker, Thomas Hobbes.


Making reference and writing with splendid mastery, the author makes reference to the most feared biblical monster to explain and justify the existence of an absolutist state that subjugates its citizens . Written in the year 1651, his work has been of great inspiration in the political sciences and, paradoxically, in the evolution of social law.

In the biblical scriptures

As we pointed out earlier, the character of Leviathan comes from the mythology and scriptures of the Bible , whose governments of the Middle Ages used to justify the royal governments "by the grace of God."

The Leviathan is a fearsome being that has no mercy, scruples or compassion. It is of a gigantic size and, according to the Old Testament, has been related to the devil himself and who was defeated by God to make good prevail over evil.


But where is it the relationship between this monster and the role of the State, according to Hobbes ?

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Thomas Hobbes and his political adaptation of Leviathan

Thomas Hobbes was born in England in 1588 in a historical era where Great Britain was threatened by the feared and invincible Spanish Armada. This philosopher graduated from the University of Oxford in scholastic studies and philosophical logic which, influenced by authors such as Pierre Gassendi and René Descartes, would be considered a key author in the development of Western political theory.

Returning to his work, the Leviathan is a book that is formed by 4 parts, where he explains the relationship between man and the State through a consensual pact in the relationship of power between mandated and mandatary .


Basically, the Leviathan, the Government, is a terrifying but necessary figure that, for Hobbes, serves to make prevail a certain peace and order, necessary for civilization to progress and individuals do not threaten or suffer threats or attacks from others individuals

1. The Man

In this part, man is analyzed as a human individual, being of knowledge and wisdom. Man is made and developed through experience; experience that is defined as the repetition of acts and experiences that will shape society. He will take the floor to carry out the imposition of the truth, through oratory and political discourse .

The problem arises with the same desires of man. Due to the material and passionate impulses of people, individual interests will always turn against the others , thus generating a conflict, especially by the search for power and riches.

In this enclave Hobbes pronounced in what will be remembered as one of the most famous phrases of humanity: "homo homini lupus est" (man is a wolf for man). For this reason, the pillars in the construction of society are ethics, morals and justice . But, for Hobbes, something more is needed.

2. The State

It is in this action space where Hobbes will introduce the concept of "Social Pact" or "Social Contract" , manipulated and elaborated by men to ensure individual safety and protection in order to end the conflicts faced by individual interests.

It is in the State where moral laws prevail over natural laws. That is, the collective desires versus the passionate desires of men prevail. For Hobbes, the only function of government is to establish and secure peace , stability in society.

The author defends only three possible models of government: the monarchy (his favorite), the aristocracy and democracy , in this precise order. It has a preference for absolutism because it justifies the common good, where private and public interests are one, admitting that "it is impossible that if a King is rich, his people are poor".

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3. The Christian State

Thomas Hobbes was an avowed believer, but not for that reason the fate of an entire town was subordinated to the deity . Moreover, he came to question the Ten Commandments of Moses for an absence of evidence to prove who and for what real purpose those laws were dictated.

Therefore, the author emphasized much in the dependence of the Church with the sovereign, in this case the monarch, to avoid pretentious interpretations that harm the common good, the peace that he defended so much.

Conclude attributing a secondary role to the Church , subordinated by the supreme head of the State (the Catholic kings), and will be considered the supreme shepherds of their own people, showing the unique power to legislate for their subjects.

4. The Kingdom of Darkness

Being perhaps the most controversial section, Hobbes makes a clear and harsh criticism of religious institutions, the Church in particular. Name this chapter "The Kingdom of Darkness" as part of the corrupt and cynical framework that has had the house of God throughout the history of great empires, such as the Roman.

Accuses the Christian authorities of having disregarded the truth , of wanting to impose ignorance for their own benefit and thus having the mass well indoctrinated with false practices, such as idolatry to Saints, figures, images or relics that are forbidden by the word of God.

However, and distancing himself from the machinations he rejects so much, Hobbes asserts that in some specific cases the word of truth can be silenced or silenced, if that leads to the destabilization of the State through rebellion that alters the established order and status quo.


POLITICAL THEORY - Thomas Hobbes (August 2022).


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