The Leviathan

by Thomas Hobbes

Discussion Questions

1. How does Hobbes explain the passions of human beings?

2. What for Hobbes is the meaning of good and evil? What is the significance of his view that the words good and evil "are ever used with relation to the person who useth them: there being nothing simply and absolutely so; nor any common rule of good and evil to be taken from the nature of the objects themselves?"

3. Why does Hobbes reject the idea of a final good?

4. What evidence does Hobbes bring forward that human beings are equal by nature?

5. How does conflict arise among human beings?

6. Does Hobbes accuse (that is, blame) human beings for their passions and the lives that result from following them?

7. How does Hobbes define the state of war?

8. What does Hobbes mean by the right of nature, and by the law of nature?

9. Why does the law of nature command human beings to form a commonwealth? What are its ends or purposes?

10. Why is a contract or covenant necessary to bring about peace?

11. What is justice for Hobbes? Why does it not exist in the natural state? What is the source of justice?

12. What are some of the other laws of nature that Hobbes discusses? How does Hobbes know that they are laws of nature?

13. What place does pride have in Hobbes's thought?

14. How does Hobbes distinguish his understanding of virtue and vice from that of other writers of moral philosophy?

15. What kind of unity characterizes the state formed by the contract? Why must human beings, according to Hobbes, accept the will of the sovereign as their own?

16. Hobbes argues that all legitimate authority is derived from the consent of the governed, rather than, for example, from generation or force. How does Hobbes's understanding of the foundation of government support individual freedom?

17. How is Hobbes's teaching about the sovereign built on his understanding of the passions, especially desire and aversion?

Paper Topics:

1. What sort of love stories might someone write who accepted Hobbes's teaching about the passions?

Hobbes Reading

Guide to unit 6

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