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Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan and War

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Thomas Hobbes was born in Westport, England in 1588. Hobbes was an empiricist. He believed that knowledge came from experience instead of reason. He differed greatly from the rationalists such as Descartes and Leibniz. Hobbes was a materialist. This meant he believed that only matter truly existed. This would influence his views on science and also his political works.

His most famous political work is entitled Leviathan. The Leviathan is basically the type of government he is going to argue for. Hobbes believes that the government must be absolute, meaning it must have absolute power. The reason he believes this is because humans are normally in a state of nature. This state of nature is a state without government, laws, or anything to keep their behavior good. Hobbes believes that man is normally selfish and that this is a bad thing.

Hobbes says that in order for society to have peace, everyone must render all their liberties and rights to the Leviathan. This Leviathan is what

Picture of Hobbes' Leviathan

Hobbes calls a “mortal god” and is a person with absolute power. It is meant to protect everyone and makes no exceptions when it comes to laws. This government seems akin to North Korea, World War II Russia and Germany, and Mao Zedong.

Now, while I agree (generally) with his view of human nature, I do not believe that man cannot do good. Man is damaged from sin and without government he will destroy himself. But this does not mean he cannot do good. Rendering liberty to the Leviathan is worse than anything! As Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death!” It seems that many Americans today are willing to give up anything for national security. This seems to almost fall in-line with Hobbes’ political philosophy.

Is war justified at the expense of liberty? Is war justified by the ends it is trying to obtain? The Christian should answer “no” to both of these. Militarism is never good or noble. We should never become obsessed with war across seas or protection within our borders. Both of these amount to some sort of vice and fuel government control for supposed “peace.”

The only justified American wars are the ones that are in response to something directly linked with America. G.K. Chesterton once said, “The only defensible war is a war of defense.” Chesterton also said, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” Not only are these true, it must be something that must be embraced in American society. These virtues seem to have been fading away from America ever since the Korean War.

Works Cited

Thomson, Garrett. Bacon to Kant: An Introduction to Modern Philosophy. 2nd ed. Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland P, Inc., 2002.

“”Quotations”” The American Chesterton Society. Web. 16 Apr. 2010. <;.


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