Hobbes by Leslie Stephen (1832 – 1904)

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) famously wrote that in the state of nature “the life of man” was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” In his own long life of ninety-one years, Hobbes survived the turmoil of the English Civil War. In his “Leviathan,” he expounded a new version of social contract theory in which the contract is not between the subjects and the sovereign, but between the subjects themselves. Leslie Stephens writes that for Hobbes this contract required an absolute sovereign, as depicted in the frontispiece of “Leviathan, “a composite giant, his body made of human beings” who “holds the sword inone hand and a crozier in the other,” a mortal god, a governing machine. (Summary by Pamela Nagami, M.D.)

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