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Leviathan | Summary



In Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes delivers a way of thinking about human nature and society he believes reveals political truths that will ensure civic peace. He presents his political argument in three parts.

Part 1: Of Man

Hobbes focuses on the nature of people and discusses the main points of the argument he will expand upon in the other sections of the book. By using "Man" as a starting point, Hobbes strives to connect with his audience using a relatable subject. He explores those human qualities that distinguish people from other animals, particularly regarding their capacity to reason and use verbal communication. He enumerates common human virtues and defects and explains how human curiosity and creativity have led to culture in human society, particularly to the developments of science and religion. Because humans have determined that a state of peace is valuable for a longer, satisfying life, they have used reason to figure out ways to ensure such social stability: creating a social contract of laws embedded in a governmental structure.

Part 2: Of Commonwealth

Hobbes explains the different kinds of commonwealth, expressing his own preferences for which he believes are more successful. Hobbes is thorough in his enumeration of the elements necessary to a well-functioning commonwealth, and he explains the function, illustrating how the parts of such a governmental structure correspond to the parts of the monster, Leviathan. He also takes time to consider elements in human society that threaten the commonwealth and how to deal with them. The greatest threat of all to a commonwealth, Hobbes feels, is civil war, and he is quite direct in providing advice for how to avoid such a catastrophe.

Part 3: Of a Christian Commonwealth

Hobbes claims early in Leviathan that the most secure path to peace is a society founded on Christian principles, and this discussion is the subject of Part 3, Of a Christian Commonwealth. Hobbes's thorough knowledge of the Bible is apparent in his detailed analysis of its concepts. It is particularly important to Hobbes to prove that a life of devoted Christian faith is compatible with a life of reason. The last four chapters of Part 3 are sometimes treated separately as a Part 4, Of the Kingdom of Darkness. In these chapters, Hobbes discusses the corrupting worldly forces in the religious sector, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church, that create a "kingdom of darkness" on Earth. As a proponent of enlightenment through reason, Hobbes warns against charlatans who try to manipulate people by terrifying them with threats of demons.

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