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

by Thomas Hobbes
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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 349

Dietz, Mary G., ed. Thomas Hobbes and Political Theory. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1990. A series of significant essays covering contemporary thinking on Hobbes, issued from the Benjamin Evans Lippincott symposium “The Political Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, 1599-1988,” held at the University of Minnesota in 1988.

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Johnston, David. The Rhetoric of Leviathan: Thomas Hobbes and the Politics of Cultural Transformation. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986. An important postmodern reading of Leviathan.

Mace, George. Locke, Hobbes and the Federalist Papers: An Essay on the Genesis of the American Political Heritage. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1979. A controversial work in that Mace argues that The Federalist reflects a more Hobbesian than Lockean view, and also that Hobbes was, indeed, the greater thinker of the two. Places both Locke and Hobbes in the context of the founding of the United States.

Macpherson, C. B. The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke. New York: Oxford University Press, 1962. Macpherson argues that both Hobbes and Locke reflected the possessive individualist premises of emerging capitalist society, mistaking these premises for eternal principles of human nature. The book, therefore, constitutes a critique of Hobbes’s “realism” about human nature.

Martinich, A. P. A Hobbes Dictionary. Oxford, England: Blackwell, 1995. One in a series of invaluable Blackwell Philosophic Dictionaries.

Rogers, Graham Alan John, ed. Perspectives on Thomas Hobbes. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1988. A collection of essays published in association with the important fourth centenary Hobbes conference organized by the British Society for the History of Philosophy.

Sorrell, Tom. The Cambridge Companion to Hobbes. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1996. An essential reference book by a leading British Hobbes scholar.

Sorrell, Tom. Hobbes. London: Routledge, Kegan, Paul, 1986. A useful introduction to the thought of Hobbes.

Wolin, Sheldon. The Politics of Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought. Boston: Little, Brown, 1960. A popular and stylish textbook on the history of political philosophy with a lengthy chapter on Hobbes. He is seen as a prophet of modern society, in which impersonal rules and competition between interests have come to replace notions of a close-knit political community.

Ira Smolensky David Barratt

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 168

Leviathan is primarily a treatise on the philosophy of politics. It also contains important discussions—some brief, some extended—on metaphysics, epistemology, psychology, language, ethics, and religion. In this work, Thomas Hobbes develops his views from a metaphysics of materialism and a mechanical analogy in which everything is a particle or set of particles moving in accordance with laws. Though he was at one time secretary to English philosopher and essayist Francis Bacon, his inspiration came from Galileo, the Italian mathematician and physicist. Hobbes was unusual in being an early empiricist who recognized the importance of mathematics.

In Leviathan, the realism of Florentine man of affairs and political writer Niccolò Machiavelli, the emphasis on sovereignty of French legalist and politician Jean Bodin, and the attempt of Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius to modernize the conception of natural law by relating it to mathematics and the new science are combined and developed with great originality, clarity, and flair for pungent statement to constitute one of the masterpieces of political philosophy.

Natural Philosophy and Civil Philosophy

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