Talk:Leviathan (book)

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Incorrect sentence[edit]

"He thus denied any right of rebellion toward the social contract, which would be later amended by John Locke and conserved by Jean-Jacques Rousseau."

This is wrong, wrong, wrong so I am deleting it. Hobbes thought you could rebel if the state failed to fulfil that reason for which you founded it: your self-preservation. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:32, 20 October 2009 (UTC)


Yes, I disagree indeed. I came to this page interested in the book and greatly appreciated these quotes, which give judicious access to the flavor of the language and the thinking of Hobbes. Ten pages of quotes might be too much, but a page or two is not, given the luxury of space in Wikipedia. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk)

I wouldn't want to undermine the original creator, but I think this would be more useful as a source of information if it relied less heavily on quotations from the text. Any disagreement? J.T.

(William M. Connolley 21:39, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)) Filling out the Leviathan page was a project of mine that has fallen by the wayside, sadly. I've now added something to part II - but it by no means covers it all. The problem I find is that Hobbes language is so wonderful I hate to replace it with boring paraphrase. However the section is too long (and there is much more to fit in). Its also almost entirely descriptive, rather than judgemental: perhaps that is a good thing. So what I have written needs to be cut and expanded. One day I will: but in the meantime feel free.

(William M. Connolley 08:23, 27 Oct 2004 (UTC)) OK, I've done III and IV now too, rather better I hope. II needs finishing and tidying a lot. Rev+Conc needs doing. There is quite a bit on Lev on the TH page too - not sure if it should be merged in here.


I'm going to add a sentence to the introduction that summarizes the modern sense of the word leviathan, as derived from Hobbes. Tobacman 19:03, 23 Dec 2004 (UTC)

The article uses way too much original text. It should be paraphrased so people will be able to understand exactly what Hobbes is saying versus illustrating how he is saying it.

(William M. Connolley 09:55, 21 Feb 2005 (UTC)) I like Hobbe's language, and it was the fastest way of writing the article,. But it could probably be tidied up.

Hi there! Just to let you know that theres a mistake under "Diverse" it says "A quote from that book dfd;lskfjd;lsfjd;lskfj;salkf jd;lsaf j at one time used in the wikipedia logo."

Just thought i'd let you know, Neil B

Removed para: why[edit]

I removed:

The essence of Hobbes' description is that the state of nature (or God's original creation) is one of war. In this state of nature, man's condition is defined as misery. Man draws upon "passions that incline men to peace and fear of death," as well as some limited form of natural reason to create and agree upon a convent in which there exists articles of peace. These form the "Laws of Nature" which allow for the creation of a Sovereign who has absolute power and essentially solves the problem of the state of nature. The Sovereign is seen as a lesser evil in that it is the only solution to the worse outcome that is the state of nature. The presence of the Sovereign allows for the development and the support of man's higher reason which in turn allows for science. Science plays an important role in Hobbes' discourse, yet science is dependent upon the presence of the Sovereign. It is important to remember that the Sovereign is not defined as one individual, but as one absolute power. This absolute power may be composed of multipe individuals, i.e. in the form of government.

Some of this duplicates what is already there (the SoN bit). man's condition is defined as misery is wrong (or at least defined is wrong). But the quote above has already done that.

But the real mistake is the Sovereign bit - none of that is in part 1. Its in part 2. As the existing article already says :-) William M. Connolley 21:43, 15 February 2006 (UTC).


KP "fixed" a couple of spellings [1]. Of those, Naturall should definitely stay "ll" cos its the text. "Civill" is a bit harder: in the frontispiece its Civil; in the subtitle on the title page its Civill. I prefer the ll; and "leave original spelling" hopefully applies William M. Connolley 22:47, 27 February 2006 (UTC)

I noticed this myself when I picked up a copy of the book a couple days ago, and then went back to revert it but noticed someone beat me to it. From now on while reading articles on books written in archaic english, I'll try to control my sudden impulses to grammarize and spellify everything I see. Sorry about that. user:knowledgepirate 18:56, 2 March 2006

This should contain a section on the modern relevance perhaps[edit]

Its often stated that leviathan is relevant to modern politics

Yep, it underlies the US foreign policy. But it might prove just a teensy bit controversial to assert that :-) William M. Connolley 21:48, 13 May 2006 (UTC)
I'm up for writing a section devoted to modern reevaluation of the writing, as well as a section devoted toward criticism of it. CapitalistOverlord (talk) 01:01, 18 February 2012 (UTC)


Is the frontispiece for Leviathan really an etching? I can't find any other sources that say so, and I've found a few that say that it's an engraving.

