Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes. Leviathan. London, 1651

Thomas Hobbes. Leviathan. London, 1651

Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) wrote Leviathan in exile in France after the execution of Charles I.  In the work Hobbes argues that the individual should always submit to the State, because any government is better than anarchy. The argument is represented in the  famous frontispiece,  drawn by exiled French Hugenot, Abraham Bosse (1602-1676), but designed in collaboration with Hobbes. It shows the state as a giant, with sword and crosier and wearing a crown, the emblems of civil and ecclesiastical authority.

His torso and arms are packed with little figures incorporated into an undivided, conflict-free body, the all-governing, all-embracing state. The mass of people is gathered like a congregation. They face inwards, reverently, towards the head of the mortal god, who towers over the land. Modern scholarship recognises Hobbes as a philosopher whose importance extends far beyond the realm of political theory—someone whose work in theology, metaphysics, science, history, and psychology entitles him to be described as one of the true founders of modernity in Western culture.