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Leviathan

Thomas Hobbes

Book IV

Book III

Study Questions

Book IV: Of the Kingdome of Darknesse

Summary

The Bible describes the Kingdom of Darkness as the confederacy of Satan and his demons. However, Hobbes, having already disproved the existence of devils, concludes that the Kingdom of Darkness is merely an allegory for a "Confederacy of Deceivers, that to obtain dominion over men in this present world, endeavour by dark, and erroneous Doctrines, to extinguish in them the Light, both of Nature, and of the Gospell; and so to dis-prepare them for the Kingdome of God to come" (Chapter 44). In Book III, Hobbes began the project of dismantling false religious doctrines, and he continues to do so in Book IV under the claim that these false doctrines are poisoning Christian belief, preventing social preparation for the eventual coming of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of Darkness exists here and now, Hobbes writes, for religion is rife with false doctrines perpetrated by people interested in preserving their own power. Accordingly, people must change their behavior--namely, they must adopt Hobbes's philosophy--in order to fulfill true Christian obedience.

There are four causes of the Kingdom of Darkness: 1) errors resulting from the misinterpretation of scripture concerning the Kingdom of God (which Hobbes suggested in Book III); 2) the belief that the Kingdom of God is the present Church; 3) the belief that the Pope is the Vicar general of Christ; and 4) the belief that clergy are specially appointed over the Christian laity with privileged knowledge of divine will. From these causes have grown the false belief that priestly incantation brings about an alteration in spiritual state, as in consecration or baptism. In fact, such incantations have no bearing upon the spiritual state, for they are mere words and have neither magical ability nor the power to force God to take action. Thus consecrations, baptisms, and other verbally enacted procedures, such as marriage, are symbolic of Christian faith but do not bring God into presence. Not only is God never present, but a human being could not have such power over God.

Those who cite scripture in an attempt to prove the existence of spirits, devils, angels, or spiritual possessions, are misinterpreting the Bible. The power of priests to conduct exorcisms is thereby erroneous, as is the invocation of saints. Purgatory and Hell are inventions, Heaven will be founded on Earth with the coming of the Kingdom of God, and the natural immortality of the soul is not demonstrable in scripture. Scripture does not teach that spirits are incorporeal, Hobbes claims, and thus such beliefs are not the product of revealed religion but rather the retention of elements from "heathen religions." Demonology, disembodied spirits, exorcism, the worship of images, and the canonizing of saints are all "relics of the religion of the Gentiles" that have infected and remained within the Church and Christian doctrine.

Such "relics" have remained entrenched because those who profess understanding of, or control over, these relics, derive much personal benefit from them. Hobbes attacks ecclesiastical authority, maintaining that they have retained false doctrines because these doctrines give them power over the ignorant. Not content to blame the accidents of history, Hobbes accuses those who preach false doctrines and erroneous facts to be directly responsible for them, for "He that receiveth Benefit by a Fact, is presumed to be the Author" (Chapter 47). Ecclesiastical authorities are thus the cause for the present Kingdom of Darkness, and Hobbes compares them to the fictional society, or Kingdom, of Fairies, which, although only an "old wives' tale" (Chapter 47), has generated many superstitious beliefs in people's minds. Hobbes proceeds to argue that, once false doctrine is dropped, a Christian commonwealth must institute the Leviathan in its place.

"No false doctrine is part of philosophy," writes Hobbes. Hobbes challenges contemporary theologians, Aristotelian philosophers, university scholastics, and the Church for being anti-philosophic and actively working to destroy truth. Hobbes criticizes the execution of Galileo, writing, "But what reason is there for it? Is it because such opinions are contrary to true Religion? That cannot be, if they be true" (Chapter 46). Philosophical truths must be religious truths, not the other way around, and only Hobbesian philosophy is successful in providing truths that are secure and capable of attaining that civil peace demanded by God's laws of nature.

In the conclusion to Leviathan, Hobbes summarizes his previous argument and reiterates the innate legitimacy of a philosophy that, if enacted, would ensure peace. He closes his masterpiece by writing that, while he does not know whether his book will have any effect on the current political climate, he is certain that no one can denounce his arguments: "For such Truth, as opposeth no mans profit, nor pleasure, is to all men welcome."

Commentary

When Hobbes suggests that the Kingdom of Darkness is preventing preparation for the coming of the Kingdom of God, he echoes the contemporary discourses of millenarianism. In England during the seventeenth century, there were many groups of people, including such groups as the Levelers and the Diggers, who believed that, with the millennium rapidly approaching, the Second Coming of Christ was imminent and that the world had to be physically prepared to welcome this arrival, which might occur by the turn of the century. Hobbes plays into this rhetoric when he suggests that the Kingdom of Darkness must be destroyed to smooth the way for the Second Coming. Hobbes also implies that instituting his Leviathan is the best way to prepare for the millennium. Hobbes was not a millenarian, so his usage of this rhetoric and the genre of millenarian writing is probably intended as a means of convincing his readers, many of whom were millenarians, of the urgency with which his program should be adopted.

However, by maintaining that the Kingdom of God has not yet arrived, Hobbes elaborates on his earlier statements arguing that in the material world and daily affairs, God is absent. God can only be perceived by natural reason and can be recognized as the fundamental cause of natural and miraculous events, but cannot be experienced as a presence. It follows, Hobbes suggests, that all worship or belief in God's immediate presence is idolatry. Thus it is idolatrous to have faith in the transubstantiation of the Eucharist, to worship saints, to believe that God is manifested in miracles (when really He is only the cause of them), and to believe in the existence of angels, spirits, or devils. Hobbes's rhetoric and examples are clearly anti-Catholic. Certainly, in Protestant England, such anti-Catholic sentiment would have been accepted. But perhaps Hobbes emphasizes anti-Catholicism in order to sneak in the more controversial aspects of his argument (which he recognizes in the text as being controversial), including the implication that God has never been present in the world, even in Christ, His son. Hobbes's claims challenged contemporary Protestant dogma as much as Catholic.

Thus, fully aware of the controversial nature of his propositions, Hobbes undoubtedly meant the last line of his book, in which he asserts that no one could find his philosophy problematic, to be ironic. Indeed, Hobbes was deliberately courting controversy: He believed that the only way to change society, to end the political and philosophical abuses he observed to be destroying his country, was to engage in a controversy.

Hobbes names his commonwealth Leviathan and argues at length about how the Leviathan is compatible with Christianity and Christian good. However, for years, cultural tradition associated Leviathan with the horrible sea monster of the Book of Job, as well as with Satan (John Milton, in Paradise Lost, would later describe Satan as Leviathan--a sly criticism of Hobbes's already notorious text). Presenting what were already unconventional ideas in themselves, Hobbes guaranteed that his work would be condemned when he employed the powerful symbolism of the Leviathan to express these ideas. However, considering the turbulence of the times in the period between the Civil Wars and the Restoration, perhaps confrontation was necessary if Hobbes's text was to be successful in its agenda to restructure the entirety of the English commonwealth. Such ambition could never avoid offending, and it is just this grandiosity of scope, as well as Leviathan's unique method, literary prose, and carefully argued philosophy that have secured its reputation for greatness.

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Hobbes Leviathan, Important Terms: PLENUM

by HerrDay, October 12, 2014

Sparknotes editors, you need to review your definition of PLENUM in the glossary for Hobbes' Leviathan. A picture of the universe as a plenum makes a vacuum impossible.

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