All posts tagged life

The Leviathan

Thomas Hobbes’s work concerned society, religion, and the definition of legitimate government. He published his most famous work, Leviathan, in 1651 during the height of the English Civil War. Hobbes wrote the Leviathan in France, against the backdrop of the chaos of civil war in his home country. The Parliamentarians rose against the Monarchists during the English Civil War. The Parliamentarians were in favor of a government where leaders were elected by the people. The Monarchists were in favor of a government ruled by a monarch based on the principles of divine right. This chaos caused Hobbes to question what was going on around him. The Leviathan, in turn, expresses a compromise between the two warring parties. Hobbes believes that Civil War, as well as chaos, is related to the “State of Nature”, or the time that hypothetically precedes government. He believes that the only way to avert such situations is to have a strong central government. Hobbes believes in a reconciliation of their differences and sought to seek a government where both King and Parliament shared power.

Rejection of Separation of Powers, Commonwealth and Sovereign Rights are three strong themes in Leviathan.  Hobbes discusses that the powers of government should be centered around the Monarch, but distributed to parliament. Hobbes believes in the society founded for the common good, as well as rights reserved for the Sovereign ruler alone, such as assertion of powers dealing with faith and doctrine. According to Leviathan, the difference between monarchy, aristocracy and democracy is the Sovereign who rules each respective government. For a King to be successful or rich, he must insure his subjects are prosperous. Therefore, a Monarchy is the most sustainable form of government, according to Hobbes. In Part IV of the Leviathan, “The Kingdom of Darkness”, Hobbes talks about the darkness of ignorance compared to the light of knowledge. Hobbes declares such ignorance as misinterpretation of scripture, demonology, and mixing Scripture with the relics of Religion, i.e. the case of Galileo and letting religion rule out new findings and knowledge. These are each powerful and radical points for Hobbes’s time—so radical that Hobbes’s work offended English Royalist Refugees, as well as the French government. After publishing Leviathan Hobbes was forced to flee to London, where he ceased all political activity.

The Leviathan covers many themes of governmental, societal, and individual practice. A major theme of Hobbes’s is that of “social contractarianism”. Hobbes believes in a social contract by which people may live their lives to escape the “State of Nature.”  The “State of Nature” is a term meant to describe the condition which preceded  the establishment of governments. Hobbes believes in “The State” as well as what he calls “the Laws of Nature”. The “Laws of Nature” are universal and determined by nature. Hobbes writing shows the reader how humans are reasonable: “Because men are reasonable, they can see their way out of such a state by recognizing the laws of nature, which show them the means by which to escape the State of Nature and create civil society.” This is important because it shows the reader how people do and should function within society.

Behavior and reason all play in to the way people function within a society. On a more metaphysical level, Hobbes discusses how the external world is only noticeable through our human senses, and that we can only prove the existence of things that we sense. “The cause of Sense, is the External Body, or Object, which presseth the organ proper to each Sense, either immediately, as in the Taste and Touch; or mediately, as in Seeing, Hearing, and Smelling…”

I was inspired by Hobbes because of the way that he seemed to strive for compromise. Hobbes explains how humans are reasonable beasts and how we have the ability to escape the “State of Nature”, a place where we often find ourselves. Hobbes agreed with both sides of the English Civil War while he was alive. He accepted the fact that the King deserved power, but he also argued for the legitimacy of Parliament. The fact that Hobbes was able to have this amount of insight in the 17th century pertaining to social order, structure, and the laws of man and nature is inspiring. His recognition of the need for a central government and division of powers shows a strong vision. His understanding of the need for the light of knowledge and his bias against ignorance is a quality that would benefit the world today.

Leviathan is relevant to me because it relates to both my life and my projects. I feel that I also strive for knowledge, respect others, and try to spread my passion. Currently, trying to get involved with the Transition Town movement, I have to be open to others and the visions they have for my community. Acting and cooperating within a society is an important part of life and an important part of Hobbes’s work. He has taught me that you must always be willing to rise above nature, and accept different approaches and  points of view to solve differences.




