Leviathan: With Selected Variants from the Latin Edition of 1668 - Thomas Hobbes, Edwin M. Curley Leviathan is Hobbes’ metaphor for the State.

According to Hobbes, the use of speech has four abuses. The second of which is when men “use words metaphorically, that is, in other sense than that they are ordained for, and therby deceive others.” Bk. 1, Ch. IV, pg. 17.

I’ll come back to this.

Hobbes is best known for his -life is short and brutish- quip which is a good summary of his first book. He does not hide his disdain for the Greek philosophers adopted by the church Schoolmen that came before him. However, the approach to his own political philosophy is simultaneously an imitation of, and rejection of, those same Greeks. Like Aristotle, Hobbes believes in the Euclidean process of defining terms which, when used logically, will then unambiguously reach to solid conclusions. Unlike Plato‘s The Republic, Aristotle‘s Politics or even Machiavelli’s The Prince, Hobbes makes no attempt, initially, to establish a State around some defined good. The State exists because men fear the state of nature in which all are at war with each other. The sovereign is a tool of those governed. The sovereign's empowered to help avoid utter chaos. All are bound to the sovereign because the sovereign is the expression of their will. And their will is a double-negative version of the Golden Rule- do not do unto others what you don’t want done to you. The values men have in a state of nature are given as inherent truths. Hobbes lists them off with a brief statement as to why with no debate. For example, “Riches are honorable, for they are power. Poverty, dishonourable.” Bk. 1, Ch. X, pg. 53. Again, the focus is on what men are like in a state of nature, not an attempt to create new values.

Most people focus on the first book, but there are three others. The second book comprises mechanisms for the State. it’s not terribly engaging as it lays out reasons why monarchy is best the system of government and elaborates on the ways to avoid civil strife.

Then religion comes into play and the entire book loses cohesion. Any suspicions I had the Hobbes was an atheist were obliterated with the third book. Page after page of scathing criticism of the Church culminates in Hobbes’ reinterpretation of Scripture that:
The laws of God, therefore, are none but the laws of nature, whereof the principal is that we should not violate our faith, that is, a commandment to obey our civil sovereigns, which we constituted over us by mutual pact with another. Bk. 3, Ch. XLIII, pg. 399.
Hobbes does not follow through with the idea of savage men bonding together in a social contract on their own terms to avoid living in a state of fear. No, Hobbes is really talking about Christians bonding together to enforce biblical commandments. The State and Christianity combine into one sovereign over the Commonwealth.

Overall, the first book is fascinating in its raw vision of humanity. The later chapters soften that image until Hobbes becomes nothing more than a theological reformer. The imagery of a monster State ruling over its subjects is not the image Hobbes is after. The subtle Christian reference to the Leviathan (Job 41) becomes clearer by the end of the book. His metaphor deceived me.