The Combination of Math and Political Philosophy in Leviathan

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Leviathan is considered one of the most influential works in political science field. Thomas Hobbes wrote this book at the age of seventy and it is still a highly controversial discussion topic. When Hobbes was writing the Leviathan he managed to synthese mathematics and political philosophy dexterously in the same pot. First, I will touch upon the content of the book and philosophy and Hobbes then I will come to the methodological part.

The best way to understand the ideas of Hobbes and its magnum opus Leviathan it is needed to take the historical era into account in which he used to live. Seventeenth century was not the perfect time for England and the country was dealing with unending wars and conflicts. On the top of this English Civil War broke out culminating in beheading of King Charles I and replacement of English Monarchy with the rule of Oliver Cromwell. These constant crises and conflicts have shaped the thought of Hobbes in a huge way. The timeline which one lives in has undeniably a huge effect on the people. Owing to these reasons Hobbes wanted to solve and put an end to these conflicts.

It is crucial to understand that human nature has bad, brutal and nasty characteristics for Hobbes and that point of view constitutes the key element of Hobbesian thought. He also was one of the leading figures of realism movement in the field of international relations. Realism contends that states are rational actors just like humans and they share the same characteristics. Every state is on its own and can never be sure of other states’ intentions I can explain this with an example let’s suppose a person in the wild jungle and in this case this person would definitely feel insecure and perceive his surroundings with suspicion and angst. States are exactly like the person in this jungle according to realism. Seeing that there is no Leviathan that would provide the security around the world every state must protect itself and do whatever it takes for the protection of its sovereignty. So Hobbes explained how a state (which he called Commonwealth) has the best chance to achieve this. It is vital to know that Hobbes along with John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau was one of the first known advocates of social contract theory.

He rejected the theory of divine right of the Kings and argued that a sovereign must take his legitimacy from the citizens and as long as the citizens give their assent to the sovereign then he would exert absolute authority in the Commonwealth as the citizens accepted his authority then his will would become their own will. In this case there would be no reason to stand against the sovereign as long as he threatens the lives of citizens directly. Basically Hobbes is against any sort of opposition against the ruler because he argued that even the worst ruler is better than disorder and chaos within the Commonwealth. John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau differ from the ideas of Hobbes in some points arguing that the sovereign must respect the rights (the right to live, right of property and freedom of religion) of his subjects otherwise he would lose his legitimacy and the people would have the right to stand against and elect a new ruler. Especially Rousseaus’ ideas are important in this case since he wanted that people should not only elect the leader but also scrutinize his actions. Differences over the ideas emanated from different eras since Locke and Rousseau used to live relatively in peaceful times whereas Hobbes experienced numerous wars and conflicts which surely affected his way of thinking.

Nevertheless methodology of Hobbes was quite a distinguished one in which he tried to connect mathematics with political philosophy. It is worth mentioning that Hobbes was also one of the prominent mathematicians during his time and his knowledge of mathematics and geometry enabled him to think in a different way. Maths and geometry are sciences that provide certain exact results and left no place for for doubt and shadow that should be enlightened. That is what Hobbes was trying to reach i. e. constructing a political theory whose outcomes supposed to reflect exact and certain truth just like maths and geometry. For Hobbes logical argumentation was essential to produce scientific knowledge and only through logical reasoning one could come to correct outcomes. At this point it is not difficult to criticize because logic would be prone to subjectivation and as far as I am concerned it is not possible to reach absolute results in social sciences which makes them distinguished from natural sciences and mathematics. Duverger’s theory (some call it Duverger’s law) and democratic peace theory are considered the most successful theories in the field of social sciences, however, even they can be proven incorrect in some cases.

Therefore one could not argue that we will have exact absolute result by combining maths and political philosophy due to the fact that they are two separate sciences with different features. Basically we could criticise the ideas of Hobbes on a certain level since his ideas do not reflect exact and unalterable results. What Hobbes was trying to accomplish was the legitimization of the new system after the execution of King Charles I. so that the everlasting conflicts and wars in his country would finally come to an end.


Read more