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The Frontispiece 
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Post The Frontispiece
Image


The famous Frontispiece, which you'll find inside on lxxiv and page 2 of the Cambridge edition, is an interesting depiction. Look closely at the image inside the book and you'll see why. The Leviathan at first glance is a huge and seemingly all powerful ruler, but on closer inspection of the sovereign's garment it becomes apparent that he is made up of many individual people. What's your opinion on this?

From Wikipedia: "The frontispiece has two main elements, of which the upper part is by far the most striking. In it, a giant crowned figure is seen emerging from the landscape, clutching a sword and a crosier, beneath a quote from the Book of Job—"Non est potestas Super Terram quae Comparetur ei. Iob. 41 . 24" ("There is no power on earth to be compared to him. Job 41 . 24")—linking the figure to the monster of that book. The torso and arms of the figure are composed of over three hundred persons, in the style of Giuseppe Arcimboldo; all are facing inwards with just the giant's head having visible features."

I'd like to hear everyone's individual interpretation of the frontispiece and what it means philosophically. After we read the book, it'll be interesting to compare our opinions of the image to that of Hobbes' political philosophy. Will they match?

Who/What is Leviathan?!?!?!?!


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Post Re: The Frontispiece
Well I was thinking all the people being represnted by one person was a sort of democracy, but it hardly is, if we are talking about a monarchy.


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Tue Dec 27, 2011 11:58 am
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Post Re: The Frontispiece
Hey Heledd,

I also thought that some aspects of it were democratic. The Leviathan's power is derived from the people. Leviathan wouldn't be if not for the people. From this drawing someone could argue that making the people more powerful would also make Leviathan more powerful. Some could also argue that the people, had they a mind to, could wield sword or god/culture.

But that's where it pretty much ends for me. The people have no place in the head of Leviathan. They have no right to think. They are merely cogs in the larger machine.

They have the power to wield the sword but if they attacked Leviathan they would be killing themselves. If they chose to try and free themselves of the head they'd all perish. Also, everything Leviathan does requires that the members of the body act in unison according to his commands. Therefore, any arbitrary act Leviathan chooses to do the people which compose him are ultimately held responsible for because they had a part in it. They ARE Leviathan. What I mean by this is that the people have no right to make decisions and yet they are held responsible.

The Leviathan does not work without the cooperation of the people. This is a good argument for obedience and hierarchy. The more obedient, hard working, and unquestioningly quick to respond to orders the people are, will make Leviathan stronger. If Leviathan is stronger, Leviathan will be healthier, and the people living within Leviathan will be more secure.

I wondered about the religious aspect of this drawing. If Leviathan gets his power from the people - where is god? Is god in the scepter? Is he represented in the crown? I don't know if God is much represented at all. This drawing, because of the people, is more secular than religious. I feel that had there been an emphasis on divine right there wouldn't be such 'pollution' of Leviathan.

Everyone's head is turned toward the center... this shouldn't be overlooked. The people have no right to wonder about Leviathan's direction - only what his orders are and that he is internally sound.

The argument could be made from the drawing that a king which hurt his subjects also hurts himself.

This drawing leaves very little room for any rule other than that by a sole Monarch.

A person might interpret this drawing as an argument for a caste type system as we can assume Leviathan has "feet". We see this type of thinking in the Indian Vedas.

“The Brahmin was his mouth, his two arms were made the Rajanya [Kshatriya, king and warrior], his two thighs [loins] the Vaishya, from
his feet the Sudra [servile class] was born.”



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Post Re: The Frontispiece
The monarch is beholden to the people, to protect and serve them in the same way that our current democratic system of government with its various checks and balances is supposed to. Obviously our current system of democracy is tainted, and our representatives often more beholden to special interests than to the people who elected them. Likewise, there have been monarchies throughout history that have served the people well and others that have failed. I think Hobbes is going to argue that the people have a pact to serve the monarch, but this pact goes both ways. The monarch also serves the people. This frontispiece illustrates the principle that we are serve one another, and for mutual benefit. Leviathan gets his power from the people. The state of peace that such an arrangement makes possible allows us to avoid the brutish state of perpetual civil war that would otherwise be our "natural" state.

As Camacho says, God's role is perhaps not represented in this frontispiece at all. Hobbes had very unorthodox views with respect to God. He was accused of being an atheist, and this was a time when atheism and blasphemy were punishable by death. It's very possible that Hobbes, a deist, paid some lip service to certain religious ideas out of self-preservation. At least, this is suggested in the introduction to the Oxford Classic edition I'm reading.


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Post Re: The Frontispiece
Although it might be unfair for me to comment as I had started reading Leviathan at the end of November, but December being a very busy month for me with overtime and work and spending near a week with my mother and aunt I am down to the last 30 or so pages of Leviathan. If Hobbes was an atheist he did an excellent job of coverning it up as more then half of this book is devoted to Biblical interpretations. He largely takes a shot at the Catholic Churches beliefs and much of his writing seems geared to support the Church of England. I think Camacho hit it on the head when he said "But that's where it pretty much ends for me. The people have no place in the head of Leviathan. They have no right to think. They are merely cogs in the larger machine" and I think that is the just of Hobbes philosophy is that we have no right to question the soverign or work to change the system.



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Post Re: The Frontispiece
It's the ability of the Sovereign to control the church and its doctrines in Leviathan which caused Hobbes to be painted an Atheist. In effect he was saying that religion was man made. He seems also not to put much emphasis on divine right so far.



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Post Re: The Frontispiece
Looking at this depiction of Leviathan, it appears to me that the little people assembled in this way graphically creates 'chain mail' and this represents defensive armor of the King. Also, the chain mail/people goes only up to his neck, perhaps deliberatly limiting them to his body only, his face is happy/benevolent but the crown represents ultimate royal power and authority.

I also thought of the people as 'Lilliputian' which led me to look up Gulliver's Travels on Wiki, and here is an excerpt:

"Gulliver’s Travels, Johnathan Swift, 1726

During his first voyage, Gulliver is washed ashore after a shipwreck and finds himself a prisoner of a race of tiny people, less than 6 inches high, who are inhabitants of the island country of Lilliput. After giving assurances of his good behaviour, he is given a residence in Lilliput and becomes a favourite of the court. From there, the book follows Gulliver's observations on the Court of Lilliput.

Published seven years after Daniel Defoe's wildly successful Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels may be read as a systematic rebuttal of Defoe's optimistic account of human capability. In The Unthinkable Swift: The Spontaneous Philosophy of a Church of England Man Warren Montag argues that Swift was concerned to refute the notion that the individual precedes society, as Defoe's novel seems to suggest. Swift regarded such thought as a dangerous endorsement of Thomas Hobbes' radical political philosophy and for this reason Gulliver repeatedly encounters established societies rather than desolate islands."



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