1 “Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” Social Contract Theory []. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. <>.

2 (“Leviathan (Penguin Classics) [Paperback].” Leviathan (Penguin Classics) (9780140431957): Thomas Hobbes: Books. Web. 12 Apr. 2012. <>. Pg. 85

Week of the 23rd

This week has been one of the most interesting and fruitful so far. The work with Ralph this week took off and we finally got a full week in to discuss and meditate over my reading in The Promise of Politics. Part of our discussion this week circled around Religion, Fate Vs. Destiny, and the idea of freewill. These concepts stuck with and challenged me to see my life and my learning in a new perspective. Challenging the idea of Fate Vs. Destiny, it was very hard for me to see how fate and freewill could both exist in the same world. Here are some questions prompted by the reading I did in Arendt (2005) this week:


  • Aren’t fate and freewill polar opposites?
  • How can one decide what comes next if their future is already set in stone and determined by the ideals of fate?
  • This concept challenges every man to think about his choices and the actions he makes, and to question wether or not his actions are truly his own. This concept can hold a deep fundamental root in government and politics. How can humans truly ‘rule’ over others if the path they follow is not their own?
  • Who is doing the ruling?


Discussion With Ralph:


The following passage challenged me to probe probe Arendt’s thesis about the evolution of political systems. According to Arendt, “It was never even considered by our tradition of political thought, which began after the ideal of the hero, the ‘doer of good deed and speaker of great words,’ had given way to that of the statesman as lawgiver, whose function was not to act but to impose permanent rules on the changing circumstances and unstable affairs of acting men.” (47) What does this passage represent when considering fate and freewill? After unpacking it we could see a very strong correlation with the development of government. The morphing and evolution into a society which no longer valued or looked up the hero and warrior, but rather followed the emperor, the imposer of rule and law. Why did this fundamental shift happen? Along with development comes a need to expand, a need to grow, and a need for leadership as well as politics. There comes a time when the strongest man is no longer the wisest.

These concepts swirled around in my head over daily interludes and conversations of religion. Who is God and what does he stand for? I relayed to Ralph my common conception of what God is: the being and the explanation for all that human minds can not comprehend. God stands for the third dimension of our mind, the z-axis, the part that can’t quite make sense of space…or even death. Cornel West touches on these ideas on a section of ‘The Examined Life’ entitled Truth. West touches on many of these important issues such as our finite existence and how it is vital for us to search within ourselves and find who we are. West talks about truth and its importance for living a pure life. This is an amazing video that touches on many aspects of what I have been grappling with this week.

Overall this was a fantastic week that challenged me to look further and deeper into my reading and myself. I came up with new opinions, interpreted my reading in different ways, and sifted through my conversations with Ralph to find what was most meaningful to me and what resonated the most. I questioned the readings, but most of all I was able to understand the message that Arendt (2005) was trying to convey in my latest readings. I cannot wait to begin next week and work on getting better and making my voice even stronger.



The future:

I also had a wonderful talk with Ralph this week about the second half of my semester and potential projects. I am looking forward to crafting a meaningful project to exemplify my learning. I want to take everything I will learn in the first half of this semester and apply it in the second. I want to use my knowledge of philosophy and the fundamentals of statehood and philosophy to unpack and analyze current affairs and issues going on in this world.

This was by all standards a fruitful and amazing week. I cannot wait to see what next week and the uncovering of Aristotle holds. I am also interesting in beginning to develop my reading responses. How might I start responding and summarizing only my reading during the week? My goal is to have a video blog up by Wednesday. I have also begun to reach out to other young bloggers and examine my place in the online community. How can I fit in and tie my work together with others?

Thank you so much for reading and please comment below! Next week, my reading moves onto Arendt’s last essay in the book “Introduction Into Politics” Please check back next week for more insights, comments, and questions.











-Arendt, H., & Kohn, J. (2005). The promise of politics. New York: Schocken Books

-West, Cornell; (2011). EXAMINED LIFE: Cornel West on TRUTH