Lec7: leviathan ch 1-10
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Lecture 7: Leviathan, Chapters 1-10
Instructor: Professor C. Orwin
•Hobbes is a “cool, dry wind”, Hobbes is a great observer of human nature
•He notices all and sees through all
•He explodes all of our flattery of ourselves and our deception of others
•He is not bitter, but philanthropic, his goals to save us from ourselves by showing us
that all of our worst wounds are self inflicted
•If we have to get a grip on the world, we must begin by getting a grip on ourselves
•Modern founder of psychology
•Two main reasons why students have trouble with Hobbes:
•Wrote in the english of his day 17th century (long complicated sentences)
•The substance of Hobbes consists of a mixture of the familiar and the strange,
and there is a strange twist to the familiar conclusions. He provides a liberal
argument for despotism, but we have to understand that this is a new kind of
despotism, and that Hobbes’ arguments only require the slightest modifications
to be arguments for liberal democracy
•He achieves the liberalization of Machiavelli
•Hobbes proceeds to reinvent the Prince as the faithful servant of the people
(concerning himself entirely with their welfare)
•Hobbes is much more “our sort of thinker” than Machiavelli
•In Machiavelli’s Discourse, he likens himself to Columbus in his dedicatory.
Presenting himself as the great new discoverer of the mind
•Out of the Machiavellian materials of thought, Hobbes builds a new way of life that is
contrary to Machiavelli
•What had happened in between Hobbes coming a century and a half after
Machiavelli. Well, there was the reformation, and the continent was swept by global
international wars and civil wars. Also was the emergence of modern science (Francis
Bacon one of the most profound of them, a student of Machiavelli and a friend of
Hobbes). Modern science was materialistic and mathematical, so we see this in
Hobbes, who is materialistic and obsessed with mathematical! He wished to bring the
universal agreement that geometry brought to the world of politics
•Hobbes begins Leviathan with a dedicatory letter to Francis Godolphin
•He mentions simple creatures that he likens himself to. They were geese.
•This is wonderful modesty and irony on Hobbes’ part
•Hobbes is in his own understanding, the non -thinking person’s thinking person!
•He promises to offer an argument that fully vindicates every regime against its
attackers (both external and internal)
•E.g. If your the republic of Iran set by a massive Zion conspiracy, Hobbes is your
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•How can he vindicate all regimes though?
•Hobbes’ argument in favour of all regimes is ultimately a liberal argument
•In Hobbes’ own view, the crucial objections to his arguments were liberal ones
•By Leviathan he means the ‘commonwealth”, but this is a biblical illusion
•Leviathan was a sea monster, but in the Book of Job, Ch.41, Leviathan is induced as
the most powerful of all beings, except for God (its creator).
•Leviathan is the ultimate truth of the necessity of human submission to God. “king
over all children of pride” (this is What God said of Leviathan in the Bible)
•The Commonwealth is neither natural or divine, but a human imitation of natural and
•It’s the means by which he rivals God. His Leviathan is great and man made as a
rival to God’s Leviathan
•Significance of the fact that Machiavelli offers help to the Prince, while Hobbes does
•Whats the difference? Leviathans are NOT one man who stands out in the crowds,
but rather the political entity.
•Leviathan is depicted as an enormous human being made up of smaller human
•Leviathan therefore doesn’t stand out from the crowd, but IS the crowd
•The people upstages the Prince, who is merely an aspect of the whole according to
Machiavelli’s use of the State, it only figures as the object of the actions of the Prince.
The Prince is always apart from the state
Hobbes abolishes this distinction. The Prince becomes the sovereign, and is merely
an aspect of the political order
•One way to understand Hobbes is the founder of modern constitutionalism
•What is the human world as Hobbes presents it in Chapter 1? He says the human is
a “prison house of the senses.”
•Can we know in Hobbes presentation what the external world is like?
•Hobbes gives you an experiment “press your eye hard and you’ll see a flash of light”.
We know there was no actual flash of light, but we know that the senses compress a
light at such a touch. So all we can know is that something is pressing on our eye, we
cannot conclude that the image we see is “that thing” that the eye sees. All we can know
is that there is an interaction with the senses and the outside world.
•Therefore we must conclude that we have no knowledge of the outside world
•This is a claustrophobic world for which there is no escape, no knowledge of the
world as it is as opposed to the world as it appears to us
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