[2], Thomas Hobbes and the Title-Page of "Leviathan", Keith Brown, Philosophy, Vol. 55, No. 213 (Jul., 1980), pp. 410-411

Bosse was an etcher, but he also did engravings (or at least etching/engraving hybrids). Are we sure that this is an etching? I'm taking that out until someone proves otherwise. superlusertc 2007 September 27, 05:38 (UTC)

1 title or two?[edit]

Re [3]. I think its two titles; after the "or" is a subtitle. Hence the edit should be reverted William M. Connolley (talk) 21:29, 13 December 2007 (UTC)

A fair question. My opinion is, of course, that it is one title, which is why I reverted it. As to why, consider the following.
  • Or is capitalized, suggesting that it's part of the title, not a separate thing connecting two independent titles.
  • Every place that I see has it listed as part of the title.
  • Consider Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and Twelfth Night, or What You Will. So spelt on the English Wikipedia.
  • The Chicago Manual of Style recommends the following treatments for Old-fashioned titles
    • England's Monitor; or, The History of the Separation
    • England's Monitor, or The History of the Separation
  • It's managed to remain unchanged for over a year. You'd think that the first sentence in a high-profile article like Leviathan would be changed if it were wrong.
I think we might be getting into a WP:LAME area, so I'm really amenable to either decision, but I do note that Wikipedia's style manual does not seem to provide any guidance on this issue. This means that what we decide here may eventually be used to come up with a policy on Wikipedia. superlusertc 2007 December 14, 06:27 (UTC)
Actually, I might just go ahead and add a category for "books with old-fashioned titles," not because I think it's particularly encyclopedic, but because I think that it would help in determining a policy. superlusertc 2007 December 14, 06:30 (UTC)
Hmm, I hadn't noticed yours was a revert, I thought it was a change. Anyway, I still think its called just L, with the rest as subtitle. But that may just be a personal preference; I'm not sure how we could decide this authoritatively William M. Connolley (talk) 21:13, 14 December 2007 (UTC)
I've written a proposal at WP:SUBTITLES. If you have opinions (and it sounds like you do), I'd really like to hear them over there. superlusertc 2007 December 19, 00:51 (UTC)

Spare text[edit]

RJC edited Hobbes for summary style; I've dumped the excess text into the intro here. Perhaps it should be pared down somewhat, I'm not sure William M. Connolley (talk) 12:11, 13 January 2008 (UTC)

More headings[edit]

Needs more headings, especially the intro. -- TimNelson (talk) 02:31, 6 February 2008 (UTC)


I disagree with capitalising scripture. MOS says The names of major revered works of scripture like the Bible, the Qur'an, the Talmud, and the Vedas should be capitalized. That doesn't seem to be relevant to the issue William M. Connolley (talk) 07:45, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

When we use "Scripture" to refer to the Bible, we are using it as a name for a holy text. RJC TalkContribs 15:55, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

Meaning of the title[edit]

Could someone clarify who or what Hobbes's "Leviathan" refers to, perhaps with a quoted passage from the book? Does the Leviathan refer to a state or a ruler, and is it used in an appreciative or pejorative sense? If it refers to a ruler, how does Hobbes's "Leviathan" differ from, say, Machiavelli's "Prince"? Hah, I realize that the preceding sounds like an essay prompt for a high school literature exam. I assure respondents I am well out of school and not seeking homework help. :-) Robert K S (talk) 17:50, 14 January 2009 (UTC)

Update: I am directed to an article that notes: "In the cultural climate of the 1650s, with the legions of monster tropes in polemical literature, no text that describes the commonwealth as a Leviathan could fail to provoke and disturb. Hobbes was aware of the dreadful connotations of the name, as his autobiography demonstrates, and as the exchange with Bishop Bramhall shows, he was quite capable of deliberately unsettling his readers with associations between the monstrous and his text. The inference that Hobbes's Leviathan assumes its strange title at least in part to provoke and disturb is inescapable. From the patristics to Protestant commentators in the English tradition, the Leviathan is consistently interpreted as the symbol of the devil. Milton, for instance, opens Paradise Lost with Satan prone upon the lake of Hell as a Leviathan." But if Hobbes was unironically nostalgic for an absolute power system, it makes little sense that he would use a pejorative to symbolize an authority. (I should add the disclaimer that I have not read Leviathan.) Robert K S (talk) 17:59, 14 January 2009 (UTC)

Inalienable Rights[edit]

Hey guys, just made a little correction that people often miss, and I wanted to explain myself more clearly here so it doesn't get erased.

