Lecture 15: Leviathan- Part 1
Outline of the Lecture
1. The Frontispiece of Leviathan: what does it mean?
2. Chapters 1-3: Why does Leviathan begin with chapters on sense, perception and
3. Chapters 4 and 5: Speech, Reason, and Science
4. Chapters 6: Desire and Happiness
• Begins with an account of the units of the external world and what is out there. It
works that account into an account about human nature. He goes into discussing
perception and imagination. Hobbes then works that into an account of social life
and the legitimate state.
• Hobbes wrote leviathan during a period of political appeal. The English civil
world was fought over two things: the nature and extent of royal power. How
much power should the king possess? Is it unlimited and absolute? Or restrained
by parliament who follow the will of the people. The fundamental issue was
• Bourgeois vs. King
• Constitutionally the war established the precedent that an English monarch cannot
rule without the consent of the parliament
• The second issue was religion. Charles wanted on uniformed church through
England; regardless of the strains of Christianity throughout the place. Their
desire for religious freedom took away any authority of the king.
• Hobbes is writing after the French wars of religion between Catholics and
What does Leviathan mean?
By leviathan Hobbes mean the sovereign. The political authority related by the social
contract.Aleviathan is a biblical allusion. Its a beast whose power is unsurpassed on
earth. It has no equal, god tells Joe.A creature without fear. The lesson that god is trying
to teach Joe is that the leviathan is the ultimate proof of the impossibility of human power
overpowering god. That human judgment can rival god. We have to submit to Gods
power and judgment because it is all mighty. Yet Hobbes leviathan isn’t the work of god.
The common wealth is neither natural nor divine. Instead it’s a human imitation of the
natural and the divine. Its not given to us by nature or god, but something we do for
ourselves. It’s the greatest thing we do for ourselves. The political creation is a means by
which we rival god. God is a creator yet so is man. He improves upon gods creature and
nature. We correct the fact that the world is an intolerable hell.
He spoke of all the ways human beings imitate gods power which led to atheism. His
religious beliefs led to large speculation and debate. Hobbes speaks as if he was a
Christian believer but as you read you can think it to be impossible.
His teachings were attacked and dreaded by orthodox believers. The Frontispiece of Leviathan: what does it mean?
• Upper half – rolling stones with a giant figure; whose torso comes out from the
hills, with a sword and on a crosier in each hand
• The tip of the sword is piercing the heaven and the bottom of the crosier is to the
ground on earth
• Left picture – worldly might; right panel – ecclesial (higher) power
• Each panel shows the sovereigns of the political and religious views
Centre field: covered by a curtain; invoke the tabernacle – tablets of the stone in
which the 10 commandants were written
Chapters 1-3 Overview:
Leviathan begins with Hobbes discussion of the genesis of sense perception. It has no
obvious relation to political philosophy. It begins with chapters on sense, imagination,
speech, reason and science is because Hobbes scientific agenda is related to his political
Hobbes philosophical system is a comprehensive one, consisting of three parts. Natural
philosophy: which examines the nature of the material world.Anthropology: which
examines the nature of the human body. Political philosophy: which examines social life
and the state.
In chapter 1, we find Hobbes faced with the same problems and question as Descartes;
what is out there? Is there anything out there? What is the relationship between the
external world and internal world of perceptions?
Chapter 1: Hobbes on Sense and Perception
“The object is one thing, image or fancy is another. So that sense in all cases, is nothing
else but original fancy, caused by the pressure, that is, by motion of external things upon
our Eyes, Ears, and other organs thereunto ordained” (86)
• Hobbes is telling us that there is no escape, no access to any ultimate reality, and
no knowledge of the world as it is opposed to the world as it appears to us.
• Example:Acertain object may appear red but Hobbes point is that the colour is
not an inherit property of the object rather the bi-product of human perception.
The object itself isn’t red; it’s the source of waves of light.
• The true character of the objects of our perception will always appear unknown to
• Human beings are in the dark and will never immerge from the dark. We don’t
have direct access to the external world. The perceptual equipment in which we
perceive the world mediates it.
• Hobbes thinks this view runs counter to the conventional wisdom.All the
universities grounded uponAristotle teach another doctrine. TheAristotelians
teach us we learn the nature of things because they send out a picture of their
nature. The objects of our perception some how make their natures known to us.
Our perception of the external world is accurate to us. If it looks red than it is red.
• Hobbes cannot accept this. Hobbes takes the fact of optical illusions seriously. • Chapter 1 is the first of many Hobbes ridicules Aristotle and his followers.
• Second point made in passage: our sense impressions are the consequence of
pressures exerted upon us by outside bodies. The pressure of external things like
our eyes, ears and external organs causes all sense. There has to be something out
there. We don’t gaze out at a static unchanging landscape.
• Hobbes believes nothing can move itself, that nothing could be moved except
bodies and space and that only body can move other bodies.
• The lesson of chapter 1 is that there must be something out there producing the
impressions we have. Yet the fact remains that we can have no assurance that our
sense impressions accurately represent the external world to us.
• We have to think of the external world as a different way in which we experience
Chapter 2 on Imagination:
• The theme of chapter 2 is that there is no possibility of thinking our way beyond
the realm of sense resection. We are prisoners of our per