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Leviathan (English Library) Paperback – 1 Jul 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; 1 edition (1 July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140431950
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140431957
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 167,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"Internationally renowned Hobbes scholar A.P. Martinich has produced the definitive version of Leviathan for student use." -- George Wright, University of Wisconsin

"This very readable edition of Hobbes's Leviathan is an excellent resource for students of political philosophy and its history." -- Thomas Christiano, University of Arizona

"an admirably accessible edition of Hobbes's masterpiece." -- Kinch Hoekstra, Balliol College, Oxford University --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

The Broadview Editions series is an effort to represent the ever-changing canon of literature in English by bringing together texts long regarded as classics with valuable, lesser-known literature. Newly type-set and produced on high-quality paper in trade paperback format, the Broadview Editions series is a delight to handle as well as to read.

Each volume includes a full introduction, chronology, bibliography, and explanatory notes along with a variety of documents from the period, giving readers a rich sense of the world from which the work emerged. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Concerning the Thoughts of man, I will consider them first Singly, and afterwards in Trayne, or dependance upon one another. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Derek Jones TOP 500 REVIEWER on 15 Mar. 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Being a free Kindle edition there is no introduction and no notes - but you do get the full text. The only difference from the original is that there are fewer capitals and italics. Hobbes used them for emphasis very much more than a modern writer would, and their pruning in this edition makes the text easier to read.

Modern political philosophy begins with Hobbes. Before Hobbes, writers for centuries had accepted the divine right of kings or did not think much about the origins of government. Hobbes provides reasons as to how and why men come together to form government. He starts with the assumption that that the organised state is a choice. The alternative is the "state of nature", where there is both a "right" of nature and "laws" of nature. Hobbes uses these terms in a very individual way. The "right of nature" is "the Liberty each man hath, to use his own power...for the preservation of his own Life". The "laws of nature" dictate that each person should seek to live with others in peace, and should only retain the right to as much liberty as he is willing to permit others. These "laws" are found by reason, and are utilitarian rather than moral. Hobbes is simply saying that if men think about their situation, reason tells them that giving up their natural rights in exchange for others doing likewise is the best means of self-preservation, even though it is contrary to human nature.

On human nature Hobbes is cynical. Reason suggests advantages stem from co-operation, but this is outweighed by instinct. Men are fundamentally competitive and selfish. They are also roughly equal in ability so no one person can impose his will on others, and so the most one can hope for is to protect oneself from others.
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59 of 62 people found the following review helpful By B. Alcat on 23 April 2005
Format: Paperback
Thomas Hobbes (1588 - 1679) was born in England, a country that endured great political turmoil during his life. Having lived through that, Hobbes' main aim was to inquire into the basis of order. The question he asked himself was "What kind of political authority will prevent the return of chaos?". And the answer to that question is in this book, "Leviathan" (1651).
The Levianthan is the personification of total power, an authority without limits, created by men who realise that absolute power given to a powerfull ruler (or to an assembly) is their only way out of the dangers of the state of nature. The name that the author chose for his monarch is quite telling: the Leviathan is a sea monster that appears in the Bible and symbolizes power. This kind of monarch seems like an extreme solution for the problem of anarchy, but it is the only one that Hobbes found. Without the Leviathan, life is 'solitary, nasty, brutish, and short.'
Of course, this book includes many more things than those I have already mentioned. For instance, it explains quite well Hobbes opinion regarding human nature (man is naturally a wolf to men), the state of nature (perpetual war of all against all), the origin of political institutions and the relationship between reason and force (pacts without swords are merely words), among other things.
On the whole, I think this book is a classic of Political Philosophy, and I recommend it as such. Despite that, I think a word of caution is in order, so you will be prepared for what you will find when you tackle "Leviathan". Truth to be told, sometimes Hobbes' prose is too dry, and in some chapters you will need to plod through some rather arid pages.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 6 May 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Why is this book important?

Hobbes stands at the end of the intellectual life of the Middle Ages which means that for centuries philosophy, religion and science had been one unified structure under the stewardship of the Church, in a World that stood at the centre of the universe beneath a God in his heaven,who provided and blessed kings and governments.

Suddenly, all these ideas and structures and certainties were in question, or blown apart with gunpowder: Hobbes wrote this during the English Civil War which resulted in the execution of a king by his people, something that would have been unthinkable beforehand.

Hobbes is a modern man, a pioneer, in the sense that he is trying to find what are the bases of knowlege and truth, and power and statecraft-and religion, and-ultimately-what it is to be human, and what sort of institutions would best represent human beings. This book is supposed to be about everything, in one volume! Which shows great self-confidence if nothing else.

It is not an easy read. If you are not familiar with Seventeenth Century English, you may find it hard going. I would recommend you buying the Oxford Very Short Introduction to Hobbes, or something similar, and reading it first, so as to acquire the leading ideas. This might help. It might help at first to dip in, rather than plough through in some kind of tear-stained marathon!

There is something in this book to offend everyone really, notably the chapter on the Pope, referring to him as King of the Fairies.
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