The Truth of War Exposed in Hobbes’ Leviathan
Conflict, or the prospect thereof, concerns individuals, instilling a great deal of fear in their hearts and minds. Hobbes’ Leviathan differs from our present conception of war, as a typically united act by a patriotic nation. The concept of war constructed by Hobbes presents the idea of limitless enemies, wherein every man has the potential to damage the life or well-being of any other man. According to Hobbes, war consumes everything, constructing its own conception of time and eliminating every other necessary or inherently valuable activity. War’s destructive implications extend beyond death and battle. By nature, war burrows itself in the hearts and minds of men caught in the conflict, ultimately and naturally forcing solitude.
The first point Hobbes makes in chapter thirteen of the Leviathan in regards to war is the idea that it “consisteth not in battle only, or the act of fighting; but in a tract of time” (p. 171). In the world of war, “there is no place for industry… no navigation…. no commodious building… no knowledge of the face of the earth… no society” (p. 171). Hobbes depicts war as a consuming entity, a state of mind that expels all of one’s rational, scientific thoughts. A state of war devours the inherent benefits of life, and deconstructs the basic principles of society. In war, time is inconsequential—people govern their lives within such a conflict as though it is relentless, never-ending, a torrential downpour of violence. Caught in this web of destructive timelessness, men begin to isolate themselves from society, altering their lives catastrophically.
The detriment of justice in a state of war results from fear, or the perception of a threat, and the means by which that threat is alleviated. Hobbes states that “there is no way for any man to secure himself, so reasonable, as anticipation; that is, by force, or wiles, to master the persons of all men he can… till he see no other power great enough to endanger him” (p. 170). These feelings of insecurity cannot be conquered without the aid of violence. Even in a world of peace, man attempts to promote himself and elevate his status in power by conquering those of lesser strength until there are none who rival him. These feelings come before a war, as even when a man “knows there be laws,” he trusts little of his fellow...