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Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

Leviathan (1651)

by Thomas Hobbes

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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The good news is, Hobbes writes beautifully. The bad news is, I hate reading classical philosophy because when the philosopher says something I disagree with, I want to argue with him and I can't because he's dead.

In this case, Hobbes just defended the idea that if you agree to pay ransom to someone who kidnapped you, you're morally obligated to follow through even if you manage to escape. After all, he argues, you're getting value for your money: you get to live. Oh, *please*.

But because I started it and am almost a quarter of the way through, I *have* to finish. Hope he doesn't tick me off this much again.

--July 7: Three-quarters of the way through. Sheesh.

--August 1: Done! Done, I say! And here is a lovely quote:

"Though I reverence those men of Ancient time, that either have written Truth perspicuously, or set us in a better way to find it out our selves; yet to the Antiquity itself I think nothing due: For if we will reverence the Age, the Present is the Oldest." ( )
1 vote Deborah_Markus | Aug 8, 2015 |
  OberlinSWAP | Aug 1, 2015 |
  OberlinSWAP | Aug 1, 2015 |
  OberlinSWAP | Aug 1, 2015 |
This is not an easy recreational read, but there is much to enjoy.
Hobbes writing is wonderful - short and direct, he makes his arguments sing! Strong and opinionated - he must have been wonderful company in real life. But also an arch old conservative - we find him arguing in the end of Part 2 that the remedy for discontent with the political order is that the people should be taught to not want change!
Parts of the book are just a joy to read - Chapter 13 on people living in a "state of nature", i.e. outside of a political commonwealth, is short, sharp and persuasive. This is also the source of the famous quote of life outside a commonwealth as "solitary, poor nasty, brutish and short". But in others he deploys his skills to argue for the indefensible: he suggests that the people have a covenant with their monarch, but not the other way round, and even, remarkably, that the people are authors of the actions of a monarch, and thus have no cause for complaint at any action taken by the monarch!
I read an edition with current spelling, but I also referred to a text of the original. I found it amazing that the English in use in 1651 is so accessible today, whereas Shakespeare, from two generations earlier, is at times a struggle. Of course, one is written in academic terms while the other is vernacular, but it is striking how stable the language has become over 350 years.
Read August 2014. ( )
1 vote mbmackay | Aug 16, 2014 |
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*Malmesburyn ateisti suomeksi*

Liberaalin markkinatalousjärjestelmän syntyä ja olemusta koskevat pohdinnat ovat suomalaisessa keskustelussa viime aikoina lisääntyneet. Mikäli Englantia voidaan 1600-luvulta lähtien pitää modernin, porvarillisen Euroopan pioneerimaana suhteellisen joustavan sosiaalisen rakenteensa sekä poliittisen ja taloudellisen kehityksensä osalta, on englantilaisen poliittisen ajattelun klassikoiden suomentaminen erityisen ajankohtaista. Tuomo Ahon suomennos Thomas Hobbesin Leviathan-teoksesta on suuri kulttuuriteko vielä kolme ja puoli vuosisataa alkuteoksen ilmestymisen jälkeen jo siksi, että Hobbes ottaa kantaa ihmistä, ihmisyhteisöjä ja ylipäätään olemassaoloa koskeviin kysymyksiin tavalla, joka on yhtä ajankohtainen nykyihmiselle kuin se oli Hobbesin aikalaisille.

» Add other authors (93 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thomas Hobbesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Curley, EdwinEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Macpherson, C. B.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oakeshott, MichaelEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tuck, RichardEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Nature (the ary whereby God hath made and governs the world) is by the art of man, as in many other things, so in this also imitated, that it can make an artificial animal.
He that is to govern a whole Nation, must read in himself, not this, or that particular man; but Man-kind: which though it be hard to do, harder than to learn any Language, or Science; yet when I shall have set down my own reading orderly, and perspicuously, the pains left another, will be onely to consider if he also find not the same in himself.
The names of such things as affect us, that is, which please, and displease us, because all men be not alike affected with the same thing, nor the same man at all times, are in the common discourses of men of inconstant signification. For seeing all names are imposed to signifie our conceptions; and all our affections are but conceptions; when we conceive the same things differently, we can hardly avoyd different naming of them. For though the nature of what we conceive, be the same; yet the diversity of our reception of it, in respect of different constitutions of body, and prejudices of opinion, gives everything a tincture of our different passions. And therefore in reasoning, a man must take heed of words; which besides the signification of what we imagine of their nature, have a signification also of the nature, disposition, and interest of the speaker; such as are the names of Vertues, and Vices; For one man calleth Wisdome, what another calleth feare; and one cruelty, what another justice; one prodigality, what another magnanimity; and one gravity, what another stupidity, &c. And therefore such names can never be true grounds of any ratiocination. No more can Metaphors, and Tropes of speech: but these are less dangerous, because they profess their inconstancy; which the other do not.

And those who do deceive upon hope of not being observed, do commonly deceive themselves, (the darknesse in which they lye hidden, being nothing else but there own blindnesse;) and are no wiser than Children, that think all hid, by hiding there own eyes.
Fear of oppression disposes a man to anticipate or to seek aid by society, for there is no other way by which a man can secure his life and liberty.
The office of the sovereign (be it a monarch or an assembly) consists in the end for which he was trusted with the sovereign power, namely the procuration of the safety pf the people. To which he is obliged by the law of nature and to render an account thereof to God...and to none but Him.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140431950, Paperback)

Viewing politics as a science capable of the same axiomatic approach as mathematics, Thomas Hobbes' "Leviathan" retains its appeal for the modern reader, not just in its elevation of politics to a science, but in its overriding concern for peace. This "Penguin Classics" edition is edited with an introduction by C.B. Macpherson. Written during the turmoil of the English Civil War, "Leviathan" is an ambitious and highly original work of political philosophy. Claiming that man's essential nature is competitive and selfish, Hobbes formulates the case for a powerful sovereign or 'Leviathan' to enforce peace and the law, substituting security for the 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short' life he believed human beings would otherwise experience. This world view shocked many of Hobbes' contemporaries, and his work was publicly burnt for sedition and blasphemy when it was first published. But in his rejection of Aristotle's view of man as a naturally social being, and in his painstaking analysis of the ways in which society can and should function, Hobbes opened up a new world of political science. Based on the original 1651 text, this edition incorporates Hobbes' own corrections, while also retaining the original spelling and punctuation, and reads with vividness and clarity. C.B Macpherson's introduction elucidates for the general reader one of the most fascinating works of modern philosophy. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was an English philosopher and political theorist, one of the first modern Western thinkers to provide a secular justification for the political state. Regarded as an important early influence on the philosophical doctrine of utilitarianism, Hobbes also contributed to modern psychology and laid the foundations of modern sociology. If you enjoyed "Leviathan", you might enjoy Plato's "Republic", also available in "Penguin Classics".

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:39 -0400)

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WESTERN PHILOSOPHY. A magnificent literary achievement and the greatest work of political philosophy in the English language. Permanently challenging, it has found new applications and new refutations in every generation. Hobbes argues that human beings are first and foremost concerned with their own individual desires and fears. He shows that a conflict of each against every man can only be avoided by the adoption of a compact to enforce peace. The compact involves giving up some of our natural freedom to a sovereign power which will enforce the laws of peace on all citizens. Hobbes also analyses the subversive forces - religion, ambition, private conscience - that threaten to destroy the body politic, and return us to the state of war. This new edition reproduces the first printed text but modernizing the spelling. It offers exceptionally thorough annotation, an introduction that guides the reader through the complexities of Hobbes's arguments, and a substantial index.… (more)

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