Leviathan Book Summary - Leviathan Book explained in key points
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Leviathan summary

Thomas Hobbes

or the Matter, Forme and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil

4.5 (104 ratings)
22 mins
9 key ideas
Audio & text

What is Leviathan about?

Leviathan (1651) examines the relationship of society and rulers and is widely held as a classic work on the nature of statecraft. English philosopher Thomas Hobbes believed that man’s natural inclination to war could only be tamed by a strong, centralized government. In these blinks, you’ll learn why Hobbes felt a commonwealth of men under a strong monarch was the only solution to securing peace and security for all.

About the Author

English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was best known for his contributions to political thought. His writings, including Leviathan and De Cive (On the Citizen), are considered the cornerstones of Western political philosophy.

Table of Contents

    summarized in 9 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 9

    Everything we understand about the world is based on properly assigning words to what we sense.

    The day is bright and sunny, with the sun warming your skin. If you were to describe this scene to a friend, how would you do so?

    Would you try dancing it? Probably not –  you’d likely choose words to describe it.

    Language and the meanings it can conjure are what help us understand our world. But how does language do so, exactly?

    First we must understand how our senses work. Through touch, sound and sight, we gain an understanding of the environment, as a result of “pressure” on the body’s nerves. The only things that can trigger nerves to stimulate our senses are objects with a physical “body,” like a rock we can touch, music we can hear or light we can see.

    After a sensory impulse, we are left with a mental image of an object, and can then elaborate our understanding of the object and its context. For instance, when looking at the hands of a clock, you can process the image to understand the hands are part of a timepiece.

    Being able to ascribe the right words to an experience is essential to reason. Without the proper language it would be impossible to accurately explain objects or concepts. Imagine if the only number you knew was “one.” What would you say when a clock struck a second time?

    Yet just having the right words isn’t enough; you need to put them together logically.

    But why is order important? The sequencing of words helps us create patterns of reason to determine what normally follows a certain action. In other words, reason shows us the correlation between things.

    If you know that an egg will break when it falls, this logical sequence of words shows us that it is also true that all eggs will break when they fall. So when you see an egg rolling close to a table’s edge, you can predict what will happen next.

    The information you derive from correlations lets you take certain actions to produce particular outcomes, and importantly, helps you predict the actions of others.

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    Key ideas in Leviathan

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    Best quote from Leviathan

    Mankind has a perpetual and restless desire for power, a desire that ceases only in death.

    —Thomas Hobbes
    example alt text

    Who should read Leviathan

    • Sociologists, historians and political scientists or students of political science
    • People interested in how certain forms of government came to be
    • Students examining the origins of law and early government

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