The Truth of War Exposed in Hobbes’ Leviathan

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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 th...

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...re is a mirror of the scientific idea of natural selection. Those individuals concerned only with their own interests and the perpetuation of their own lives, are much more likely to survive.

Hobbes overall statement of war is a brutal one, condemning those who engage in war to be consumed by it. Through ideas of fluctuating morality, justice, and natural tendency, one idea prevails: war stops everything. In a world consumed by war, society falters, education, learning, and exploration stop, and the only concern is the idea of power, glory, and life. The implication of Hobbes’ claim is that war not only suspends the ideals of society, but also suspends the function of society as a whole. A state of war is not something that can be exercised on the weekend, it is an all-consuming notion in which there are no weekends, and there are no weekdays, there is only war.

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