or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill
Part I: Of Man
In Part I, Hobbes attempts an analysis of society from first principles, beginning with Man and the Senses. He develops this in a sequence of definitions (for example: Imagination is "nothing but decaying sense" and is the same as Memory). He points out the Necessity of Definitions, which is a hint that he is attempting an axiomatisation of political philosophy in line with the programme of geometry. He defines various passions in an unsentimental way: e.g. "But whatsoever is the object of any man's appetite or desire, that is it which he for his part calleth good; and the object of his hate and aversion, evil; and of his contempt, vile and inconsiderable. For these words of good, evil, and contemptible are ever used with relation to the person that 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…". A whole sequence of such definitions follows: Appetite with an opinion of attaining, is called Hope; Honourable is whatsoever possession, action, or quality is an argument and sign of power. Chapter XIII is an exposition "Of the Natural Condition of Mankind, as concerning their Felicity, and Misery" and contains the famous quotation describing life in the state of war of every man against every man as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."
Of Common-wealthThe purpose of a commonwealth is given at the start of Part II: THE final cause, end, or design of men (who naturally love liberty, and dominion over others) in the introduction of that restraint upon themselves, in which we see them live in Commonwealths, is the foresight of their own preservation, and of a more contented life thereby; that is to say, of getting themselves out from that miserable condition of war which is necessarily consequent, as hath been shown, to the natural passions of men when there is no visible power to keep them in awe, and tie them by fear of punishment to the performance of their covenants….
Part III: Of a Christian Common-wealth
In Part III Hobbes seeks to investigate the nature of a Christian commonwealth. This immediately raises the question of which scriptures we should trust, and why. If any person may claim supernatural revelation superior to the civil law, then there would be chaos, and Hobbes' fervent desire is to avoid this. Hobbes thus begins by establishing that we cannot infallibly know another's personal word to be divine revelation:
When God speaketh to man, it must be either immediately or by mediation of another man, to whom He had formerly spoken by Himself immediately. How God speaketh to a man immediately may be understood by those well enough to whom He hath so spoken; but how the same should be understood by another is hard, if not impossible, to know. For if a man pretend to me that God hath spoken to him supernaturally, and immediately, and I make doubt of it, I cannot easily perceive what argument he can produce to oblige me to believe it.
Part IV: Of the Kingdom of Darkness
Hobbes named Part IV of his book Kingdom of Darkness. By this, Hobbes does not mean Hell (he did not believe in Hell or Purgatory) but the darkness of ignorance as opposed to the light of true knowledge. Hobbes' interpretation is largely unorthodox and so sees much darkness in what he sees as the misinterpretation of Scripture.
- AP Publishing House, November 2012
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