POL200Y1 Chapter Notes - Chapter Study Questions: Thomas Hobbes, Sea Monster, Autocracy
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I. Leviathan must be one of the best known titles in the English language that hardly anyone knows
the meaning of. But it would be foolish to proceed with this (or any other) book without informing
yourself as to the meaning of its title. If it sounds somehow Hebrew and therefore Biblical, that’s
because it is. The Bible mentions Leviathan six times but its most extended treatment of him, and
the one most useful for understanding Hobbes’s choice of title, and the one which he quotes a
portion of at the top of his frontispiece (see above), is to be found at Job 41:1-34. What is the
purpose of the Leviathan in the Biblical account? How about the purpose of the Leviathan in the
Hobbesian account? How does each account relate to human pride?
In the Biblical account, the Leviathan is a demonic sea monster of envy that is one of the first monsters to
punish people when they enter Hell. The Leviathan is incredibly well protected with scales (verses 13,
15–17), Its chest is as impenetrable as it's back (verses 15, 24). “Nothing on earth is its equal—a creature
without fear” (verse 33).) In Hobbesian account, the Leviathan is a metaphor for the governmental
structure of a state in which the people of the commonwealth make up the body of the Leviathan, and the
sovereign head(s) that make have complete authority of the state are the head of the Leviathan. The
people give up certain ‘natural’ rights to the sovereign head(s) in contract, and in return they receive
peace and protection from one-another. In a sense, Hobbes’ ‘Leviathan’ is thus also incredibly well
protected (as it protects the commonwealth from the horrors of the ‘state of nature’), impenetrable (as it is
a democratic autocracy in a sense), and without fear (as Hobbes goal is to remove fear from human nature
by providing a system that guarantees the commonwealth protection and peace).
II. Professor Orwin likes to say that according to Hobbes we all live in a “prison house of the
senses.” Why does he like to say that?
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