First Hobbes writes of the natural condition of human beings, which he believes is inherently troublesome; the state of nature that exists without a government, which to Hobbes is terrifyingly chaotic; and then the laws of nature that he says can, but do not always guide human behavior towards self-preservation.
Once these presuppositions are established, then Hobbes writes of the formation and design of the commonwealth. The Leviathan’s creation through a covenant is voluntary, rational and necessary, Hobbes believes, because is it the only way to guarantee man’s peace and security and the only way to escape the dreaded state of nature. Continuing along this line of thought, Hobbes decides that the most powerful government is best, and so he concludes that a monarch with unlimited rights should rule.
In the second of the two lectures Agamben offers a rereading of Hobbes’ Leviathan through an interpretation of the frontispiece of its first edition. In this rereading, political community is seen as an optical illusion and the sovereign as existing somewhere outside and simply instituting order over a dissolved multitude. Hence, instead of playing a positive role – as the commonplace interpretation would suggest – Agamben’s Hobbesian state in fact acts as an agent of antichrist, bringing forward the end of history (hence the choice of the name of a biblical beast).
We are in need of knowledge that would combine the resources of iconology with those of what is arguably the most tenuous and uncertain discipline among the many taught in our universities: political philosophy. The knowledge that would be required here would be that of a science we could call iconologia philosophica; a science which perhaps existed between 1531 (the date of publication of Andrea Alciato’s Emblemata) and 1627 (when Jacob Cats’s Sinne- en minnebeelden appeared), but for which today we lack even the most elementary principles.