Philosophy Impact Of The Leviathan In Hobbes's Leviathan And The Book Of Job Of The Holy Bible

1512 words - 6 pages

The Impact of the Leviathan in Hobbes's Leviathan and the Book of Job

Throughout the early chapters of his Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes employs metaphorical devices from such diverse fields as mathematics, mechanics, and even the biology of the human body to describe his political community. In reference to the inception of the body politic, Hobbes compares its artificial origins to the Leviathan, a monster in the Book of Job: "For by art is created that great LEVIATHAN called a COMMONWEALTH, or STATE" (Hobbes 3).1 A biblical monster may initially seem to be an implausible metaphor for Hobbes to choose as a means of advocating his political regime. In addition to Hobbes’s animosity towards conventional Christian practices, the metaphor of the monstrous Leviathan holds negative connotations about the brutal force of the political community for, according to the Book of Job, "None is so fierce as to stir him [the Leviathan] up" (Job 41:10).2 However, the depiction of the body politic that emerges from a comparison with the Leviathan in the Book of Job reveals inherent benefits of Hobbes’s political system that might not be readily perceivable.

By using the Leviathan as a metaphor for the commonwealth, Hobbes emphasizes one of the most beneficial, though potentially oppressive, attributes of the body politic: its immense strength. According to Hobbes, the political community will function as a unified whole when the power is concentrated in the sovereign, making him the seat of incredible strength: "The greatest of human powers is that which is compounded of the powers of most men, united by consent in one person, natural or civil, that has the use of all their powers depending on his will, such as is the power of the commonwealth" (Hobbes 50). Yet, while the measures required to achieve that cohesion could ostensibly be perceived as unreasonably forceful, the value of a unified community emerges from the description of the Leviathan’s scales in Job: "His scales are his pride / shut up together as with a close seal. / One is so near to another, / that no air can come between them. / They are joined one to another, / they stick together, that they cannot be sundered" (Job, 41:15-17). Furthermore, the very strength that follows from unity is intended to benefit the community as a whole since the interests of all members are contained within the primary end of the commonwealth. That primary end is to promote peace within a natural state of war. As Hobbes writes, "These are the laws of nature dictating peace for a means of conserving men in multitudes; and which only concern the doctrine of civil society" (Hobbes 99). The strength of the Leviathan is thus imperative because it fulfills the principal end of a civil society and the preservation of lives is a direct result of the peace that is enforced by the unity of a mighty monster. Thus, both Hobbes’s text and Job 41 praise the virtues of strength in the Leviathan as a means of achieving...

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