PS 431 Mid-Term Study Guide
Basic Outline of Leviathan:
Written by Thomas Hobbes this book is Hobbes’s views on human nature, forms
of ruling government, and what works best, worst, and how to maintain that ruling body.
In general, Hobbes seeks to define the rational bases upon which a civil society could
be constructed that would not be subject to destruction from within. Accordingly, he
delineates how best to minimize discord, disagreement, and factionalism within society
—whether between state and church, between rival governments, or between different
contending philosophies. Hobbes believes that any such conflict leads to civil war. He
holds that any form of ordered government is preferable to civil war. Thus he advocates
that all members of society submit to one absolute, central authority for the sake of
maintaining the common peace. In Hobbes’s system, obedience to the sovereign is
directly tied to peace in all realms. The sovereign is empowered to run the government,
to determine all laws, to be in charge of the church, to determine first principles, and to
be the judge in philosophical disputes. For Hobbes, this is the only sure means of
maintaining a civil, peaceful polity and preventing the dissolution of society into civil war.
Another argument of Leviathan is a progressive deduction from simple propositions
regarding the movements of matter, but Hobbes relies on the idea of a Prime Mover for
his propositions to work. For Hobbes, this Prime Mover was the Christian God.
However, Christianity itself is not philosophically required by Hobbes's text, and this lack
of necessity may have reinforced contemporaries' impressions of atheism, especially
considering that, in seventeenth-century England, failing to prove the truth of
Christianity was often tantamount to atheism.
What is Leviathan?
Leviathan is a metaphor for the state; the Leviathan is described as an artificial
person whose body is made up of all the bodies of its citizens, who are the literal
members of the Leviathan's body. The head of the Leviathan is the sovereign. The
Leviathan is constructed through contract by people in the state of nature in order to
escape the horrors of this natural condition. The power of the Leviathan protects them
from the abuses of one another.
Hobbes Views on Human Nature and Life:
Hobbes believed that all phenomena in the universe, without exception, can be
explained in terms of the motions and interactions of material bodies. He did not believe