Thomas Hobbes, not John Locke, actually originated the concept of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness (or at least, he's the earliest thinker that I know to have iterated it explicitly). Check Chapter XIV pg. 93 in the Revised Student Edition, Ed. Richard Tuck:

And therefore there be some Rights, which no man can be understood by any words, or other signes, to have abandoned, or transferred [Inalienable Rights]. As first a man cannot lay down the right of resisiting them, that assault him by force, to take away his life; because he canot be understood to ayme thereby, at any Good to himself [Life]. The same may be sayd of Wounds, and Chayns, and Imprisonment; both because there is not benefit consequent to such patience; as there is to the patience of suffering another to be wounded, or imprisoned: as also because a man cannot tell, when he seeth men proceed against him by violence, whether they intend his death or not [Liberty]. And lastly the motive, and end for which this renouncing and transferring of Right is introduced, is nothing else but the security of a mans person, in his life, and in the means of so preserving life, as not to be weary of it [Pursuit of Happiness].

If you have any questions, please direct them to me.

Tethros (talk) 23:26, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

Inalienable rights?[edit]

I'm not sure what this [4] refers to. Hobbes certainly states that you can't give up your right to resist force, or imprisonment; but he certainly doesn't mean by this that you have a "right" not to be imprisonned William M. Connolley (talk) 23:33, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

Yes, that is absolutely correct. Of course, neither does Locke deny that imprisonment is a sometimes necessary evil for violations of the social contract. The point of the passage is to clarify the epistemological heritage of the concept of an inalienable right, which while often attributed to Locke, can actually be traced back even further, to Hobbes. It refers to the passage that I included in my previous post.

Tethros (talk) 07:27, 16 February 2009 (UTC)

Hmm, OK, I missed your comment above. So: However, Hobbes also posits a primitive form of the inalienable rights--which would later be rehashed by John Locke--implying that some covenants may be derived axiomatically, and consequently held to be universally true. I don't think you can say "which would later be rehashed by John Locke". Possibly "more popularly expounded by" or somesuch. And I'm not sure that "some covenants may be derived axiomatically" is correct. Hobbes isn't deriving any covenants in that passage - he is explaining why some rights cannot be traded away William M. Connolley (talk) 10:09, 16 February 2009 (UTC)
Technically, Locke doesn't speak of inalienable rights, either. The government is limited in what it can do by the fact that it can have no more authority than what was ceded to it and no one has the power to cede certain protections because they lack that power over themselves (not because they possess a right which they cannot cede). A. John Simmons wrote an article on this in the mid 90s. And for Locke, you can lose the right to life, namely, by committing a crime against the law of nature. "Inalienable rights" implies limits on legitimate government, and I wouldn't put Hobbes in the "limited government" camp. RJC TalkContribs 16:50, 16 February 2009 (UTC)

more is needed[edit]

what happened to twelve rights of nature, self defense and determination, the golden rule, ect....the page is missing most of the main pionts. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:50, 2 April 2009 (UTC)

For self defence, do you mean "His first law of nature is that that every man ought to endeavour peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek and use all helps and advantages of war. In the state of nature, every man has a right to every thing, even to one another's body "? Twelve rights... not sure what you mean? Can you quote chapter and verse. Etc William M. Connolley (talk) 20:18, 2 April 2009 (UTC)

Galileo? Flat Earth?[edit]

I see problems in the text bellow:

At the end of this comes an interesting section (darkness is suppressing true knowledge as well as introducing falsehoods), which would appear to bear on the discoveries of Galileo Galilei. "Our own navigations make manifest, and all men learned in human sciences now acknowledge, there are antipodes" (i.e., the Earth is round) "…Nevertheless, men… have been punished for it by authority ecclesiastical. But what reason is there for it? Is it because such opinions are contrary to true religion? That cannot be, if they be true."

