Thomas Hobbes

Political Writings of Thomas Hobbes and Niccolo Machiavelli

Easton Press Thomas Hobbes books


Franklin Library Thomas Hobbes books

Political Writings of Thomas Hobbes and Niccolo Machiavelli - Great Books of the Western World - 1983

Thomas Hobbes biography

Thomas Hobbes, born on April 5, 1588, in Westport, Wiltshire, England, was a renowned philosopher and political theorist of the 17th century. His life unfolded during a tumultuous period marked by political upheaval, religious strife, and intellectual ferment. Hobbes was the son of a clergyman, and his early education paved the way for his intellectual pursuits. He attended Oxford University, studying classics and later delving into the emerging fields of science and philosophy. His voracious appetite for knowledge led him to become well-versed in various disciplines.

During his lifetime, England was grappling with political and religious conflicts, notably the English Civil War (1642-1651). Hobbes's most famous work, Leviathan, published in 1651, was a response to the chaos and upheaval of his time. In this seminal work, Hobbes presented his social contract theory, a foundational concept in political philosophy. Hobbes argued that in the state of nature, without societal structure, life would be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." To avoid this chaotic existence, individuals willingly surrender some of their natural rights to a governing authority, creating a social contract. Hobbes believed that a powerful and centralized government, symbolized by the Leviathan, was necessary to maintain order and prevent the descent into anarchy.

His views on the absolute authority of the sovereign and the need for a strong government to maintain social order sparked controversy and drew criticism from various quarters. Hobbes's political philosophy, however, laid the groundwork for later contractual theories and influenced thinkers like John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Apart from his political philosophy, Hobbes also contributed to fields such as ethics, geometry, and the natural sciences. His mechanistic approach to understanding the world, viewing it as a machine governed by natural laws, was a significant departure from prevailing medieval and Aristotelian thought. Thomas Hobbes lived through a time of great intellectual ferment and political turmoil, leaving an enduring legacy in the realms of political philosophy and social contract theory. He passed away on December 4, 1679, in Derbyshire, England, leaving behind a body of work that continues to shape discussions on governance, society, and the nature of human beings.


Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan is arguably the greatest piece of political philosophy written in the English language. Written in a time of great political turmoil (Hobbes' life spanned the reign of Charles I, the Civil Wars, the Commonwealth and the Protectorate, and the Restoration), Leviathan is an argument for obedience to authority grounded in an analysis of human nature. Since its first publication in 1991 Richard Tuck's edition of Leviathan has been recognised as the single most accurate and authoritative text, and for this revised edition Professor Tuck has provided a much amplified and expanded introduction, which will provide students unfamiliar with Hobbes with a cogent and accessible introduction to this most challenging of texts.

The work concerns the structure of society and legitimate government, and is regarded as one of the earliest and most influential examples of social contract theory. Leviathan ranks as a classic western work on statecraft comparable to Machiavelli's The Prince. Written during the English Civil War (1642-1651), Leviathan argues for a social contract and rule by an absolute sovereign. Hobbes wrote that civil war and the brute situation of a state of nature ("the war of all against all") could only be avoided by strong, undivided government.

Written during the chaos of the English Civil War, Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan asks how, in a world of violence and horror, can we stop ourselves from descending into anarchy? Hobbes' case for a 'common-wealth' under a powerful sovereign or 'Leviathan' to enforce security and the rule of law, shocked his contemporaries, and his book was publicly burnt for sedition the moment it was published. But his penetrating work of political philosophy now fully revised and with a new introduction for this edition opened up questions about the nature of statecraft and society that influenced governments across the world.

Its appeal to the twentieth century lies not just in its elevation of politics to a science, but in its overriding concern for peace. Its argument that the state of nature, in which life is 'nasty, brutish and short and patriarchal, is important, but so too is its systematic analysis of power, and its convincing apologia for the then emergent market society in which we still live.

Leviathan is both a magnificent literary achievement and the greatest work of political philosophy in the English language. Permanently challenging, it has found new applications and new refutations in every generation.



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