Ellis Washington
On Hobbes and the Leviathan who devours men
By Ellis Washington
October 4, 2014

It is not wisdom but authority that makes law.

During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man.

~ Hobbes


Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), was an English philosopher, scholar who is famous for his writings on moral philosophy and political philosophy. His magnum opus, Leviathan (1651) further developed Machiavelli's ends/means paradigm as well as establishing social contract theory, psychological egoism and materialism as essential aspects of political philosophy in the Western tradition. On a macro level Hobbes was a defender of authoritarianism for the sovereign, nevertheless he also advanced many fundamental precepts of European liberal tradition – the right of the individual; the natural equality of all men; the artificial character of the political order (the State vs. civil society); the idea that all authority and political control must by "representative" and based on the consent of the governed or the people; and a liberal understanding of law which leaves people free to do whatever the law does not clearly prohibit.

Together with Machiavelli, Hobbes was one of the originators of modern moral philosophy, political philosophy and political science. His materialistic, amoral conception of humans ignores their spiritual dimension and understood humans as being matter and motion, obeying the same physical laws as other matter and motion, continues to be germane even today. Hobbes’s analysis of human nature in government as self-interested and self-will predated by several centuries ideas later proposed by Nietzsche in the late 1800s (Will to Power) to Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy of the 1930s-80s which deified selfishness as a virtue, and of modern political groups embracing his "social contract" theory is one of the main pillars of political philosophy. A true Renaissance man, in addition to political philosophy, Hobbes also was an expert in many other intellectual disciplines, including history, geometry, physics, theology, ethics, and general philosophy.


Written in at the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment (c.1650-1800) Hobbes's Leviathan (1651), laid out his principles establishing the foundation of states, civil society and representative governments which is derivative of his social contract theory. Leviathan was written during the English Civil War (1642-51) and much of the book is concerned with establishing the need of a strong central government to escape the evil of conflict and civil war.

Using first principles Hobbes begins his analysis of the State from a materialistic view of human beings and their attendant passions, not from a moral or biblical view as free agents of God, but from a mechanistic view that humans are merely animals acting on their base instincts. Under this machinelike paradigm, Hobbes theorized a society in anarchy – or human existence without the strictures of government, a situation he defines as a "state of nature." Relying on the works of natural law philosophy Hugo Grotius (minus his natural law ideas), Hobbes essentially proposed the idea that in a state of nature every person would have a right, or sanction to everything in the world. This state of anarchy absent a viable political community of course would lead to what Hobbes called a "war of all against all" (bellum omnium contra omnes). Regarding this perpetual chaotic state of nature Hobbes famously wrote:
    In such condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving, and removing, such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
In such a disordered state of nature, people fear death the most and are desperate to achieve a ordered, predictable life, therefore, in order to avoid societal chaos people must be willing to give up some of their God-given natural rights founded under natural law and agree to be governed under a social contract and form a civil society. Unlike Montesquieu's Spirit of Laws (1748) which America's Framers got the ideas on separation of powers, under Hobbes's view separation of powers natural rights under natural law does not exist and tragically does not need to exist for according to Hobbes, the sovereign must have absolute control civil, military, judicial, and ecclesiastical powers over every person thus creating the awe-inspiring symbol of government power over people, "Leviathan" or the biblical sea monster whose omnipotent powers controls and dominates all. Today we call such forms government tyrannical, fascist, collectivist, statist, communist or socialist. Tragically these so-called "progressive" governments exist all over the world including here in America under the Marxist/Alinsky government of Barack Obama.

Hobbes and Human Nature

Editor Ted Honderich in The Oxford Guide to Philosophy says this about Hobbes and his writings on human nature: "Hobbes has a somewhat pessimistic view of human nature, but he did not hold the view that the only motive for human action was self-interest, a view known as 'psychological egoism.'" However, I don't think this is true for Hobbes was a major proponent of psychological egoism and materialism in establishing the civil society. As a skeptic and possibly an atheist, he believed that most people are like children born concerned only with themselves and their families, therefore very few people other than on a general level really are strongly interested in the long-term welfare of other people. He does not deny that some people are concerned with others, and in Leviathan he devotes much analysis on issues like Benevolence, Good Will, Charity, Good Nature and 'Love of persons for society, KINDNESS.' However, he is skeptical that such passions are prevalent enough to rely on them when building a civil society, thus the need for a tyrannical "sovereign" to impose his will on the majority allegedly for the "common good" of all.

