Philosophical Work: Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan Term Paper

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[. . .] In democracy, Hobbes does not see a theological threat, but simply the practical limitations of allowing a great deal of human freedom in making choices regarding the institutions of human governance. He takes a deflationary view of monarch as a man, noting, "first, that whosoever beareth the person of the people, or is one of that assembly that bears it, beareth also his own natural person. And though he be careful in his politic person to procure the common interest, yet he is more, or no less, careful to procure the private good of himself, his family, kindred and friends; and for the most part, if the public interest chance to cross the private, he prefers the private: for the passions of men are commonly more potent than their reason." He also states that succession can be difficult in a monarchial context, and can produce poor leaders.

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This statement of course begs the question of how any change of governance is possible in the face of a tyrannical form of government or a bad monarch. For instance, a successive monarch, as stated in Chapter 29, might have no stomach for governance and governs poorly. "Of which this is one: that a man to obtain a kingdom is sometimes content with less power than to the peace and defense of the Commonwealth is necessarily required. From whence it cometh to pass that when the exercise of the power laid by is for the public safety to be resumed, it hath the resemblance of an unjust act, which disposeth great numbers of men, when occasion is presented, to rebel; in the same manner as the bodies of children gotten by diseased parents are subject either to untimely death, or to purge the ill quality derived from their vicious conception, by breaking out into biles and scabs." The divine body of the state can become weak polluted if the body of the monarch is weak and polluted, states Hobbes.

Term Paper on Philosophical Work: Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan Assignment

However, Hobbes perceives the dangers of anarchy as far greater than the dangers of limiting human impulses. In the face of a weak monarch, a weak state that is taken over by another monarch will result. He sees the potential divisiveness of a weak assembly to be more likely than sovereign weakness. The danger of weakness rather than tyranny is also why Hobbes tends to view the institution of kingship, with all of its faults as more secure than modes of governance based on assembly. He ends Chapter 29 noting that "for the sovereign is the public soul, giving life and motion to the Commonwealth, which expiring, the members are governed by it no more than the carcass of a man by his departed, though immortal, soul. For though the right of a sovereign monarch cannot be extinguished by the act of another, yet the obligation of the members may. For he that wants protection may seek it anywhere; and, when he hath it, is obliged (without fraudulent pretence of having submitted himself out of fear) to protect his protection as long as he is able. But when the power of an assembly is once suppressed, the right of the same perisheth utterly, because the assembly itself is extinct; and consequently, there is no possibility for sovereignty to re-enter." The dangers of extinguishing sovereignty are greater, because a monarch may succeed the dead, but once a constitution is dead -- what will replace it?

Hobbes' main purpose in writing Leviathan was thus to lay the practical, political philosophical foundation for a secular defense of what was originally defended as divine institution, that of monarchy, based upon a presumption of the basic nature of humanity, although he did draw from examples from ancient and classical modes of assembly governance in his defense, rather than examples from the immediate world around. His work still shows, despite its antiquity, the potency of an almost completely unsentimental view of human nature, despite the nature of abstraction from which his text argues from, rather than its specificity.

Work Cited

Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan or the Matter, Forme and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil. Originally published 1651.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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