The Platonian Leviathan

Leon Harold Craig

© 2009

Thomas Hobbes's influential political treatise, Leviathan, was first published in 1651. Many scholars have since credited him with a mechanistic outlook towards human nature that established the basis of modern Western political philosophy from the perspective of social contract theory. In The Platonian Leviathan, Leon Harold Craig weaves together philosophy, political science, and literature to offer a radical re-interpretation of Hobbes's most famous work.

Though Craig begins and concludes his analysis with discussions of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick and includes an essay on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the bulk of his two-part commentary centres on Leviathan. Part One shows the overt principles of Hobbes's political prescription to be untenable, and strongly suggests that Hobbes himself did not subscribe to these rules, using them only as tools to further his philosophical goals. In Part Two, Craig displays the underlying Platonism of Hobbes's thinking. Sure to be controversial, The Platonian Leviathan may nonetheless re-orient the future direction of Hobbes scholarship.

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  • Page Count: 704 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.5in x 1.7in x 9.3in
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Quick Overview

Leon Harold Craig weaves together philosophy, political science, and literature to offer a radical re-interpretation of Hobbes's most famous work.

The Platonian Leviathan

Leon Harold Craig

© 2009

Thomas Hobbes's influential political treatise, Leviathan, was first published in 1651. Many scholars have since credited him with a mechanistic outlook towards human nature that established the basis of modern Western political philosophy from the perspective of social contract theory. In The Platonian Leviathan, Leon Harold Craig weaves together philosophy, political science, and literature to offer a radical re-interpretation of Hobbes's most famous work.

Though Craig begins and concludes his analysis with discussions of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick and includes an essay on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the bulk of his two-part commentary centres on Leviathan. Part One shows the overt principles of Hobbes's political prescription to be untenable, and strongly suggests that Hobbes himself did not subscribe to these rules, using them only as tools to further his philosophical goals. In Part Two, Craig displays the underlying Platonism of Hobbes's thinking. Sure to be controversial, The Platonian Leviathan may nonetheless re-orient the future direction of Hobbes scholarship.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 704 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.5in x 1.7in x 9.3in
  • Reviews

    ‘The author of substantial and thought-provoking studies of Plato’s Republic and Shakespeare’s political dramas, Craig’s latest effort interprets Leviathan as an exercise in Platonic political philosophy … Craig’s book both summons scholars to return to the permanent questions about the right way of life and challenges them to match their readings of Hobbes and Plato against his own. Intrepid readers (and Craig, who associates philosophy with “the warrior spirit,” seeks no others) will benefit from the dialectical experience that The Platonian Leviathan makes possible.’
    Daniel Cullen
    The Review of Politics

    ‘… Craig offers the reader of his book a course in how to interpret a great classic of political philosophy with a view to our concerns in the twenty-first century … Craig’s book offers a very comprehensive interpretation of Hobbes’s Leviathan … It is difficult, or, to put it more correctly, impossible to do justice to this book packed with thoughts and intelligent suggestions … [E]ven in mentally developing counter-arguments or amplifications of Craig’s interpretations, they will do what is most necessary in order to come to grips with the dilemmas of modernity, especially as they relate to the theologico-political problem … It is a bold attempt at making sense of Hobbes for our world … Recommended for collections of philosophy, political science, and literature – and especially those readers who try to combine interests in all three of these research fields.’
    Michael T. Rogers
    Political Science Review

    ‘Leon Craig’s The Platonian Leviathan is always thoughtful and refreshing in what it says about Hobbes, metaphysical issues, and the works of Melville and Conrad. Its subtle and learned arguments are worth pondering; there is much to learn from Craig about the matters he discusses.’
    Mark Blitz
    Claremont Review of Books

    ‘This book is a treasure of close reading and every student of Hobbes should confront it.’
    Geoffrey M. Vaughan
    Review of Metaphysics

    ‘This is a book not to be missed by anyone who is interested in the political thought of Thomas Hobbes.’


    Laurie M. Johnson
    Canadian Political Science Review vol 45:04:2012

    'Written from a sense of urgency ... The Platonian Leviathan is a tightly woven argument. Leon Harold Craig sets about his task with the joy of a scholar in command of his sources but with the motivation of a genuine (and so rare) philosopher ... Craig's book will change forever the way serious readers of Hobbes understand the master.'


    Barry Cooper, Department of Political Science, University of Calgary
  • Author Information

    Leon Harold Craig is a professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta.

  • Table of contents

    Contents


    Acknowledgments xi

    Prelude xiii

    A Melvillian Overture: Moby-Dick and Philosophy 3

    Part One: The problematical Leviathan: Κακοφουια 25

    1: Curiosity about Causes and the Problem of Religion 29
    2: Reality and the Problem of Materialism 51
    3: The Aristotelian Analysis of Cause 63
    4: The Human Psyche and the Problem of Chance71
    5: The Causes of a Commonwealth 79
    6: Nature and the Problem of Teleology 84
    7: The Essentials of Baconian Science 95
    8: The Baconian Character of Hobbes' Political Project 106
    9: Philosophy and the Problem of Determinism 114
    10: Reason and the Problem of Revelation 133
    11: Rationality and the Problem of Reason 145
    12: Science and the Problem of Language 169
    13: Honour and the Problem of Natural Law 198
    14: Nobility and the Problem of Hedonism 220
    15: Justice and the Problem of Regimes 246
    16: Equity and the Problem of Egoism 267

    A Conradian Intermezzo: Variations on the State of Nature 295


    Part Two: The Paltonic Leviathan:
    cΑρμουια 327

    17: The Crucial Paragraph: Platonic Intimations 329
    18: The Heartless Introduction: Hobbes's Disposable Physiology 355
    19: The Original State of Nature: Hobbes's Paleo-anthropology 369
    20: The Ever-Present State of Nature: Greeks versus Barbarians 389
    21: The Nature of Men: Equality as a Useful Lie 418
    22: The Place of Philosophy: The Kingship of Hobbes 445
    23: A Colossus of Irony: The Latent Platonism of Leviathan 479

    A Melvillian Coda: Moby-Dick as Fourfold Allegory 499

    Postlude 525

    Notes 541

    Bibliography 675

    Index of Names 685

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