Hobbes Leviathan Summary

Summary of Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes: A comprehensive Leviathan study
Table of Contents

The full name of the book is Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil. Sounds pretty impressive, doesn’t it? But it can be quite a mouthful. So in order to save some time, it’s more commonly referred to as just “Leviathan.”

In its essence, the book Leviathan is one of the first pieces that covered the questions of societal contract and forms of power. It is important to understand that the backdrop for the Leviathan book was the English Civil war. This makes the question of the state of nature Hobbes raises a natural reflection of its time.

The author, English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, argues for the benefits of sovereign rule. Despite all its flaws, he considers it a necessary form of government over human society. A strong ruling hand to combat the chaos and brutality of human nature (which at that point in time manifested in the Civil War).

It can be quite a difficult read considering how long ago it was written and the need to constantly reference the whole historical context. But ultimately, it gives extremely valuable insight into the mind of political philosophers of the time. Let's dive into analysis of the Leviathan with our custom argumentative essay writing service

Who Is Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher best known for his work in political philosophy during the 17th century. Born in 1588 in Westport, Wiltshire, England, Hobbes lived during a tumultuous political and social upheaval marked by the English Civil War. His experiences during this time profoundly influenced his philosophical views, particularly regarding the nature of society and government. Hobbes is often regarded as one of the founding figures of modern political thought, alongside thinkers like John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Hobbes's most influential work, "Leviathan," published in 1651, presents his comprehensive theory of the social contract and the necessity of a strong, centralized authority to maintain order in society. In addition to his contributions to political philosophy, Hobbes made significant advancements in other areas, including ethics, epistemology, and the philosophy of religion. His ideas continue to provoke debate and discussion among scholars and remain relevant in contemporary political discourse. Thomas Hobbes is remembered as a pioneering thinker whose works have left an indelible mark on philosophy and political theory.

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Analysis of the Leviathan Characters

Even though the Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes deals with abstract topics, they are still delivered through a range of characters. Leviathan cast includes such influential characters as Aristotle, God, Moses, and a whole variety of both fictional and historical figures.

All of them play their own part in the formation of Hobbes’ philosophy and represent vital aspects of the world’s and humanity’s nature. It is important to mention them all when working on a Leviathan Thomas Hobbes Summary.


The first character worth mentioning is Aristotle. Hobbes uses the character of Aristotle as a representative of certain philosophical ideas. For example, he clashes with the idea of humans being naturally social and humanistic and the notion of democracy as the most desirable form of government. 

According to Hobbes, humans are naturally egotistical and cruel, necessitating a strong hand of a monarch to control them.


God is, of course, a representation of ultimate power. He rules the people single-handedly and thus is an example of how power should be structured on Earth. While his power is absolute, Hobbes goes on to say that until his dominion is reestablished during the second coming of Christ, people should follow the rule of civil monarchs.

Via this character, Hobbes explores religion from his unconventional personal standpoint. While he doesn’t support traditional religious practices, the author does recognize the existence of a higher power.


In Leviathan, Moses appears as a medium between God and humankind. Hobbes considers him the true prophet. And even though Moses doesn’t communicate with God directly, he is still seen as channeling His will. This, in turn, allows for some sort of divine authority and the power to guide humanity.

Hobbes also briefly touches on the subject of Israelites and their specific case of accepting God’s authority over that of any civil monarch. He calls their case “peculiar,” as it indeed is.

Cardinal Bellarmine

Robert Bellarmine was a historical figure that lived in the 17th century. Hobbes uses him and his works as another impersonation of a point to argue against. According to cardinal Bellarmine, the pope’s word is absolute, and his authority over all Christians should never be questioned.

This idea stems from popes being considered the highest representatives of God on Earth. However, Hobbes denies them this notion of infallible authority and argues in favor of civil monarchs over religious rulers.


Christ obviously plays an important role in Hobbes’ vision of the eternal kingdom of God. Hobbes is convinced that it is Christ that will rule this new world after his second coming with his authority second only to God himself. 

The precursors to being granted eternal life and being accepted into the eternal kingdom take root in Hobbes’ religious beliefs. Repentance and acceptance of Christ as their savior are essential for those who wish to enter.


Cicero (as in the ancient philosopher born in Rome) and his worldviews play a supporting role in Hobbes' criticism of the Roman Catholic church. Cicero is mentioned in regard to his idea of a justice system where a judge considers the benefit criminals got from their unlawful actions.

Hobbes translates this into his worldview, drawing parallels from the actions of the church always benefitting its head - the pope.

Elizabeth I

The character of Elizabeth I clearly refers to the ruler of England in the second half of the 16th century. Hobbes takes her story as an example of a conflict between the religious authority of a pope and the civil authority of a monarch. 

Elizabeth I undermined the power of the church and was declared an illegitimate ruler and excommunicated for this. Hobbes questions the pope’s authority in such matters and states that these are the people who imbue the ruler with their power and not the church.

