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Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan (Clarendon Edition of the Works of Thomas Hobbes) Hardcover – 24 May 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 24 May 2012
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1832 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; Critical ed. edition (24 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019960262X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199602629
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 10.9 x 16.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,231,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


The importance of Hobbes' Leviathan is largely based on the ruthlessness of its logic and the soundness of its arguments. (Contemporary Review)

Everything about these three volumes is testimony to Malcolm's extraordinary scholarly range and precision. Just as impressive is the lucidity of Malcolm's own prose ... Specialists will find fresh insights on almost every page ... Malcolm's measured and gently sceptical style is a perfect complement to Hobbe's own extravagant scepticism (David Runciman, Times Literary Supplement)

The lavish, meticulous annotation . . . is certainly this editions most significant contribution to the republic of letters. But the general reader will probably find Malcolms introduction, a tour de force that takes up the entire first volume, to be of greatest value. Malcolm . . . fluently and authoritatively sets Leviathan and its author in their time and provides a keen and detailed study of Leviathans genesis. Malcolms volume itself is an enduring work of history. (Ben Schwartz, The Atlantic)

Malcolm's edition of Leviathan aims to present the masterpiece as faithfully as possible. The result - a product of many years of labour - is an astonishing achievement of the highest scholarship. We have never before had so accurate and so richly annotated a version of the text, and it is unlikely that there will ever be another that can match this edition. (John Gray, New Statesman)

Dr Malcolm seems to have read, and judiciously assessed, everything that may be relevant to everything that may be relevant (this includes graveyard inscriptions, so it can be fairly said that he leaves no stone unturned). (The Economist)

The most helpful piece of scholarship was Noel Malcolm's translating the Latin version and appendix of Hobbes's Leviathan in his monumental three-volume edition (Christopher Howse, The Spectator (Books of the Year))

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 the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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. Moreover, this book isn't written in modern English, what makes it more difficult to understand.
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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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