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Leviathan (Penguin Classics) Paperback – February 25, 1982

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (February 25, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140431950
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140431957
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,477 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Review from other book by this author: '[Malcolm's edition of the Hobbes Correspondence is] an important literary and philosophical event.' --A. C. Grayling, Financial Times

'The range and depth of Dr Noel Malcolm's scholarship are beyond praise and almost beyond belief.' --D. D. Raphael, Political Studies --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Publisher

Library of Liberal Arts title. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

For me, Norton Critical editions contains a good abridged text with excellent supplementary readings.
Peter G. Stillman
I will just say that Leviathan is a 5-star classic and worth your time, if you can deal with reading political philosophy.
Ritesh Laud
Personally, I believe that Hobbes is better than anyone else at explaining the nature of man and the nature of power.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

107 of 121 people found the following review helpful By Ritesh Laud on July 5, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I finished reading Leviathan a couple months ago, but cringed every time I thought about writing a review. The book is large at over 700 pages and covers so much ground, a review would have to be a book in itself to do it justice. Due to Leviathan's philosophical content and somewhat antiquated language, it's very slow going. Each page needs time to digest.
So I'm not going to bother writing a real review. I will just say that Leviathan is a 5-star classic and worth your time, if you can deal with reading political philosophy. Hobbes divides the work into four major sections:
Of Man, in which he discusses human nature and why civilized people prefer peace to war. Here Hobbes establishes the primary reason that people form a government to rule over them: to safeguard them from enemies, both external and internal.
Of Common-wealth, in which Hobbes first talks about the several forms of government and the pros and cons of each. He then explains the rights that a government has over its people; according to Hobbes, the government can do pretty much anything it wants to. Finally he goes into the things that tend to weaken or dissolve a government.
Of a Christian Common-wealth, the longest section, in which Hobbes accepts the Bible as the word of God and quotes from it numerous time to bolster his position in support of a powerful government.
Of the Kingdome of Darknesse, the shortest and strangest section, in which Hobbes veers away from the topic of government and instead focuses on religious practices and beliefs of the day that he deems improper and inconsistent with the Bible.
It took me months to read this, but I came away with great respect for Hobbes and a better understanding of politics.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Myers VINE VOICE on January 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
Hobbes' sole claim to fame these days is the out-of-context quotation from him that life is "nasty, brutish, and short." The full quotation from chapter 13, section 9 which inveighs against the state of war, in concluding the statement on man's condition in such a state, is "and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."-Beats me why "solitary" and "poor" are left out of the popular quotation-The point is, this is the condition Hobbes wanted to AVOID, not to justify! He had just lived through the bloodfest known as the English Civil War in which many of his friends were horribly slaughtered because of their religious beliefs. His whole point in writing this book was to advance arguments that one should not go to war over differences in religion. His controversial alternative is absolute obedience to the state and secular authorities. This alternative combined with the quote, noted above, so maddeningly and frequently taken out of context, have given Hobbes and his work the undeserved reputation as, well, curmudgeonly. One might ask what sort of book you might write if you had just witnessed the horrific slaughter and loss of esteemed friends that Hobbes had. You would probably write a book urging peace at any price even if it meant undue subjugation to the state at times. This is exactly what Hobbes did.-Hobbes belongs to that majestic, good-natured and unflappable tradition of brilliant English heretical political and religious writers including, among others, David Hume (well, Scottish too) and Bertrand Russell who seemed merely humored by the ecclesiastics calling down hell-fire upon them and similar dire threats from men in power.Read more ›
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50 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Derek Jones on March 15, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Being a free Kindle edition there is no introduction and no notes - but you do get most of the text and all the passages that matter. The main difference from the original is that there are fewer capitals and italics. Hobbes used them for emphasis very much more than a modern writer would, and their pruning in this edition makes the text easier to read.

Modern political philosophy begins with Hobbes. Before Hobbes, writers for centuries had accepted the divine right of kings or did not think much about the origins of government. Hobbes provides reasons as to how and why men come together to form government. He starts with the assumption that the organized state is a choice. The alternative is the "state of nature", where there is both a "right" of nature and "laws" of nature. Hobbes uses these terms in a very individual way. The "right" of nature is "the Liberty each man hath, to use his own power...for the preservation of his own Life". The "laws" of nature dictate that each person should seek to live with others in peace, and should only retain the right to as much liberty as he is willing to permit others. These "laws" are found by reason, and are utilitarian rather than moral. Hobbes is simply saying that if men think about their situation, reason tells them that giving up their natural rights in exchange for others doing likewise is the best means of self-preservation, even though actually doing it is contrary to human nature.

On human nature Hobbes is cynical. Reason suggests advantages stem from co-operation, but unless men are constrained by an external authority this is outweighed by instinct. Men are fundamentally competitive and selfish.
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