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Leviathan Paperback – November 9, 2009
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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.Read more ›
If you want a good edition, you could go with the Hackett edition, edited by Edwin Curley, modernized and with the important variants (translated into English, of course) from the Latin edition of the Leviathan published during Hobbes' lifetime. A good edition that is not modernized is the Cambridge edition edited by Richard Tuck. (Having an editor does NOT necessarily mean that the text has been reduced; they often serve to rid the text of previous publishing typographical errors.) Which of these you should get will depend upon two things: Whether you are interested in the variants from the Latin edition, and whether you are comfortable reading something written in the 1600's. For most people, probably the modernized Hackett edition would be best, as many people have difficulty with 17th century English. But if you want Hobbes' exact words, I recommend the Cambridge edition. Whenever buying classic texts, which edition you buy can be extremely important, as the dreadful Prometheus edition demonstrates.
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.Read more ›
I gave this 5 stars because Hobbes himself deserves 5 stars for his provocative ideas. If you're familiar & comfortable with Shakespeare's language, you won't be put off by the cavalier spelling & grammar rules of Hobbes' era. This is not to say that Hobbes writes in blank verse (haha), but that the language is a bit arcane & takes some acclimatization.
Footnotes were, for the most part good - in the body of the text, foreign phrases were translated for those woefully ignorant (like me) of Latin & ancient Greek. However, in the post-ceding criticisms, this very positive practice was discontinued. As in, whole footnotes in Latin & German were not translated. So, get your browsers set to Babelfish, baby.
The accompanying criticisms are a mixed bag - some worth reading, some, not so much. They help elucidate some points - which is great for a casual reader like myself. Others just serve to annoy.
Eitherway, if you're looking for a definitive edition of the Leviathan, don't look here because you will miss about 1/3 of the actual text which Hobbes wrote down. If you want to skip the parts about theology & much of that which was tied into the Christian Commonwealth, then this is your edition.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Find yourself eating up philosophies of political economy? Edify yourself by delving into a few sections of this book. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Richie
Book in good condition,, seems all the necessary words are included.Published 3 months ago by DurangoDad
It's hard to stay in the Hobbesian realm when the world is starting to lose its confidence on authorities, a huge deviation on Hobbes' idea of the Leviathan. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Jason
16th century governmental thought has transcended and ingrained into the 21st century, thanks to this piece of literature.Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer