Philosophy - Impact of the Leviathan in Hobbes's Leviathan and the Book of Job of the Holy Bible

Philosophy - Impact of the Leviathan in Hobbes's Leviathan and the Book of Job of the Holy Bible

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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 com...


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...ciety of the utter necessity of voluntarily handing over their individual rights is somewhat unlikely. Even if one could convince all citizens that this relinquishment of power were desirable, after the initial creation of the body politic, the cohesive unity indicated by the metaphor of the Leviathan seems highly improbable because one sovereign will be hard-pressed to accurately embody the will and to serve the interest of such a vast multitude. Thus, the very mortality and physicality that would allow for the strength of the Leviathan to be implemented to serve the interests of the people make it equally likely that the strength could be misused in tyrannical oppression.



Works Cited

1. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. Edwin Curley (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1994).

2. The Holy Bible, King James Version (New York: American Bible Society).

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