Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 13
LIBERTINISM AND HOBBES'S LEVIATHAN
In Leviathan or The Matter, Forme, and Power of a Common-wealth Ecclesiastical and
Civil (1651), Thomas Hobbes defines and discusses civil government and the need for
institutional governments, namely commonwealths, to control and enforce rules upon its citizens.
He promotes the formation of commonwealths ruled by sovereigns as the optimal solution to
governing citizens and preventing them from reverting back to living in what Hobbes calls the
"state of nature," which is an anarchic state in which institutional government is absent and
citizens are motivated and governed solely by self-interest (Hobbes 62). Hobbes describes the
"state of nature" as "nasty, brutish, and short" due to the constant war and tumult that results
from the absence of government (62). Gregory Kavka writes, "Hence, the real conclusion that
Hobbes draws (and needs) is that the state of nature is a state of war of all against all, punctuated
by frequent violence, in which the participants correctly perceive themselves to be in constant
danger" (2). In the state of nature, individuals constantly fight for survival and are motivated by
paranoia in that they believe every person who lives in the state of nature wants to defeat them,
abscond with their goods, and possibly even exert power over them.
During the Restoration in England (1660-1700), many libertines quoted Hobbes, namely
Leviathan, to support their renouncement of institutional authority and their endorsement of
living according to their own self-interest and preferring to follow their instincts over adhering to
reason. Libertines often misinterpreted Hobbes's promotion of a commonwealth as the most
effective form of government for implementing controls upon the citizens living within it as an
argument for the exact opposite, a society free from institutional authority or at least an
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Smith, Victoria. Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell, dissertation, May 2008; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc6051/m1/19/ocr/: accessed April 26, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .