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Léviathan

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  18,994 ratings  ·  344 reviews
Thomas Hobbes took a new look at the ways in which society should function, and he ended up formulating the concept of political science. His crowning achievement, Leviathan, remains among the greatest works in the history of ideas. Written during a moment in English history when the political and social structures as well as methods of science were in flux and open to int...more
Paperback, 1027 pages
Published November 1st 2000 by Gallimard (first published 1651)
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sckenda
Dec 14, 2013 sckenda rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those Interested in Intellectual Political Philosophy
Recommended to sckenda by: Great Books of Western World
The fundamental law dictating the behavior of all life is “nature’s law of red tooth and claw.” British political philosopher Thomas Hobbes declared in “Leviathan” (1651) that all humans, “in nature,” are untrustworthy and corrupt beings, so each must protect his or her own individual interests from other humans --“just as beasts in the jungle do.” Moreover, humans are so quarrelsome and belligerent that, except for brief interludes, we are constantly in a state of war.

Violent reality dictates...more
Charissa
Jan 12, 2008 Charissa rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody!
Recommended to Charissa by: Linda my undergraduate philosophy professor
Not only did I disagree with Hobbes' conclusions, I find his assumptions (his arguments based entirely in Christian perspective) essentially worthless. The only value this tract served to me is to "know thy enemy". This is a classic example of mental circus tricks being used to justify the march of Christian dominance across the globe. I can't think of any written text that I despise more, except perhaps Mein Kempf.

Hobbes is my least favorite philosopher. He embodies everything I despise in West...more
Rowland Bismark
Leviathan, Hobbes's most important work and one of the most influential philosophical texts produced during the seventeenth century, was written partly as a response to the fear Hobbes experienced during the political turmoil of the English Civil Wars. In the 1640s, it was clear to Hobbes that Parliament was going to turn against King Charles I, so he fled to France for eleven years, terrified that, as a Royalist, he would be persecuted for his support of the king. Hobbes composed Leviathan whil...more
Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog)
Since some reviewers here seem to rate this work unfairly low because of their disagreements, ignoring both the importance of Leviathan and the basic power of the argument Hobbes forwards in it, I'll refer a couple of good, measured reviews with history and backdrop also found here-

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...
http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...
http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...
http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

Originally I planned to adapt an essay I wrote at univers...more
Marts  (Thinker)
Thomas Hobbes discourse on civil and ecclesiatical governance, he analyses this in four parts, firstly via a discourse of man and the first principles of society; secondly he looks at the institution of a commonwealth and varying principles governing such, as here listed:
"The sovereign has twelve principal rights:

1. because a successive covenant cannot override a prior one, the subjects cannot (lawfully) change the form of government.

2. because the covenant forming the commonwealth results fro...more
Yann
Le Leviathan (view spoiler)est un livre remarquable. Écrit par un Anglais au beau milieu du dix-septième siècle, alors qu'en France la Fronde secoue la paix du royaume, que l'Angleterre est également la proie de troubles, et qu'enfin l'Europe est encore meurtrie par les guerres de religion, cet ouvrage a pour ambition de tracer nettement la frontière entre les prérogatives de la Religion chrétienne et celles de l’État, quand à l'usage des lois, et de la force pour les faire resp...more
Stephen
3.5 stars. I read this when I was in college during a political science course. I remember thinking it was a good source of discussion/debate in class. I plan to re-read this in the near future and will give a more detailed review at that time.
Steven Peterson
Three essential hallmarks of the Hobbesian system are important: the war of each against all, the role of human rationality in ending this; the use of knowledge/science as a basis for societal engineering. His view of the state of nature--that time before government and the state existed--is unsurprising when one understands that he was born in the year of the erstwhile invasion by the Spanish Armada (1588) and lived through civil turmoil and revolution in England throughout his life.

Hobbes beg...more
Andrew
Leviathan is a major work of philosophy. Full stop.

It's interesting to think that this book is the fundamental root of a lot of ultra-conservative brains. On some level, I can understand this. Hobbes defends the divine right of royal power (to a certain extent) and proceeds to define this power as absolute. Without question, subjects must bow to their masters, under any circumstances. In all this, however, he ultimately says that a monarch's power is granted him by his subjects, for without subj...more
Laura
Though considered to be one of the most influential works of political thought, this manages to be both tedious and frightening – tedious because of Hobbes’s labored phrasing and protracted reasoning, and frightening because his conclusions have been put into play by stars like Stalin and Pol Pot. In brief, Hobbes argues for a strong central government headed by an absolute sovereign.