  • First, knowledge about the spherical Earth has nothing to do with discoveries of Galileo. Educated people from the Middle Ages already knew very well that the Earth was round like a ball (see Flat Earth). Galileo had problems for arguing that the Sun (and not the Earth) was the center of the cosmos, but everyone involved in the dispute was in agreement that the Earth was spherical.
  • Moreover, to say that there are no "antipodes" is NOT (necessarily) to argue against a round earth. The term "antipodes" can mean: (1) the "lands on the opposite side of the world" or (2) "the people living in the opposite side of the world". For instance, this second meaning is the one adopted by Augustine in this quotation:
But as to the fable that there are Antipodes, that is to say, men on the opposite side of the earth, (...) that is on no ground credible. (...) although it be supposed or scientifically demonstrated that the world is of a round and spherical form, yet it does not follow that the other side of the earth is bare of water; nor even, though it be bare, does it immediately follow that it is peopled...

Since knowledge about the round shape of the Earth was uncontroversial among ecclesiastical authorities, it seems far more likely that Hobbes is using the second meaning in his alleged case of persecution. --Leinad-Z (talk) 14:42, 19 April 2009 (UTC)

The text is mine [5]. But you may well have a point William M. Connolley (talk) 20:33, 19 April 2009 (UTC)


The sentence "So we end up back at the first-born son, in practice" sounds like a conclusion that should be sourced. Patrilineality or Patrilineal_descent_of_Elizabeth_II seem relevant. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:32, 2 March 2010 (UTC)

Needs revision[edit]

Hobbes wasn't happy for truth being suppressed, I believe it was just another instance to criticize the church. Civil authority means the people's faith, and Hobbes argues that only civil authority can "regulate the truth" opposing the power that the church had at the time, and which it used to abuse people's rights.

"Nevertheless, men… have been punished for it by authority ecclesiastical. But what reason is there for it? Is it because such opinions are contrary to true religion? That cannot be, if they be true." However, Hobbes is quite happy for the truth to be suppressed if necessary: if "they tend to disorder in government, as countenancing rebellion or sedition? Then let them be silenced, and the teachers punished" — but only by the civil authority."

The first is by extinguishing the light of scripture through misinterpretation. Hobbes sees the main abuse as teaching that the kingdom of God can be found in the church, thus undermining the authority of the civil sovereign. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:22, 13 September 2010 (UTC)

What's up with the weird rant in the Commonwealth section?[edit]

What's up with the weird rant in the Commonwealth section? Definitely seems like it doesn't belong there. Not only is it screwing up the formatting of the page, but it seems to be some sort of semi-conspiracy theory babble about modern day society?...

it's here:

OLIGARCHY raises its head as a sea monster and its products have and can claim it is a form of commonwealth (synechdoche is of what's due to the English wording distributing encyclopedia information) the manufacture that is ostensibly shared freely enriching everyone equally though {this} noted by monopoly (software stimulation) and ownerships of products by consumers a wealth which becomes Sovereign according to Thomas Hobbes when he notes what is found Grant in the Leviathan the ownerships {scanned UCC] and solicitable there is the forcible entry by a monarch [that which] is not of democracy as Americans feared the writs of assistance and the bill of attainder and there are ex post facto laws defeating the self in monarchy though of the best chosen to govern an aristocracy need not hold in custody by the use of force in trespass those agreeable to know who and what becomes educated the best certainly not data entry internet of the convenience of aptitude as herein is noted offering to edit the words of a public domain publication enclopedic and verifiable ISBN 0-486-44794-4 numbers and deuteronomy to levitus and exodus of where the accretion parts waters in TRUST to the CONQUEST and the SUBMISSION the involvement daily not distracted adverstising submitting to rules and regulations in order to be comfortable as a commonwealth arraignement characterizes the Monarch and not the cunning Aristocrat both of large numbers a leviathan removing from what is at large criminal notable that each one self is found having been issued keys to the ignition the cognition is ancient and not modern to wit ... the steering of wheels is but metaphorical.

"I upholster the windshield" is not a form of government or commonwealth though the electronic display of the wording is identical to the manufacture what variance is why I herein apply the alternating current(often of coils wound around cores counting consoles) to do the keys of the computer typewriter projecting as were the papers inked bound and paginated wording onto the screen these sorts of statements wealthy as they are in common and I am not prevaricating to seventy Elders the airplane each then common as one's housing in wealth the wings only to trespass the houses with cockpits like a sea monster as there are tires treading below each fuselage and why govern nations of the jet engines an I noting the battery assaultive is not to have been accorded autonomy, Hobbes is quoting "Those Bodies made for the government of Men, or of Trafffique, (be) either perptuall ..." RE parking lots and airports ... terminals and plates to have been prescribed by writing ... and the commands to towns of Subjects and Deputies ... how are the People represented? There are not three forms of commonwealth ... the people to have assembled As SOVEREIGN is democracy without one REPRESENTATIVE SELF ... Aristocracy of numerous lives chosen the best capable

yeah. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:26, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

