But how are unity, peace and security to be attained? Hobbes's answer is soveriegnty, but the resurgence of interest today in Leviathan is due less to its answers than its methods. Hobbes sees politics as a science capable of the same axiomatic approach as geometry: he argues from first principles to human nature to politics. Written during the turmoils of the Civil War, Leviathan was, in Hobbes's lifetime, publicly burnt and even condemned in Parliament as one of the causes of the Great Fire of London? Its appeal to the twentieth century lies not just in its elevation of politics to a science, but in its overrideing concern for peace. Its argument that the state of nature, in which life is "nasty, brutish and short" (and patriarchal), is important, but so too is its systematic analysis of power, and its convincing apologia for the then emergent market society in which we still live.
"During the time men live without a common Power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called Warre"
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 sovereignor "Leviathan"to enforce peace and the law, substituting security for the anarchic freedom he believed human beings would otherwise experience. This worldview shocked many of Hobbes's 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 whole new world of political science.
Based on the original 1651 text, this edition incorporates Hobbes's own corrections, while also retaining the original spelling and punctuation, to read with vividness and clarity. C. B. Macpherson's introduction elucidates one of the most fascinating works of modern philosophy for the general reader.
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Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was born in Malmesbury. Entering Magdalen Hall, Oxford, in 1603, he took his degree in 1608 and became tutor to the eldest son of Lord Cavendish of Hardwick, afterwards the Earl of Devonshire; his connection with this family was life-long. His first interest was in the classics, and his first published work a translation of Thucydides, in 1628. An interest in science and philosophy soon developed, heightened by extended travels in Europe in 1629-31 and 1634-37. This led to his great project of a political science. His first verson of this, The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic, was privately circulated in 1640, when Parliament was hotly disputing the king's powers, and Hobbes fled to Paris, where he stayed for eleven years.
A second version, De Cive, was published in 1642, and the third, Leviathanthe crowning achievement of his political sciencein 1651. It was so influential that it came under widespread attack and was in danger of condemnation by the House of Commons. Hobbes perforce lived quietly and published little more on political matters. At the age of eighty-four he composed an autobiography in Latin verse, and within the next three years translated the whole of Homer's Odyssey and Iliad.