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
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/ 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 unity, thereby protecting its individual components.

Now, one might object that while Hobbes’s commonwealth does indeed have noble results, it remains essentially a monster that demands the surrender of man’s right to exercise his power as he sees fit, and that no political entity, no matter how beneficial, should ever possess power to that extent.

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