Frankly, I can’t imagine anyone liking Hobbes, as his take on social contract theory supports the theoretical gr...more
Mel Vincent
This is truly the greatest written political work of all time. It meticulously dissects the areas of the political body and mind, the Leviathan itself, and it also deals with the fundamental properties that enable that political body to work such as human reason, ideology, government and also religion.

Every question that I have conceived within the confines of my mind, this book has answered it perfectly and efficiently. It is amazing how Thomas Hobbes has argued, analyzed and even criticized th...more
Jeremy
It's not hard to see why this is considered so important. He goes one step beyond Machiavelli and just totally blows apart the last remaining shreds of virtue-derived political praxis. Politics no longer has anything to do with the idea of 'the good,' what we have now is a secular system in which we consent to have rulers to protect our own interests, however noble or terrible they may be, because without that framework we'd just live like animals, fighting absolutely everything else in the worl...more
Savanna
In his Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes claims that the acts of a sovereign are always the acts of each of the subjects, so no subject can ever be wronged by the sovereign. He makes this assertion to justify the power structure of a monarchist commonwealth, and he bases this conclusion on a contract he believes arises when a nation chooses to be governed instead of remaining in a state of anarchy he calls the state of nature. I’ll explain why by showing how a sovereign is raised and the nature of the c...more
Mr.
This huge work is the foundation of classical liberalism; it is the basis for Locke, for Smith, and all economic neo-liberalists all the way up to the current period. Written during the English Reformation, Hobbes was confronted with the problem of absolute individualism; he begins this work of political theory with a demolishment of objective truth swift enough to impress any post-modernist. He then proceeds to demonstrate the logical conclusion of man in a state of nature, and compels the mode...more
Ken Moten
Jul 27, 2013 Ken Moten rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People into political philosophy; Cavaliers
[update 10/23/13: after having to re-read this thing for another class I have a little more appreciation for it but I would do well not having to read it for another 10 years.]

Bellum omnium contra omnes

Another book from philosophy class. I have trouble remembering whether this book or the Critique of Pure Reason frustrated the class more. This was a very "interesting" book to read. I think when people call Plato's Republic fascist they are thinking more of this text which took all the controver...more
Alex MacMillan
Hobbes’s Leviathan appears draconian to most Americans who ascribe to classical liberal values. Their rejection of his social contract coincides with an optimistic Lockean faith in the capabilities and moral fortitude necessary for negative liberties to survive in a commonwealth. This naïveté in political legitimacy is analogous to the popularity of the New Testament compared to the Old because, while both texts share equal moral instruction, we fervently prefer a loving and forgiving God to a b...more
Michael
"No crime if there ain't no law."
-- The Damned, "Neat Neat Neat"

The liberal instinct urges me to say that I disagree with it, but this book and its implications are bigger than me. I almost have to laugh at myself for leveling judgement on it, as if it mattered -- me: already living in the world of the leviathan. In the bigger sense, I don't disagree with it, anyway -- perhaps in the normative sense, but as an observer of society I see he seems to have his shit together. With my judgement out of...more
Cristina M. Sburlea
I first read it in high school and it was the book that got me hooked to philosophy. Hobbes lived in the Baroque. Maps were expanding greatly as more lands were being discovered and as empires were exploring regions they had not previously ventured into. Wars plagued the entire world. Empires were fighting at home but also at their outskirts. The world in which he lived was very violent. So it is not all that difficult to understand how he got to those conclusions. Also, nobody should make the f...more
Andrew
Over the years, the idea of Thomas Hobbes has become far more important than Hobbes himself. We all know his line about the state of nature-- "nasty, brutish, and short"-- that can be applied to high school wrestlers as easily as it can to his proto-Enlightenment convictions about primitive man.

But that's the thing, we all know it. And when we hear his shitty, absurdly baroque argument, we like it even less. To a modern reader, Hobbes is his own worst enemy. If you have a historical interest in...more
Scot
It has been quite some time since I read this in its entirety, but I recently re-read parts of it for an online class through Coursera and UPenn. The first time I read Leviathan as a philosophy major in college, I thought it was complete garbage. As I am older (and hopefully wiser), I still do not agree with Hobbes, but I now have a better understanding of why he thought as he did and of some of the merits of his line of thought. Hobbes' back story is quite interesting, war in England sent him t...more
Alex

hobbes' theory is a misanthropic, elitist vision that humans are basically corrupt, evil and stupid, and must be lead by a far-sighted guardian or "leviathan" which enforces private property relations and prevents people from following their "evil impulses."

yikes.
Moses Allen
Aug 05, 2007 Moses Allen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the philosophic or political mind
Shelves: philosophy
This is a difficult read because it was written in the seventeenth century, but book XIII is probably the most important part. I would even go so far as to say you could read only the introduction and books X-XIV and get best of the book.
John Yelverton
Not nearly as good as my professor made it out to be.
Briana
I am AFRAID. VERY AFRAID.

...and I haven't even opened the cover yet...
Leviathan shall devour me alive...

*EDIT*

For some reason, even though Second Treatise of Government is about a million times skinnier than Leviathan and its very name is less imposing, I'm having an easier time with Leviathan.

Yes, Hobbes, I do understand that people can have "stream of consciousness" thoughts. NO, I DO NOT NEED YOU TO GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE!!

17th century vocabulary is so fun to decipher. Hobbes keeps calling the...more
Cody
Leviathan is really four books: "Of Man," "Of Common-wealth," "Of a Christian Common-wealth," and "Of the Kingdom of Darkness." The first book is the philosophical framework for Leviathan. The remaining books elaborate upon the arguments presented in the beginning:
• "Of Common-wealth" discusses rights of sovereigns and subjects and goes over the legislative mechanics of the commonwealth.
• "Of a Christian Common-wealth" discusses the compatibility of Christian doctrine with Hobbes' idea of the Le...more
John
I’ll preface this review by saying that I’ve only read Books I-II of Leviathan (about half), but as a close friend recently told me, “That may be a new record.” Although the title refers to the ideal leader of state, it could easily be attributed to the book itself; it’s a truly exhaustive, and exhausting, development of Hobbes’ theory of political government, and it took me more than 2 months to sort through the first 400-odd pages.

Besides its girth, the first thing that I would say usually dis...more
Rashaan
URGENT ACTION ALERT:

Join the Sovereign Advocates in support for The Monarchy Revitalization Act AD800. Now is the time to add your voice to the call for “The Rule of One.” Thomas Hobbes, a potentate’s chief promoter, thanks everyone for submitting to Leviathan and endorsing this crucial measure.

The bill AD800 calls for a government similar to those of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Henry VIII, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire also known as The Hapsburgs. AD800 will re-establish true order since all men of r...more
Varad
Just about every aspect of Hobbes' immeasurably influential treatise has been subject to centuries' worth of scrutiny and analysis: from his characterization of human life in the state of nature as "nasty, brutish, [and] short"; to his conception of sovereignty and his demand that it be unequivocal and indivisible, with no rival source of power or legitimacy allowed within the commonwealth, whether that be in the form of individual dissent or alternative sources of power such as the church; to h...more
Alex
Whereas I am trying to broaden my knowledge base and learn more basic philosophy, and whereas I am reading for pleasure rather than to create or support any argument, and whereas Hobbes likes to define and use italics profusely, and whereas his writing is in a style most soporific and whereas it takes him nearly half the book to get to the point, while I have been dreading picking up a book for weeks, expecting to get mired in some sidetrack defining all the different types of contracts one may...more
Alexander
Three stars for Leviathan, five stars for Leviathan in the teeth of skeptical response over the succeeding four centuries.

Uprooted from its context, Hobbes’ treatise is a mostly dry, taxing, moribund dungeon-crawl through the musty precincts of Christian Monarchism (though his game-mechanics for playing a Commonwealth are flexible enough for a democratic Assembly, clinching the book’s rep as the cobwebbed grandfather clock of modern political theory). Walking its crypts and vaults, past the dere...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
The origin of the state may be viewed in another way 1 4 Sep 13, 2014 10:12AM  
Is Leviathan a reflex of what happens nowadays? 3 26 Jan 27, 2013 04:24AM  
Similar thinkers to Hobbes? 4 36 Jan 16, 2013 01:12AM  
  • Second Treatise of Government
  • The Spirit of the Laws (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)
  • The Young Man's Guide
  • Elements of the Philosophy of Right
  • Politics
  • On Liberty and Other Essays
  • Discourse on the Origin of Inequality
  • An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
  • Reflections on the Revolution in France
  • Critique of Practical Reason (Texts in the History of Philosophy)
  • Seek: Reports from the Edges of America and Beyond
  • The Discourses
  • Essential Manners for Men: What to Do, When to Do It, and Why
  • The Frontier in American History
  • Strenuous Life
  • The Theory of Moral Sentiments
10122
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury (also Thomas Hobbes of Malmsbury) was a British philosopher and a seminal thinker of modern political philosophy. His ideas were marked by a mechanistic materialist foundation, a characterization of human nature based on greed and fear of death, and support for an absolute monarchical form of government. His 1651 book Leviathan established the foundation for most of Wes...more
More about Thomas Hobbes...
On the Citizen The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic: Part I: Human Nature; Part II: de Corpore Politico with Three Lives Of Man Man and Citizen: (De Homine and De Cive) Behemoth, or The Long Parliament

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