Francis Godolphin

Francis Godolphin is a cornerstone person in the creation of the Leviathan. Hobbes decided to dedicate his entire writing to him. He was very close friends with Francis’ sister and thought Francis represented the values of a true royalist. 

Francis Godolphin died during the English Civil War. However, his dedication to his values was enough for Hobbes to immortalize him in the dedication of the Leviathan book.

Sidney Godolphin

As already mentioned, Sidney Godolphin was very close friends with Hobbes. It is largely through their friendship Hobbes got the chance to follow the story of Sidney’s brother Francis and cultivate admiration for him. 

Hobbes shared a diehard royalist worldview with Sidney. This worldview became the cornerstone of the entire Leviathan book. Francis’ influence on Hobbes through the medium of his sister Sidney is undeniable. It’s hard to tell whether the book would even exist without those two.

Judas Iscariot

Judas Iscariot, being a pretty important character in the story of Christ, is only briefly mentioned by Hobbes. He appears only in passing when Hobbes quotes Luke 22:4, which tells us about Judas’ betrayal. 

Hobbes goes on to tell us that the betrayal was caused by a certain abstract influence (Satan) rather than someone specific. In this particular case, he seems to be clearly separating the physical and the spiritual aspects of human nature.


Matthias is one of the New Testament Apostles. It is written in the book that he was selected not by Christ but by people. And this presents a problem for Hobbes and his thesis on the imperfect human representation of divine authority. 

Hobbes claims that Matthias is an example of a flawed system. A person can not possibly give him the same status as received by those that were chosen by Christ directly. This translates into popes, their decisions, and their power.


Apostle Paul has a similar background to that of Matthias in that he was also appointed by people and not by Christ himself. This makes Hobbes raise similar issues with this character, drawing parallels with the heads of the clergy. 

Despite that, Hobbes frequently quotes Paul and his teachings. He recognizes some and refutes others, but the main theme of his use for this character seems to be the same as with Matthias.

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What Does the Leviathan Image Represent

The Leviathan image, often associated with Thomas Hobbes' political treatise of the same name, represents the concept of a powerful and all-encompassing sovereign authority. In Hobbes' philosophy, the Leviathan symbolizes the state, created by individuals surrendering some of their freedoms to a central authority in exchange for protection and security. The image of the Leviathan as a massive, awe-inspiring creature emphasizes the idea of the state as an entity with immense power and control over its subjects. It serves as a visual metaphor for the overarching authority of government and the need for social order to prevent the chaos and conflict inherent in the state of nature.

Why Is the State Called the Leviathan

The state is called the Leviathan in reference to the biblical sea monster described in the Book of Job and the Book of Psalms. Thomas Hobbes drew upon this biblical metaphor to illustrate the concept of a powerful, all-encompassing sovereign authority. In Hobbes' philosophy, the Leviathan represents the state as a massive, awe-inspiring entity created by individuals through a social contract. Just as the biblical Leviathan is portrayed as an imposing creature that rules over the sea, the political Leviathan embodies the idea of a centralized government with absolute power and control over its subjects. The choice of the term "Leviathan" underscores the magnitude of authority vested in the state and emphasizes the necessity of social order to prevent the chaos and conflict inherent in the state of nature.

Essay Sample on Leviathan

Explore key themes and characters through our analytical essay on Leviathan. This sample offers a clear, concise examination tailored to deepen your understanding of complex literary elements.

The State of Nature and the Social Contract:Hobbes' View on Human Nature and Governance
The State of Nature and the Social Contract:Hobbes' View on Human Nature and Governance

The 4 Parts of the Leviathan

"Leviathan" is divided into four parts: "Of Man," "Of Commonwealth," "Of a Christian Commonwealth," and "Of the Kingdom of Darkness." In these sections, Hobbes systematically presents his political philosophy, beginning with an analysis of human nature and the state of nature and culminating in a discussion of the ideal form of government and the role of religion in society. Each part builds upon the previous one, forming a coherent argument for the necessity of a strong,centralized authority to maintain social order.

The 4 Parts of the Leviathan

Of Man: Leviathan Thomas Hobbes Summary

The first part of Hobbes’ Leviathan is dedicated to his understanding of humans and their basic nature. The theses that are outlined in this part serve as a foundation for the rest of the book. They can be seen here and there, supporting further arguments.

His understanding of human nature is that it’s leaning towards “evil” by definition. Human beings seek peace yet can not achieve it without a strong guiding hand. They do not seek union and can not individually act for the good of civil society.

Of Commonwealth: Hobbes Leviathan Summary

Throughout the second part, Hobbes goes on to discuss the forms of government that could be used to unite people and bring them to peace. When it comes to Hobbes Leviathan summary we can list three forms of government - monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. 

Naturally, as a staunch royalist, he tries to make a case for democracy as being the most efficient form of government. It is rather interesting to note that he also denies other possible options beyond the three listed.

Of a Christian Commonwealth: Leviathan Thomas Hobbes Summary

In the third part, Hobbes makes a pointed attack on religion and its representation as it was known in his time. He questions the validity of holy texts, making a point in trying to discern which ones we should trust and follow.

