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Leviathan | Quotes


He that is to govern a whole nation must read in himself, not this or that particular man, but mankind.

Narrator, The Introduction

The responsibility of the sovereign is great and requires an awareness of shared human qualities. Thomas Hobbes states that those who would lead others must first study their own thoughts and desires carefully, as this will prepare them to understand all people.


For true and false are attributes of speech, not of things.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 4

Language is a wonderful tool, but Thomas Hobbes also sees it as responsible for creating dissension and controversy. The requirement that truth or falsehood depends on language for their very existence proves this, as claims to truth and falsehood are at the heart of many disputes.


Reason is the pace, increase of science the way, and the benefit of man-kind the end.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 5

Thomas Hobbes had a deep desire to contribute a useful and lasting philosophy for correct governance and citizenship in the form of a commonwealth. His entire approach is scientific and reasoned, even using the form of a geometric proof for his argumentation. He wanted every idea he introduced to be supported by previously accepted truths so they would be understood and agreed to by all.


There is no such thing as perpetual tranquility of mind ... because life itself is but motion, and can never be without desire, nor without fear.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 6

Thomas Hobbes has a mechanistic view of the world that extends into human physical and mental experience.


For the thoughts, are to the desires, as scouts, and spies, to range abroad, and find the way to the things desired.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 8

This analogy highlights the human drive to satisfy desire. To illustrate the problem solving that occurs as humans figure out how to reach their goals, Thomas Hobbes creates an image of espionage, implying people's inclination to employ potentially sneaky, deceitful means to the desired end.


The greatest of humane powers, is that which is compounded of the powers of most men, united by consent, in one person.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 10

The sentiment of this quote is echoed in the words of the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance: "One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Thomas Hobbes also states in this chapter: "To have Friends, is Power: for they are strengths united." It is in forming bonds of agreement with other individuals that people can ensure their safety and strength.


In such condition, there is no place for Industry ... no Arts ... and ... continual fear ... of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 13

By "In such condition" Thomas Hobbes means one of perpetual war. In a state of such uncertainty, where people don't know if they will live to see the next day, there is no investment in a future and no point to, or opportunity for, leisure or self-expression in the form of art. No sense of community can grow because there is no trust in other people. Thus, a man living in a time of constant war has a dismal life, which Hobbes describes as lonely, violent, and short.


Where there is no common Power, there is no Law; where no Law, no Injustice.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 13

In the State of Nature, without rules or contracts, the idea of fairness has no place and people are in a relentless game of survival. Similarly, a lioness killing a zebra in the wild cannot be said to be unjust.


For it can never be that war shall preserve life, and peace destroy it.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 15

This is an example of one of the axioms, or accepted truths, that Thomas Hobbes includes in his argument to support the idea that the 19 laws of nature are immutable and eternal.


The commonwealth ... is one person, of whose acts a great multitude, by mutual covenants ... have made themselves ... author.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 17

This is another example of Thomas Hobbes's use of deductive reasoning for his argument whereby he defines terms and establishes previously agreed-upon truths to lead to logical conclusions. Here, he proves how individual members of a commonwealth become a single entity through the social contract. What the commonwealth does, its members do.


For no king can be rich ... glorious, nor secure; whose subjects are ... poor ... contemptible, or too weak ... to maintain ... a war against their enemies.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 19

The interdependence between the sovereign and his subjects discourages exploitation and encourages cooperation. Poverty in a nation speaks ill of its leader, and without a strong body of citizens able to come the aid of the nation, a sovereign has no power himself to thwart enemies and protect the common good.


To resist the sword of the commonwealth ... no man hath liberty; because ... liberty, takes away from the sovereign, the means of protecting us.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 21

Thomas Hobbes speaks here about the requirement for those who are physically able to bear arms against a common enemy. Those who refuse may be punished and even put to death because a sovereign's ability to protect his subjects is critical to the safety of the commonwealth. This is part of the social contract, even though in some respects the principle goes against the natural law of self-preservation. In the long run, the preservation of the commonwealth takes precedence over the safety of the individual.


The ministers of Christ in this world have no power ... to punish any man for not believing, or for contradicting what they say.

Narrator, Part 3, Chapter 42

Thomas Hobbes boldly refuses to acknowledge that the clergy is entitled to any judicial power. This lays the groundwork for the tenets calling for the separation of church and state in American politics.


The papacy is no other than the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof.

Narrator, Part 3, Chapter 47

Thomas Hobbes's anti-Catholic opinions are further unmasked here as he accuses the Roman Catholic Church of failing to disassociate itself from many of the pagan traditions of ancient Rome.


For such Truth, as opposes no man profit, nor pleasure, is to all men welcome.

Narrator, A Review, and Conclusion

These are the last words of Leviathan, and they show Thomas Hobbes's good intentions in sharing the truths he discovered.

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