Leviathan - THE MATTER, FORME, & POWER OF A COMMON-WEALTH ECCLESIASTICAL AND CIVILL: The 100 best nonfiction books: No 94 - Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes (Large Print / Paperback)

Leviathan - THE MATTER, FORME, & POWER OF A COMMON-WEALTH ECCLESIASTICAL AND CIVILL: The 100 best nonfiction books: No 94 - Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes By Thomas Hobbes, Ambassador Midas Touch Gems Cover Image
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The 100 best nonfiction books: No 94 - Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes (1651)

Thomas Hobbes's essay on the social contract is both a founding text of western thought and a masterpiece of wit and imagination

According to the 17th-century historian and gossip John Aubrey, Thomas Hobbes "was wont to say that if he had read as much as other men, he should have known no more than other men." As a great thinker, Hobbes epitomises English common sense and the amateur spirit, and is all the more appealing for deriving his philosophy from his experience as a scholar and man of letters, a contemporary and occasional associate of Galileo, Descartes and the young Charles Stuart, prince of Wales, before the Restoration.

Hobbes himself was born an Elizabethan, and liked to say that his premature birth in 1588 was caused by his mother's anxiety at the threat of the Spanish Armada:

... it was my mother dear

Did bring forth twins at once, both me, and fear.

Throughout his long life, Hobbes was never far either from the jeopardy of the times (notably the thirty years' war and the English civil war) or the jeopardy sponsored by the brooding realism and pragmatic clarity of his philosophy. What, asked Hobbes, was the form of politics that would provide the security that he and his contemporaries longed for, but were always denied?

frontispeice of leviathan by thomas hobbes

The famous frontispiece to Leviathan. Photograph: Alamy

Subtitled The Matter, Forme and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil, Leviathan first appeared in 1651, during the Cromwell years, with perhaps the most famous title page in the English canon, an engraving of an omnipotent giant, composed of myriad tiny human figures, looming above a pastoral landscape with sword and crosier erect.

Thus "the Leviathan" (sovereign power) entered the English lexicon, and Hobbes's vision of man as not naturally a social being, animated by a respect for community, but a purely selfish creature, motivated by personal advantage, became condensed into his celebrated summary of mankind's existence as "solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short".

It was Hobbes's argument that, to ameliorate these conditions, man should adopt certain "Laws of Nature" by which human society would be forbidden to do "that which is destructive" of life, whereby virtue would be the means of "peaceful, sociable and comfortable living."

The first law of nature is: "every man ought to endeavour peace". This, he argues, will be a hard goal: the general inclination of all mankind is "a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in death". The second law of nature is: "a man must] be willing when others are so too ... to lay down his right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself." The third law of nature is: "men performe their Covenants made."

This, in essence, adds up to Hobbes's social contract, enforced by an external power. Accordingly, members of civil society should enter into a contract to confer their power and strength "upon one Man, or upon an Assembly of men ... This done, the Multitude so united in one Person, is called a Common-wealth." For Hobbes, the contracting of such power is the only guarantee of peace and prosperity: "During the time 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 every man against every man."

Product Details
ISBN: 9781088160237
ISBN-10: 1088160239
Large Print: Yes
Publisher: Midas Touch Gems
Publication Date: May 27th, 2023
Pages: 632
Language: English