“Concerning the Thoughts of man, I will consider them first Singly, and afterwards in Trayne, or dependance upon one another. Singly, they are every one a Representation or Apparence, of some quality, or other Accident of a body without us; which is commonly called an Object. Which Object worketh on the Eyes, Eares, and other parts of mans body; and by diversity of working, produceth diversity of Apparences.
The Originall of them all, is that which we call Sense; (For there is no conception in a mans mind, which hath not at first, totally, or by parts, been begotten upon the organs of Sense.) The rest are derived from that originall.”
Part I: Of Man
In the opening section of section of the book, Hobbes sets out to write a metaphysical interpretation of human existence. He begins with a materialist idea, that humans of the physical world and created from already existing elements within that world, to better understand what it means to be alive. So rather than a spirit given corporeal life or even a lump of clay with life breathed into it, human existence is based on simply our awareness of this state. This is a break (although not from all forms of philosophy) from a strictly Christian worldview. And although Hobbes later talks at length about Christianity, this is the basis of his argument of power and society that shouldn’t be mistaken for an argument for a Christian government.
He goes on to talk about various elements of our experience of being — sense, will, idea, language, etc, all of which follow a logical path from this original idea. This slowly forms the idea of what it means to be alive, what it means to exist, and what it means to be a rational actor in the world. Because of the biological imperative of life, Hobbes begins to shape the idea of why humans need some kind of organization and society.
Part II: Of Commonwealth
“The finall Cause, End, or Designe of men, (who naturally love Liberty, and Dominion over others,) in the introduction of that restraint upon themselves, (in which wee see them live in Common-wealths,) 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 Warre, which is necessarily consequent (as hath been shewn) to the naturall Passions of men, when there is no visible Power to keep them in awe, and tye them by feare of punishment to the performance of their Covenants, and observation of these Lawes of Nature set down in the fourteenth and fifteenth Chapters.”
Here’s where Hobbes gets a lot of his criticism as being cynical and harsh about human existence and well, we are living in a society 12,000 years deep that has seen all the truly terrible things that have happened to human beings along the way. I think too often people see themselves as the center of history perspective wise and fail to recognize or understand the scope of human history. It’s a reasonable failure because it’s a near infinite amount of information and understanding to be able to hold in direct counter to your own experiences. It also doesn’t feel good to think about your life in this way, which is why even atheistic worldviews recognize a form of soul in the idea of consciousness. That said, Hobbes is not telling you what your life is like, but telling humans what human life is like. In addition to that, he’s also creating a model counter to a Christian worldview of being, and he’s writing on the cusp of the English Civil War which threatens a Christian Authoritarian state.
In this section he also lays out the basic ideas of citizenship and law. What stands out here is that Hobbes does not tend to see any of person more deserving of basic rights than others, or others more deserving of being granted power than others. Instead, he tends to have a kind of democratic (well, not exactly) or at least meritocratic understanding of power, and an inverse look at rights. He takes for example a murder, and he creates a kind of hierarchy of murder not based on who it’s worst to kill, but perhaps who we have the most sympathy with. In a lot of ways, this is a more Christ-like view of things, but not Christian in the sense of the marriage of Christianity/Money/Power of the last few hundred years.
Part III: Of a Christian Commonwealth
“The Word Of God Delivered By Prophets Is The Main Principle
Of Christian Politiques
I have derived the Rights of Soveraigne Power, and the duty of Subjects hitherto, from the Principles of Nature onely; such as Experience has found true, or Consent (concerning the use of words) has made so; that is to say, from the nature of Men, known to us by Experience, and from Definitions (of such words as are Essentiall to all Politicall reasoning) universally agreed on. But in that I am next to handle, which is the Nature and Rights of a CHRISTIAN COMMON-WEALTH, whereof there dependeth much upon Supernaturall Revelations of the Will of God; the ground of my Discourse must be, not only the Naturall Word of God, but also the Propheticall.”
The driving reason Hobbes is against Christian Commonwealth is probably because of how that power would be abused and limit power to Christians solely. That said, his given reason for it is that it creates a split consciousness. So for example, how could a Christian listen to both the dictates of the King and of the Church? What if they disagree? What if the King, in his capacity of representative of the Church, command something sinful? What if the Church and the King disagree?
In the same way, there’s more than one commonwealth. France and England have spent the last several centuries in and out of different wars, both claiming the guidance of God and the Church. So how could both be right? In modern terms, if both teams are praying to God for victory, does the result of the game suggest God’s favor?
Hobbes spends a lot more time building up his argument and understanding. It’s easy to be silly and flippant about this, but the stakes were and generally always have been pretty serious and dangerous.
Part IV: Of the Kingdom of Darkness
“The Kingdome Of Darknesse What
Besides these Soveraign Powers, Divine, and Humane, of which I have hitherto discoursed, there is mention in Scripture of another Power, namely, (Eph. 6. 12.), that of “the Rulers of the Darknesse of this world,” (Mat. 12. 26.), “the Kingdome of Satan,” and, (Mat. 9. 34.), “the Principality of Beelzebub over Daemons,” that is to say, over Phantasmes that appear in the Air: For which cause Satan is also called (Eph. 2. 2.) “the Prince of the Power of the Air;” and (because he ruleth in the darknesse of this world) (Joh. 16. 11.) “The Prince of this world;” And in consequence hereunto, they who are under his Dominion, in opposition to the faithfull (who are the Children Of The Light) are called the Children Of Darknesse. For seeing Beelzebub is Prince of Phantasmes, Inhabitants of his Dominion of Air and Darknesse, the Children of Darknesse, and these Daemons, Phantasmes, or Spirits of Illusion, signifie allegorically the same thing. This considered, the Kingdome of Darknesse, as it is set forth in these, and other places of the Scripture, is nothing else but 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.”
In the last section, keeping with the idea of the separation of the government and church, Hobbes spends a lot of time talking about the nature of the world and how to understand the relationship between.