This book offers a concise introduction to the main ideas and arguments of the major political thinkers of modernity. It considers the following key thinkers: Hobbes, Locke, Bentham, J. S. Mill, Rousseau, Burke, Hegel and Marx.
Perhaps the best way to understand the ideas of a thinker is to read from their work. This book devotes each chapter to the main writings of a single thinker, providing excerpts from their work and explaining their views in detail. Readers are not expected to have any previous knowledge of the writings of these eight political philosophers, but by the end they should have a solid grasp of their central ideas. This book serves as an essential guide to some of the most important writings on political philosophy of modern times.
Chapter 1 Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes was born in 1588 in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, and lived until 1679. He lived a long life and witnessed significant developments in both science and politics. His thought is a response to both the scientific and political revolutions of his time. His political theory is an attempt to bring political stability at the time of the Civil War between Charles I and Parliament, which led to the King’s execution in 1649, and a period of political and constitutional instability until the Restoration in 1660. At the same time, Hobbes’s methodology is inf luenced by the newly emergent natural sciences. His most important political work, Leviathan, was written very quickly during 1649–1650 and published in 1651. We should bear in mind that Hobbes did not regard himself as solely a political philosopher, but rather as one among such thinkers as Bacon and Descartes, who were concerned with the nature and status of philosophical enquiry. His political theory is, therefore, a part of his philosophical system. For this reason, I shall start with the method of Leviathan. The Methodology of Leviathan The scientific model which underlies Hobbes’s argument in Leviathan is mathematics and in particular geometry, from which he took the method of deduction; that is, a reasoning (or ratiocination, as Hobbes calls it) which starts with a definition, or definitions, on the basis of which one arrives at new definitions, and so on, until one reaches something known. Hobbes 6 Chapter 1 firmly believed that he could apply the...
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