Junk by EISNERS [6] now removed William M. Connolley (talk) 08:04, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

However, Hobbes also posits a primitive form of the inalienable rights[edit]

M tagged:

However, Hobbes also posits a primitive form of the inalienable rights – which would later be restated by John Locke – implying that some covenants may be derived axiomatically, and consequently held to be universally true.[citation needed]

Looking back, this was added by [7] so I don't much trust it. Re-reading the chapter, I think it might be referring to

Whensoever a man transferreth his right or renounceth it, it is either in consideration of some right reciprocally transferred to himself, or for some other good he hopeth for thereby. For it is a voluntary act; and of the voluntary acts of every man the object is some good ‘to himself.’ And therefore there be some rights which no man can be understood by any words or other signs to have abandoned or transferred. As first a man cannot lay down the right of resisting them that assault him by force to take away his life, because he cannot be understood to aim thereby at any good to himself. [8]

though that doesn't fit the "implying" bit. I'd suggest the text stay out William M. Connolley (talk) 22:35, 2 February 2012 (UTC)

Need for revision of "Part I: Of Man"[edit]

The content of the section "Part I: Of Man" is longwinded, undirected, and contains weasel words. Given the purpose of an encyclopedia article to introduce the subject at hand in a succinct and authoritative manner, this section should contain a focused statement about what Hobbes was doing in this first part of the book. The quoted passages are unnecessary and distracting (although they could be moved to footnotes, if deemed helpful by other editors), and the drawn out discussion of causes a bit tedious. Lastly, errors of syntax abound, e.g. "Hobbes attempts an analysis of society from first principles, beginning with Man and the Senses" (man and the senses is not an analysis of society). I propose the following:

In Part I, Hobbes begins his analysis with a view of the human and the capacity to know. He develops this in a sequence of definitions about the senses and the capacity to interpret the natural world, and the passions that humans use to navigate their social relations, such as hope and honor. He finds three basic causes of the conflict in the state of nature: competition, diffidence and glory. Without any mediating authority, these attributes force humans into warlike circumstances.[1] In the state of nature, as Hobbes puts it, "every man has a right to every thing, even to one another's body."[2] This leads to the formulation of Hobbe's second law: in order to secure the advantages of peace humans will form a contract of peace with each other, which affords each other the same liberties.[3] This is the beginning of contracts/covenants, which is the third law of nature.

If more is required about concepts of the self, as proposed by user:RJC ("view of man as matter in motion"), I suggest those be incorporated into my proposed edit as it is certainly not clear in the current version--nor do I see this as a particularly important aspect that needs highlighting in the article. Socialtheorynow (talk) 21:18, 15 September 2012 (UTC)

You're a touch new to be so forceful. Play yourself in, there are plenty of areas where wiki can be improved where other people won't disagree, then come back William M. Connolley (talk) 21:42, 15 September 2012 (UTC)
So I get this welcome message that refers me to this link: WP:Bold, which makes me think that not only is it in the right of every Wikipedian to be assertive, but in fact encouraged. But let's be clear here, I am not making arbitrary changes based on a superficial reading of the text or whimsical copy editing, but rather reasonable suggestions to improve the article and clarify the meaning. I think these suggestions deserve to be taken seriously and not dismissed because I have only recently decided to take time to expand my academic expertise outside of the academy and to the public form of Wikipedia. If my suggestions are not legitimate then please say why. And if not, then please make the effort to make other suggestions in order to improve the article, for it is in dire need of consolidation and clarification, not to mention citation, in order to read as a concise encyclopedia entry. Socialtheorynow (talk) 06:35, 16 September 2012 (UTC)
Oh, and you're wrong as well. "man and the senses" is, indeed, not an analysis of society but his starting point or beginning for the analysis; so there is no syntax error William M. Connolley (talk) 21:43, 15 September 2012 (UTC)
I think what is meant is that Hobbes begins his analysis of social organization from an inquiry into the individual and his sentiments. But again, this should be clarified. Socialtheorynow (talk) 06:35, 16 September 2012 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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  1. ^ Chap. 13, para. 6.
  2. ^ Chapter 13
  3. ^ Chap. 14, para. 5.