Summary and Notes: The Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes 2022- The Perfect Guide  

The Leviathan was written and published in 1651 by Thomas Hobbes. It presented his philosophical and political beliefs about different forms of government. Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan’s main ideas included the commonwealth, the nature of man, religion, and the kingdom of darkness.

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Thomas Hobbes Leviathan Summary

Hobbes wrote the Leviathan in an attempt to explain the reasons a commonwealth could govern men. He established the best way this government could accommodate its citizens was through protection from outsiders. Thomas Hobbes leviathan analysis is divided into four sections, as illustrated below.

  1. The nature of man
  2. Commonwealth
  3. Religion and The Christian Commonwealth
  4. The Kingdom of darkness

1. The Nature of Man

Hobbes believes the commonwealth has no power without the “artificial man. “He began his arguments on a basic level identifying that man exists in the external world as a reactive creature. Hobbes explained that man senses objects and is driven by the different motions of the world. This leads the man into constant insatiable wants and desires that result in a state of war.

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Thomas Hobbes further illustrated that men live in constant fear as “anyone can kill anyone”. Their main goal is to protect their lives the best way they can in their rational capacities. They decide to establish a commonwealth with the power to protect all men. Hobbes concluded that a commonwealth or state is created with the primary goal of saving people’s lives.

2. Commonwealth

Hobbes goes on to explain the citizen’s obligations to the Commonwealth. He illustrates that the monarchy is the best form of government since it is adequate to protect the people from outside invaders. Hobbes explains that other forms of government are not strong enough to offer protection to citizens.

In Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes illustrates that a citizen’s duty to the commonwealth is to demonstrate total sovereignty. The commonwealth is created to preserve all men, thus requiring them to provide full service and commitment. Hobbes explains that any man has the choice to leave the commonwealth if they consider it too oppressive. He holds that this is the worst decision as outside the commonwealth there is no justice, right or wrong, and one has to keep defending himself.

3. Religion and the Christian Commonwealth

Thomas Hobbes also focuses on explaining whether obedience to sovereign authority meant obedience to divine power. He explains there is a conflict between divine and civil laws since men falsely believe God is present in the world.

As per Hobbes, God’s kingdom exists outside the natural world, although some people claim to have access to the divine. He explains that members of a commonwealth do not subscribe to a religious authority since God’s kingdom is supernatural and he has no representative. Hobbes concludes that the only power that exists for man is sovereign.

In a careful interpretation of the scripture, Thomas Hobbes claims there is no eternal soul that gets rewarded or punished eternally in heaven or hell. He concludes that it is key to worship God by obeying civil laws and maintaining faith in him.

4. The Kingdom of Darkness

Hobbes paints a picture of human life if not lived as per the principles he has explained. He identifies this state as the kingdom of darkness and explains that it is not “hell,” as illustrated in religion. Hobbes identifies this as a life full of manipulation by others.

In the Leviathan, Hobbes argues that the primary cause of “spiritual darkness” is the false belief that God’s kingdom exists on earth. He attacks Aristotle’s essentialism philosophy for perpetrating the falsehood that God’s kingdom exists in the natural world. Hobbes argues that essentialism supports the belief in immaterial spirits and eternal souls, which is inaccurate.

Central Themes in the Hobbes Leviathan Summary

Thomas Hobbes leviathan summary has various main themes, as illustrated below:

1. Fear

Throughout the Leviathan, fear is present in Hobbes’s analysis of religion and his arguments regarding the creation of commonwealth and the state of nature. Hobbes illustrates that humans live in a state of fear driving society. He believes that fear preserves a commonwealth after it has been created.

Hobbes identifies that fear is a motivating force that brings people together. The fear of attack by outsiders brings citizens together to create a commonwealth that offers protection.

2. Religion

This is a central theme in Leviathan since the title has a religious reference. Leviathan is a sea creature from the book of Job whose image is used in Christianity as a metaphor for the power of people uniting as one.

Hobbes is critical of all forms of religion, and his views earn him the title of an atheist. He, however, contends that faith is essential in any commonwealth as it brings order. Hobbes insists that God’s Kingdom does not exist in the natural world since no one can confirm communicating with him.

3. Power and Monarchies

While Thomas Hobbes outlines multiple types of commonwealths, he argues that the monarchy is the best commonwealth. He goes on to say that in democracies and aristocracies, it is common for leaders to increase their “private fortunes” at the expense of everyone’s prosperity.

In Leviathan, Hobbes makes it clear that in a monarchy, the private interest is the same as that of the public. The power, riches, and honor of a monarch arise from the strength and reputation of the citizens.

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In Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes expresses his beliefs regarding different types of government and the people. He identifies a monarchy as the best commonwealth since its riches and power depend on its subjects. Thomas Hobbes Leviathan summary presents different themes including religion, fear, and control.

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