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.
About the author
Leon Harold Craig is a professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta.
‘This is a book not to be missed by anyone who is interested in the political thought of Thomas Hobbes.’
Canadian Political Science Review vol 45:04:2012
‘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.’
Claremont Review of Books
‘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.’
The Review of Politics
‘This book is a treasure of close reading and every student of Hobbes should confront it.’
Review of Metaphysics
‘… 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.’
Political Science Review