Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Leviathan” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.70  ·  Rating details ·  37,380 ratings  ·  727 reviews
'The life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short'

Written during the chaos of the English Civil War, Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan asks how, in a world of violence and horror, can we stop ourselves from descending into anarchy? Hobbes' case for a 'common-wealth' under a powerful sovereign - or 'Leviathan' - to enforce security and the rule of law, shocked his contemp
Paperback, Penguin Classics, 736 pages
Published November 19th 1981 by Penguin Books (first published 1651)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Leviathan, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Leviathan

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  37,380 ratings  ·  727 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Leviathan
Nov 28, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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-

Originally I planned to adapt an essay I wrote at univers
Ahmad Sharabiani
Leviathan, or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil, Thomas Hobbes
Leviathan, is a book written by Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) and published in 1651 (revised Latin edition 1668). Its name derives from the biblical Leviathan. The work concerns the structure of society and legitimate government, and is regarded as one of the earliest and most influential examples of social contract theory. Leviathan ranks as a classic Western work on statecraft comparable to Machia
E. G.
A Scheme of Reference
A Note on the Text
Select Bibliography

--Leviathan, or The Matter, Forme, & Power of a Common-Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill

Explanatory Notes
Index of Subjects
Czarny Pies
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those looking for a strong defence of totalitarianism.
Shelves: political-theory
Both the conclusions and methodology of "Leviathan" are shocking to the modern reader.
Writing in the seventeenth century, Hobbes attacked medieval political philosophy and religion. However, unlike the enlightenment philosophers he did not base his arguments on the classical authors of Greece and Rome. Instead he made it clear that he considered them to be as much in the wrong as the medieval scholastics. Thus starting from zero, Hobbes then developed the doctrine that every nation or commonwea
David Sarkies
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
A Monster of a Book
12 Oct 2017

Woah, after three weeks I have finally managed to finish the behemoth of a book (which, ironically, Hobbes also wrote a book with that name) and I can now move onto something much lighter. Anyway, there was a time, when I was younger, when I was dreaming of one day getting married, having children, while becoming a hot shot lawyer (is it possible to actually do those two things) that I wanted to read this to my proposed child while he (or she) was still a baby. Min
Alex MacMillan
Oct 22, 2011 rated it liked it
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. 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 brutal taskmaster. ...more
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
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
Tristram Shandy
Scared Shitless but Not Witless

In his autobiography, Thomas Hobbes said that his mother had given “birth to twins: myself and fear”, which might be taken as a very clear hint that Hobbes’s mindset was that of a very pessimistic and distrustful man. And yet, Hobbes was not afraid to voice his opinions on man in general and the organization of what he calls the Common-Wealth in particular with a frankness that does anything but bespeak of fear or pusillanimity at a time when to be frank on matters
Dec 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Steven Peterson
May 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
For the most part, I admire Hobbes even if I disagree with half of what he's saying. The first part of this book appeals to me mostly because both of us acknowledge the inherent shortcomings of human kind. While I can't really deny that there is a "mutual relationship between protection and obedience", I'm my view there is a limit to it. The social contract should not be respected by the populus without complaint or demand. What is needed is a democracy not a tyranny.

For the most part, I think i
May 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
2020 Review: 5 stars
One of my students refused to engage in discussion group because he didn't "agree with Hobbes." I kind of hope no one wholly agrees with Hobbes. But this re-read (admittedly, something of a skim for the last half), I was forced to admit the truth of what my professor says. "You may disagree with Hobbes's conclusions, but you cannot fault his logic."

2013 Review: 3 stars
Jun 10, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: philosophy

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."

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.
Jan 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: للدراسة
One of the most important books in the history of philosophy , Every one study the modern philosophy must read it , Because of the most important points of Hobbes's philosophy in this book .
K. Elizabeth
Read for class.
Mel Vincent
May 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 08, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, philosophy
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
Mary Slowik
Sep 25, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students of History or Political Science
Not the best book I've ever chosen to read while in the bathroom, but it's not like I would have read it any other way. It's interesting purely as a historical document, as it followed the English civil war and speaks out, basically, for commonsense civility and peace-through-strength. A lot of it is just sensible argumentation, and I especially admired Hobbes' refusal to credit ancient sources merely because they're ancient. His defense of this, presented in the conclusion, is essentially: "Yea ...more
John Yelverton
Jul 31, 2011 rated it did not like it
The book was not nearly as good as my college professor made it out to be.
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
In the Leviathan (1651), Hobbes builds on his earlier works to offer his contemporaries the solution to the horrors of the English Civil War: an authoritarian dictatorship. How succesful Hobbes was in convincing his contemporaries is beyond my knowledge, but I do know that Hobbes was treated as a black sheep even after his death. A huge part of this treatment has its origins in Hobbes' materialistic (and, according to contemporarties: atheist) philosophy, but I can't shake the belief that Hobbes ...more
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
The Open Syllabus Project, the systematic study of over one million college syllabi ranks this book as the seventh most popular book cited by syllabi. After having listened to this book I know exactly why. The Age of Enlightenment starts with this book.