At the same time, he doesn’t outright refute the influence of true religion on human life. But instead of relying on the guidance of the church, he makes a case for giving this responsibility to the civil rulers.

Of the Kingdom of Darkness: Hobbes Leviathan Summary

Finally, in the last part of his book, Hobbes deals with “the Kingdom of Darkness.” In Hobbes Leviathan summary we can define it not as something physical but rather as a representation of an abstract essence that is in opposition to the light of the Scripture. 

He writes that it is the misinterpretation of the Holy texts, the mixing of unorthodox traditions and religions with Christianity that makes people stray away from the light.

Hobbes concludes by identifying those who, in his opinion, benefit the most from such a situation. Unsurprisingly, it’s the church and its representatives.

Analysis of Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

The Leviathan book is, without a doubt, a more than an interesting specimen of a school of philosophical thought of its time. The issues of a state of nature Hobbes discusses within his work are still more than relevant today. Even though some of them can’t be translated directly into the modern world (like, for example, the conflict between religious and civil authority), you can still draw parallels and take some notes.

Although Leviathan itself poses some pretty solid and interesting ideas, it is easy to see that most of them have been severely influenced, if not outright distorted, by passing through the prism of the author’s subjective worldview. This is especially evident when he discusses the pros and cons of governing systems Hobbes mentions.

While it is evident that he doesn’t feel very welcoming of the authority exerted by the church officials during his historical time frame, he fails to recognize that civil rulers are prone to many of the same issues as religious ones. His solutions conflate the two into a single system while simultaneously separating their spheres of influence.

This fact, as well as the quirks of the author’s lifetime, should definitely be taken into account during the Leviathan analysis. Adopting an objective view can help filter out some of the hypocritical inconsistencies in Hobbes’ work. This is especially important if you are planning on writing an academic paper on his book. To hire your essay helper, address to our service.

Overall, it’s definitely worth working through. It is unlikely to be a breeze of a read. But it can provide vital context for any scholar of 17th-century philosophy as well as the historical backdrop of that particular time frame.

leviathan cross

Thomas Hobbes Leviathan Main Ideas and Themes

There are plenty of interlinked ideas that can be found in Leviathan Thomas Hobbes summary. But the main two are definitely the case for monarchy and criticism of the church. It is easy to see that the cultivation of both ideas was caused directly by the events the author had to live through. 

With the brutality and anarchy of the civil war, he opposes the stability and order of a monarchy. There’s also the decadence of the church that he attempts to remove from the equation altogether as an unnecessary medium between people and God.

Symbols of Leviathan

In Thomas Hobbes' political philosophy, the Leviathan represents the powerful sovereign authority necessary for maintaining social order and preventing the chaos of the state of nature. While Hobbes himself didn't extensively use symbols to represent the Leviathan, certain elements of his philosophy can be considered symbolic of this concept:

Symbols of Leviathan
  • The Social Contract

The idea of the social contract, wherein individuals surrender some freedoms to a central authority in exchange for protection and security, can be seen as symbolic of the Leviathan. It represents the voluntary agreement of individuals to submit to the state's authority, thereby creating a powerful entity capable of enforcing laws and maintaining order.

  • Absolute Sovereignty

Hobbes' notion of absolute sovereignty, where the Leviathan possesses supreme authority over all aspects of governance, can be considered symbolic of the Leviathan's immense power and control. This concept emphasizes the Leviathan's role as society's ultimate source of law and order.

  • The Commonwealth

Hobbes describes the Leviathan as a commonwealth, a political entity composed of individuals united under a sovereign ruler. This term symbolizes the collective body politic and reinforces the idea of the Leviathan as a unifying force responsible for the well-being and security of its subjects.

  • The Body Politic

Hobbes uses the metaphor of the Leviathan as a body politic, wherein the sovereign and the subjects are metaphorically likened to the head and limbs of a single body. This symbolism underscores the interconnectedness of individuals within society and the need for unity under the authority of the Leviathan to maintain stability.

  • Leviathan Cross

The Leviathan Cross is also known as the Brimstone Symbol. In alchemy, sulfur, represented by the Brimstone Symbol, is often seen as a catalyst for change and purification, symbolizing the transformative process of turning base materials into something higher or more refined. Similarly, as depicted in Thomas Hobbes' political philosophy, the Leviathan Cross represents a powerful and all-encompassing sovereign authority capable of maintaining societal order and solidity.

  1. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Hobbes’s Moral and Political Philosophy
  2. Inquiries Journal: Hobbes’ Leviathan and Views on the Origins of Civil Government: Conservatism by Covenant by Katherine J. Wolfenden

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Daniel Parker

Daniel Parker

is a seasoned educational writer focusing on scholarship guidance, research papers, and various forms of academic essays including reflective and narrative essays. His expertise also extends to detailed case studies. A scholar with a background in English Literature and Education, Daniel’s work on EssayPro blog aims to support students in achieving academic excellence and securing scholarships. His hobbies include reading classic literature and participating in academic forums.

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