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[Classic] #3. Leviathan – to resolve human selfishness and natural state chaos.

Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan presents a social contract theory advocating for a strong ruler to resolve human selfishness and natural state chaos. Hobbes believes in seeking peace through natural law and reason, supporting absolute monarchy. His philosophy reflects 17th-century political and scientific changes and profoundly influences modern political thought.

1. Introduction to the Author

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was an English philosopher, born in 1588, the year the Spanish Armada attempted to invade England. He grew up amidst a turbulent political background, which shaped his philosophical thinking. Hobbes is renowned for his book “Leviathan” and is considered a pioneer of social contract theory【75†source】.

2. Background of the Work

2.1 Political and Social Background of 17th Century Europe The 17th century was a time of political upheaval. England experienced significant conflict between absolutism and parliamentarianism, leading to the English Civil War. Hobbes, witnessing this turmoil, advocated for the necessity of an absolute monarchy【75†source】.

2.2 17th Century European Science This period saw the rise of the Scientific Revolution, which challenged the theocentric worldview and promoted materialistic perspectives. Hobbes incorporated these scientific approaches into his philosophy, heavily influenced by Euclidean geometry and Galileo’s scientific methods【75†source】.

3. Summary of the Work

3.1 Structure of the Work “Leviathan” is divided into four parts. Part 1 discusses human nature, Part 2 deals with the Commonwealth (the state), Part 3 addresses the Christian Commonwealth, and Part 4 critiques the Kingdom of Darkness【75†source】.

3.2 Part 1 – Of Man ① Scientific Worldview Hobbes views philosophy and human nature as extensions of modern natural sciences, explaining human behavior and society through physical motion and material interactions【75†source】.

② Man as a Mechanism Hobbes argues that humans are mechanical beings whose thoughts and actions are results of external stimuli. He explains that all human thoughts stem from sensory experiences【75†source】.

③ The State of Nature: War of All Against All Hobbes describes the natural state of humanity as one of selfishness and violence, a “war of all against all,” which necessitates a social contract to escape【75†source】.

④ Human Behavior Based on Social Environment Hobbes posits that human behavior is shaped by social environments, which can make individuals either selfish or cooperative【75†source】.

⑤ Natural Law and Reason Hobbes claims that humans can act rationally even in a state of nature, guided by natural laws towards peace. Reason is crucial in leading humans to co-exist peacefully【75†source】.

⑥ The Social Contract A social contract involves individuals mutually renouncing their rights and transferring them to a common authority, which Hobbes sees as essential for social order【75†source】.

⑦ Legitimacy of Sovereign Authority from Voluntary Consent Hobbes argues that the legitimacy of sovereign authority comes from individuals’ voluntary consent, with the ruler responsible for protecting their rights【75†source】.

3.3 Part 2 – Of Commonwealth ① The Best Means for Self-Preservation Hobbes sees the state as the best means for individual self-preservation, with an absolute ruler enforcing natural laws and ensuring peace【75†source】.

② The Leviathan Hobbes describes the Leviathan as a state with collective power, formed by individuals uniting their wills under a single authority【75†source】.

③ Limited Monarchy Based on Contract Theory Hobbes supports a monarchy grounded in social contract theory, where the ruler’s legitimacy is based on the people’s voluntary consent and delegated authority【75†source】.

3.4 Part 3 – Of a Christian Commonwealth ① Political Power and Church Power Hobbes argues for the separation of political and church powers, criticizing the church’s involvement in political matters and the resulting social conflicts【75†source】.

② Role of the Church He asserts that the church should not have temporal power to enforce beliefs, and its authority must be limited【75†source】.

③ Unity of State and Church Leader Hobbes advocates for the state ruler to also be the head of the church, subordinating church power to state power to avoid conflicts【75†source】.

④ Freedom of Faith Hobbes emphasizes freedom of faith, stating that belief cannot be compelled by external force, and must remain a personal matter【75†source】.

3.5 Part 4 – Of the Kingdom of Darkness ① The Kingdom of Darkness as the Church Hobbes criticizes the church for seeking secular power and spreading spiritual errors, labeling it as the Kingdom of Darkness【75†source】.

② Freedom of Inquiry He stresses the importance of scientific inquiry and philosophical freedom, opposing the dominance of theological doctrines【75†source】.

③ Critique of Universities Hobbes criticizes universities for perpetuating scholastic philosophy and supporting church authority, hindering scientific progress【75†source】.

4. Memorable Quotes

Hobbes states, “When men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man.” He emphasizes the need for a common authority to maintain peace and order【75†source】.

5. Reflection

Hobbes highlights the selfish and violent nature of humans, advocating for an absolute sovereign to maintain order through a social contract. His ideas have been subject to criticism, especially regarding the extent of sovereign power. Nonetheless, his work remains a significant topic of philosophical debate in understanding the nature of human society and governance

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