Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-kw98b Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-24T14:10:45.847Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

8 - Hobbes’s Leviathan

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 October 2014

Thomas L. Pangle
Affiliation:
University of Texas, Austin
Timothy W. Burns
Affiliation:
Baylor University, Texas
Get access

Summary

Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), more clearly than anyone else, elaborated the conceptual framework that has predominated in all distinctively modern political thought ever since: government conceived as a “social contract” among radically independent individuals intending to protect their personal, pre-political liberties or “rights.” Hobbes laid out this framework and provided its philosophic justification, in several successive treatises, but his acknowledged masterpiece is Leviathan.

The Broad Historical Context

In the century and a half immediately prior to Hobbes, there had been two momentous reshapings of the intellectual landscape: first, the Protestant Reformation, which split Christianity forever into competing and, for a long time, warring sects; second, the emergence of modern, materialistic-mathematical physics – and the new, Baconian project of technology that we studied in the previous chapter. Hobbes’s political thought is deeply shaped by both these transformations.

Hobbes was transfixed by the sight of the horrible religious wars convulsing Europe, and he detected as their chief cause the fight among sects over clashing interpretations of what the Bible teaches government ought to implement in order to foster the “highest good” – the piety and the justice that maximize virtue as the source of the health or salvation of the soul. Hobbes reacted by leading the way to the implementation of a new, drastically lowered, conception of the goals of government. Hobbes was the first to propose a conception of civic justice and the common good that removed from civic purview the whole question of the good life, in the sense of spiritual fulfillment.

Type
Chapter
Information
The Key Texts of Political Philosophy
An Introduction
, pp. 246 - 275
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2014

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×