How could this be possible? How can Hobbes offer what is equally an argument for the
legitimacy of all regimes, no matter how opposite those regimes may be to each other?
Fully understand that paradox, and you will have understood Hobbes. But if you
understand that paradox, you’ll understand a further one: that Hobbes’s argument for
every regime, no matter how illiberal that regime may seem, is ultimately a liberal
argument. How the paradoxes multiply.
(The letter continued:) The crucial objection to Hobbes's argument is theological.
For Hobbes as for Machiavelli the problem is Christianity.
The Introduction. Explains the strange title of the work: by Leviathan Hobbes
means the commonwealth. But this is a Biblical allusion: what is the Biblical allusion?
Job chapter 41: the most powerful of all beings, except of course for God, his creator.
The ultimate proof of divine omnipotence with which God rebukes Job; the ultimate proof
of the impossibility of human power rivalling that of God, and so of human wisdom or
judgment rivalling that of God. The ultimate proof of the necessity of human submission
to God. 33-34 (the concluding verses): "Upon earth there is not his like, who is made
without fear. He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride."
But what about Hobbes's Leviathan? Is it the work of God? The commonwealth is
neither natural or divine, but a human imitation of the natural and divine. Not something
given to man by nature or God, but something that he does for himself, the greatest thing
that he does for himself. The means by which he rivals God; God is a creator, but man
is a creator too. He improves on God's creation, nature, by correcting its most glaring
defect: the fact that the world, in the absence of this human creation, is an intolerable
hell for man.
I also asked you about the significance of the fact that Machiavelli offers advice to
Princes while Hobbes offers it to Leviathans. What is the difference between the prince,
on the one hand, and the Leviathan, on the other? The Prince is one man, who stands
out from the crowd and rules the rest of us, but the Leviathan? It is the crowd, it is all of
us, we are all equally part of it: cf. the frontispiece to the work, the most famous in
English literature. We have met Leviathan and he is us. As the creation not of some
great founder, but of human beings as such, it is a collective venture, something like self-
government. The people upstages the prince, for the head of the Leviathan, whom
Hobbes calls the sovereign, is merely an aspect of the whole, and thus the creation of
the rest of us. And that means that he has no right to put on airs, or to lord it over the
rest of us: as King of the Proud, it’s not ordinary people whom the Leviathan is primarily
concerned to humble, but precisely those who might be inclined to regard themselves as
[[Know thyself: not know what is good for you as a human being, know what
passions you share with other human beings, namely, all of them (only the objects of
these passions differ from man to man). Ultimately, know that all men are equal.]]
Chapter One. The study question: so what do I mean when I like to say that
according to Hobbes we are confined to a prisonhouse of the senses? Our world is a
world of shadows, of fancy and semblance, as Hobbes calls our mental images, which
are derived from the senses which are themselves merely shadows. For our sense
impressions are the consequences of pressures exerted upon us by outside bodies
whose true character must remain ever unknown to us. We must surmise that there is
something outside us producing the impressions that we have of it, but no assurance
whatever that those impressions accurately represent that something to us. Hobbes's