Hobbes's understanding of the will was desire and passion that leads to action, therefore Hobbes' social contract theory mandates the people always follow their infantile and selfish passions and desires. Since Hobbes also believes that "the common name for all things that are desired, in so far as they are desired, is good," it follows that everyman seeks what is good to him. As we shall later see Hobbes social contract theory is a perversion of the social contract the America's Framers relied on to create it Republic form of government based on natural law, natural rights, God and the Bible. These principles came largely from the writings and ideas of Blackstone, Montesquieu and Locke not Hobbes. The societal chaos of French Revolution was rooted in the ideas of Hobbes

Hobbes in Modern Times

However, Hobbes does not seem to foresee the chaos his social contract would engender where the sovereign devolves into a dictator and tyranny reigns supreme because the president or chancellor seizes all the branches of the government onto himself (Hitler); where the executive become the lawgiver (Congress) and law interpreter (Judiciary) all unto himself (Obama). In American history there have been many presidents who have acted in a despotic manner, the Obama administration being the most recent with his unwillingness to consult Congress over any policy position but instead uses Congress's intransigence against his progressive policies as a pretext to metaphorically do what Hitler did in 1934 – burn down the Reichstag (parliament building) and upon its ashes build the National Socialist Party (Nazi Party) and blame the destruction of the Reichstag on your political enemies (the Jews, the communists and the Christians). It's a cynical strategy rooted in Hobbesian psychological egoism whereby human self-interest replaces God, natural law and the Constitution.

Hobbesian fascism was demonstrated in Lincoln's suspension of habeus corpus and unilateral implementation of the income tax to pay for the Civil War (1861-65) as a pretext to imprison over 15,000 people including journalists and political enemies. Hobbesian fascism was a pretext Theodore Roosevelt used to do virtually every policy position during his presidential term (1901-09); particularly egregious to the Constitution was perverting and manipulating the Supreme Court to pass his obviously unconstitutional attacks against Rockefeller's Standard Oil, Carnegie's steel and banking monopolies of J.P. Morgan and others. All he did was replace a business monopoly with a fascist State; one where as president of the fascist State he would dictate what are "fair" business practices not the free market capitalist system. This so-called "Imperial Presidency" model has been followed by virtually every president since Theodore Roosevelt.

Again, again and again we see Hobbesian fascism of the seventeenth century on display in modern times where his sovereign devolves to tyrannical status under the guise of "democracy" – Theodore Roosevelt's "Square Deal" and conservation fascism confiscating 230 million of acres of land as federal land, Woodrow Wilson's Twenty One Points and his League of Nations (a precursor to the socialist, anti-Semitic United Nations), FDR's New Deal and welfare state, Truman's "Fair Deal," LBJ's "Great Society," Nixon's EPA, OSHA, Affirmative Action, Clinton's "Global Initiative" and Obama's New Deal, Part 2, bringing in millions of diseased, uneducated and illegal aliens from El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico to purposely collapse the system as he Columbia professor mentors Cloward and Piven taught him in the early 1980s and now Obama's feckless egalitarianism is spreading the deadly disease Ebola in America. The cumulative effect of confiscating and Marxist redistribution of trillions of taxpayers' money to improve the human condition, yet in all respects society is more ignorant, decadent, alienated and poverty-stricken than preceding generations of the past 100 years is so Hobbes's "Sovereign" as synonymous with tyranny and dictatorship could pervert the Constitution for power, for money and to control the masses and make their own citizens slaves to the federal government and to the omnipotent State.

From the Age of Enlightenment to the French Revolution, from Marxist socialism, Darwin's evolution atheism to Obama's Neo-Marxism and Saul Alinsky policies, liberals have turned liberalism into fascism, tyranny and genocide in their social contract to seize power, resources, control and all societal institutions. This is Hobbes’s tragic, anti-God legacy – Hell on earth through government, or as he once write: "Hell is Truth seen too late."

*N.B.: This essay is based in part on ideas from Great Books of the Western World, Robert Maynard Hutchins, Editor-in-Chief (University of Chicago, 1952), Vol. 1, Chap. 31 – Government; Vol. 23 – Machiavelli and Hobbes; The Oxford Guide to Philosophy, Ted Honderich, Editor (Oxford University Press, 2005), essay on Hobbes, pp. 392-396.

Book Notice

Please purchase my latest opus dedicated to that Conservative Colossus, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Here are the latest two new volumes from my ongoing historical series – THE PROGRESSIVE REVOLUTION: History of Liberal Fascism through the Ages (University Press of America, 2015):
However, before the book is officially released to the public, I have to place 100 pre-publication orders (50 orders per each volume). I need your help to make this happen ASAP. Please place your order today for Volume 3 & Volume 4. Of course, if you can order all 100 copies today, the book will become official tomorrow.

Please circulate this flyer to all your email contacts & Facebook/Twitter followers who may be interested in purchasing this opus which will serve as a ready apologetic against the rampant Marxist-Progressive propaganda taught in America's public schools, colleges, universities, graduate schools, and law schools. Thanks in advance to all my friends, associates and colleagues for your invaluable support! Law and History Blog: www.EllisWashingtonReport.com

Invitation for manuscripts

I am starting a new a program on my blog dedicated to giving young conservatives (ages 14-35) a regular place to display and publish their ideas called Socrates Corner. If you know of any young person who wants to publish their ideas on any subject, have them send their essay manuscripts to my email at ewashington@wnd.com.

© Ellis Washington


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Ellis Washington

Ellis Washington is a former staff editor of the Michigan Law Review (1989) and law clerk at the Rutherford Institute (1992). Currently he is an adjunct professor of law at the National Paralegal College and the graduate school, National Jurisprudence University, where he teaches Constitutional Law, Legal Ethics, American History, Administrative Law, Criminal Procedure, Contracts, Real Property, and Advanced Legal Writing, among many other subjects... (more)


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