Laura's Reviews > Leviathan

Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
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's review
Aug 19, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: assigned-reading, classic
Read in April, 2010

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 groundwork for constitutional monarchy instead of republicanism. But some of his other theories are a bit more intriguingly off. I’d love to have a dinner party with Hobbes and a couple of Romantic poets – maybe Wordsworth and Coleridge – and ask them what they thought of Hobbes’s assertion that imagination is “nothing but decaying sense” and is the same as memory. Maybe throw in Yeats as well! That would be even more entertaining than a soiree with Hobbes and Jefferson.
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message 4: by Alex (new)

Alex Well put Ms. Moore...I feel the same way entering the book for a human nature course. Though I haven't broken into the political theory, and probably won't, I see where the anti-Hobbes comes from. The guy was probably not invited to many parties.


Kenny Actually, I think the Romantic poets held a theory of perceptions they got from Empiricists like Locke and Hume, so they would have been in general agreement with Hobbes there. You can put the "impressions" you've had through your senses together in novel ways (to imagine a centaur, for example) but you can never imagine what "blue" looks like if you've never seen anything blue.

Also, I like Hobbes and I'm not ashamed! I like his prose and his arguments are often more persuasive than one finds comfortable. His state of nature is a hell of a lot more realistic than Locke's or Rousseau's, and I think we take the benefits of a government divided against itself too much for granted these days, without thinking about the costs and risks associated with that scheme. My favorite kind of book is one that challenges rather than affirms my preconceptions. Like Nietzsche. Can you imagine someone liking Nietzsche?


message 2: by Alex (new)

Alex I liked Hobbes over Plato and Marx and a little but of Rousseau...but I still don't think simplicity makes his arguments any better. And you bring up a good point of anyone liking Nietzsche, but for some reason I favor his style much more than Hobbes's.


message 1: by Alex (new)

Alex I liked Hobbes over Plato and Marx and a little but of Rousseau...but I still don't think simplicity makes his arguments any better. And you bring up a good point of anyone liking Nietzsche, but for some reason I favor his style much more than Hobbes's.


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