It's clear that the project of the Enlightenment was the dialectic of answering the pessimism of Hobbes with the optimism of John Locke. They might not have had to agree with Hobbes, but they had to respond to him.

Hobbes is very subtle in some of
Muath Aziz
Read this review first if you haven't read the book yet:

#Of Man#: No free will, no soul, we are just machines just like a ball on a slope, it falls down expectedly (it can't Will not to go down). Imagination is just Memory; decaying Senses that propagate inside our heads.

#Of Common-Wealths#: Read above-mentioned review.

#Of A Christian Common-Wealth#: Now he links what he said in Of Man (the world and us are mechanical, no Metaphysics nor Ghosts etc)
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Enter my crude understanding:

This very well may be the most difficult to understand book I have ever read, thanks in part to antiquated language, not having read Hobbes’ prior work, upon which a large portion of Leviathan is based, and a general bafflement at the immense explanation of terms and Hobbes’ immense, IMMENSE, dense, and convoluted use of theology and the Bible to attempt to rationalize (or, in the precise language of the book, ratiocinate) his view of sovereign power as being of high
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
“When a body is once in motion, it moveth (unless something else hinder it) eternally; and whatsoever hindreth it, cannot in an instant, but in time and by degrees, quite extinguish it. And as we see in the water, though the wind cease, the waves give not over rolling for a long time after, so also it happeneth in that motion which is made in the internal parts of a man, then when he sees, dreams, &c. For after the object is removed, or the eye shut, we still retain an image of the thing seen, t ...more

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


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
Simon King
Mar 07, 2017 rated it liked it
When I read this book, I felt that it orbited around three categories: 1) painfully tedious, 2) fascinating and 3) scary.

Hobbes is fastidiously clear. Because his argument is about human nature, he spends around 100 pages defining what humans are and how they feel, sense and think. That part is tedious. Also, the last sections of the book, where he describes lawmaking, Christianity and ecclesiastical power, are also tedious.

I find the main crux of the argument fascinating, though. Without laws,
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Jun 02, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: philosophy
Isn't this the guy who held to the belief that I am a wolf to my fellow human brother? He is my brother! We were made to live in harmony, but as I read this I can't help but get poisoned by the teaching that Homo hominy lupus, i.e. "Man is wolf to man.". Such teaching will make me nothing but a paranoid and bitter person. I am called to live in perfect harmony with every living being in the universe. But Thomas Hobbes says:

"To speak impartially, both sayings are very true; That Man to Man is a k
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Sone - Please add description in French - Hobbes 2 12 Nov 29, 2019 05:17PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please modify description and add most recent cover - Thomas Hobbes 1 8 Oct 22, 2019 06:21AM  
phil syllabus 1 10 Apr 19, 2017 10:42PM  
The origin of the state may be viewed in another way 1 17 Sep 13, 2014 10:12AM  
Is Leviathan a reflex of what happens nowadays? 3 45 Jan 27, 2013 04:24AM  
Similar thinkers to Hobbes? 4 53 Jan 16, 2013 01:12AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Social Contract
  • Two Treatises of Government
  • Second Treatise of Government
  • The Prince
  • On Liberty
  • The Republic
  • Politics
  • A Theory of Justice
  • An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
  • Critique of Pure Reason
  • The Nicomachean Ethics
  • On Liberty and Other Essays
  • Discourse on the Origin of Inequality
  • The Communist Manifesto
  • Democracy in America
  • The Discourses
  • Reflections on the Revolution in France
  • Being and Nothingness
See similar books…
Thomas Hobbes 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 Western political philosophy from the perspective o ...more

Related Articles

Emma Straub was all set to spend May on tour promoting her new novel, All Adults Here. Instead, due to the global pandemic, the Brooklyn-based...
14 likes · 5 comments
“Hell is truth seen too late.” 242 likes
Scientia potentia est.

Knowledge is power.”
More quotes…