Leviathan: Or, The Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiastical and Civil

by Thomas Hobbes

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What is the theme of Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan?

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The Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, explores morality and civil ethics (essentially good and evil and how to properly govern) in a country disconnected from traditional, religious, or absolute moral standards. In the text, he uses a discussion of what morality means when materialism and consumerism are the primary sources of virtue, morals, and ethics.

By doing so, he contemplates the nature of ethics at the root of humanity, beyond all externally imposed moral systems such as religion or political systems. In this situation, all individuals are created equal, have the same strength, and the same desire to survive either by physical conflict or by accumulation of goods. This leads to constant conflict and infighting, which necessitates a powerful ruling body of some sort. He argues that, even in the absence of moral absolutism such as found in religion, absolute rulers are still necessary.

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The main theme of The Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes is an analysis of ethics and politics grounded in an assumption of radical materialism. Rather than taking as a starting point the nature of God or the good, Hobbes grounds his philosophy in purely mechanistic accounts of knowledge and human nature. Within this system, humans are by nature purely individualistic, equal in power and innate capacity, and engaged in a constant struggle for survival. Life under the natural order is "nasty, brutish and short" and lived in a state of incessant conflict. It is only by having strong central authority imposing order that civilization can be maintained. Thus Leviathan becomes a justification of monarchy on the basis of materialism.

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