Essay on thomas hobbes leviathan

The “Two Treatises of Government” (1690) offered political theories developed and refined by Locke during his years at Shaftesbury’s side. Rejecting the divine right of kings, Locke said that societies form governments by mutual (and, in later generations, tacit) agreement. Thus, when a king loses the consent of the governed, a society may remove him—an approach quoted almost verbatim in Thomas Jefferson’s 1776 Declaration of Independence . Locke also developed a definition of property as the product of a person’s labor that would be foundational for both Adam Smith’s capitalism and Karl Marx’s socialism.

For Hobbes, the necessity of an absolute authority, in the form of a Sovereign, followed from the utter brutality of the State of Nature. The State of Nature was completely intolerable, and so rational men would be willing to submit themselves even to absolute authority in order to escape it. For John Locke , 1632-1704, the State of Nature is a very different type of place, and so his argument concerning the social contract and the nature of men's relationship to authority are consequently quite different. While Locke uses Hobbes’ methodological device of the State of Nature, as do virtually all social contract theorists, he uses it to a quite different end. Locke’s arguments for the social contract, and for the right of citizens to revolt against their king were enormously influential on the democratic revolutions that followed, especially on Thomas Jefferson, and the founders of the United States.

Hobbes's influence on Western political thought was profound. His successors could and did disagree with him, but they could not escape being compared to and measured against him. In his writing, Hobbes was not timid: many readers were provoked to opposition upon first exposure. Hobbes met the criticism either directly, responding vigorously, as he did to John Bramhall's Catching of Leviathan , or indirectly, with disdainful, silent superiority. Hobbes's emphasis on the secular over the theological was particularly infuriating to his detractors. Any relation to God, even if by way of an intermediary, as in the Catholic Church, was denied. He wrote, "If a man consider the original of the great ecclesiastical dominion, he will easily perceive that the Papacy is no other than the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire sitting crowned upon the grave thereof." The title of one response exemplifies some of the reaction to Hobbes: "The Brief View of the Dangerous and Pernicious Errors to Church and State in Mr. Hobbes's book." Hobbes was called an atheist, and for years "Hobbism" was the term applied when attempting to denigrate any example of scepticism or free thought. In 1683 De Cive and Leviathan were condemned as heretical books and burned at Oxford; Hobbes's enemies also prevented him from becoming a fellow of the Royal Society. Despite his tempestuous life, Hobbes's works were respected and admired by many of his contemporaries. However, his ideas were still considered radical for half a century after his death, and it was not until the mid-eighteenth century that Hobbes's works could be written about dispassionately. Since then, he has held his place among the most important political philosophers of the western tradition, and his works continue to spark interest and debate.

Essay on thomas hobbes leviathan

essay on thomas hobbes leviathan


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