Leviathan Book Summary, by Thomas Hobbes

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1-Page Summary of Leviathan

Hobbes’s book Leviathan argues that the best way to maintain peace in a society is through a government with absolute power. Hobbes believes that people must give up some of their freedoms so they can live together peacefully, and he uses an image of a giant human made out of smaller humans to represent this idea. The name “Leviathan” refers to the Bible story about a sea monster who was so big it could swallow whales whole, and Hobbes calls his ideal government “the Leviathan.”

Leviathan is divided into four books. The first book explains the philosophical framework for Hobbes’ ideas, while the remaining three books elaborate on that framework. Consequently, the first book receives more attention in this summary than do the other three. In Book I, Hobbes begins with a description of matter’s elementary motions and argues that everything about human nature can be deduced from materialist principles. He then depicts what he calls “the state of nature” as inherently violent and filled with fear. According to Hobbes, people are constantly trying to hurt each other in this state; it is so horrible that they naturally seek peace but cannot achieve it without creating Leviathan through social contract

Book II of Leviathan explains how to create a government, outlines the rights and responsibilities of citizens and leaders, and envisions the legislative process. Book III discusses whether or not Christianity is compatible with Hobbes’ philosophy, as well as his religious beliefs. Book IV debunks myths about religion and argues that a strong government is necessary for peace.

Thomas Hobbes, a philosopher and political theorist, used the geometric method in his book Leviathan. He based it on first principles and definitions to create an indisputable argument. He also took inspiration from Galileo Galilei’s work on geometry.


Thomas Hobbes was a man who lived with fear. He wrote in his autobiography that when he was born, his mother learned about the Spanish Armada attacking England. This news terrified her and she gave birth prematurely to Hobbes. Fear is a recurring theme in Hobbes’s work, which includes accounts of his life as well as philosophical theories.

Hobbes wrote Leviathan in response to the political turmoil of England. He was scared that Parliament would turn against King Charles I, so he fled to France for eleven years. While there, he composed his masterpiece on philosophy and science, which was finally published after Parliament’s execution of King Charles I.

Hobbes’ argument for the necessity of absolute sovereignty emerged in the politically unstable years after the Civil Wars, and its publication coincided with that of many Republican treatises seeking to justify regicide (killing of the king) to rest of Europe. Not only was Leviathan’s political argument controversial at the time, but also its philosophical method shocked many people–even those who supported Hobbes’ claims.

Thomas Hobbes’s philosophy was based upon the idea that all phenomena can be explained through matter and motion. He didn’t believe in incorporeal spirits or disembodied souls, which meant he received a lot of criticism for being an atheist. However, his ideas were very controversial at the time because they were so different than what people had believed before then. His books were even burned at Oxford University because some people thought he was too dangerous to read. The atmosphere in England after the Civil Wars was chaotic, but it also helped spread his ideas quickly because everyone wanted to hear about them.

Thomas Hobbes wrote Leviathan in order to end civil war. He knew that it would be controversial because it called for the restoration of monarchy, which was not instituted until 1660. Furthermore, his book challenged the very basis of philosophical and political knowledge. Traditional philosophy had never arrived at irrefutable conclusions; instead, it offered only useless sophistries and insubstantial rhetoric. Therefore, he called for a reform of philosophy that would enable secure truth–claims with which everyone could agree. Consequently, Hobbesian philosophy would prevent disagreements about human nature and government; thus ending the conditions that cause war (civil wars). For Hobbes civil war is the ultimate terror—the definition of fear itself—which is why he wanted to reform philosophy in order to end divisiveness and thereby vanquish fear.

Leviathan Book Summary, by Thomas Hobbes