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Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes

Overview
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury
Malmesbury
Malmesbury is a market town and civil parish located in the southern Cotswolds in the county of Wiltshire, England. Historically Malmesbury was a centre for learning and home to Malmesbury Abbey...

(5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679), in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy
Political philosophy
Political philosophy is the study of such topics as liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of a legal code by authority: what they are, why they are needed, what, if anything, makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect and why, what form it...

. His 1651 book Leviathan
Leviathan (book)
Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil — commonly called simply Leviathan — is a book written by Thomas Hobbes and published in 1651. Its name derives from the biblical Leviathan...

established the foundation for most of Western political philosophy from the perspective of social contract
Social contract
The social contract is an intellectual device intended to explain the appropriate relationship between individuals and their governments. Social contract arguments assert that individuals unite into political societies by a process of mutual consent, agreeing to abide by common rules and accept...

 theory.

Hobbes was a champion of absolutism for the sovereign
Absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy is a monarchical form of government in which the monarch exercises ultimate governing authority as head of state and head of government, his or her power not being limited by a constitution or by the law. An absolute monarch thus wields unrestricted political power over the...

 but he also developed some of the fundamentals of European liberal thought
Classical liberalism
Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets....

: the right of the individual; the natural equality of all men; the artificial character of the political order (which led to the later distinction between civil society
Civil society
Civil society is composed of the totality of many voluntary social relationships, civic and social organizations, and institutions that form the basis of a functioning society, as distinct from the force-backed structures of a state , the commercial institutions of the market, and private criminal...

 and the state); the view that all legitimate political power must be "representative" and based on the consent of the people; and a liberal interpretation of law which leaves people free to do whatever the law does not explicitly forbid.

He was one of the founders of modern political philosophy.
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Quotations

To understand this for sense it is not required that a man should be a geometrician or a logician, but that he should be mad.

On the proposition that the volume generated by revolving the region under 1/x from 1 to infinity has finite volume. Quoted in Mathematical Maxims and Minims by N. Rose (1988)

…the passion of laughter is nothing else but a sudden glory arising from sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves, by comparison with the infirmities of others, or with our own formerly…

The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic Pt. I Human Nature (1640) Ch. 9

…in the state of nature, Profit is the measure of Right.

De Cive|Elementa philosophica: De Cive (1642)

Now I am about to take my last voyage, a great leap in the dark.

Last words

The condition of Man...is a condition of Warre of every one against every one.

Pt. I, Ch. 14

Words are wise men’s counters, they do but reckon by them; but they are the money of fools, that value them by the authority of an Aristotle, a Cicero, or a Thomas, or any other doctor whatsoever, if but a man.

Pt. I, Ch. 4

…Understanding being nothing else, but conception caused by Speech.

Pt. I, Ch. 4

…Science is the knowledge of Consequences, and dependence of one fact upon another…

Pt. I, Ch. 5

The privilege of absurdity; to which no living creature is subject but man only.

Pt. I, Ch. 5

Sudden glory is the passion which maketh those grimaces called laughter.

Pt. I, Ch. 6
Encyclopedia
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury
Malmesbury
Malmesbury is a market town and civil parish located in the southern Cotswolds in the county of Wiltshire, England. Historically Malmesbury was a centre for learning and home to Malmesbury Abbey...

(5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679), in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy
Political philosophy
Political philosophy is the study of such topics as liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of a legal code by authority: what they are, why they are needed, what, if anything, makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect and why, what form it...

. His 1651 book Leviathan
Leviathan (book)
Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil — commonly called simply Leviathan — is a book written by Thomas Hobbes and published in 1651. Its name derives from the biblical Leviathan...

established the foundation for most of Western political philosophy from the perspective of social contract
Social contract
The social contract is an intellectual device intended to explain the appropriate relationship between individuals and their governments. Social contract arguments assert that individuals unite into political societies by a process of mutual consent, agreeing to abide by common rules and accept...

 theory.

Hobbes was a champion of absolutism for the sovereign
Absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy is a monarchical form of government in which the monarch exercises ultimate governing authority as head of state and head of government, his or her power not being limited by a constitution or by the law. An absolute monarch thus wields unrestricted political power over the...

 but he also developed some of the fundamentals of European liberal thought
Classical liberalism
Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets....

: the right of the individual; the natural equality of all men; the artificial character of the political order (which led to the later distinction between civil society
Civil society
Civil society is composed of the totality of many voluntary social relationships, civic and social organizations, and institutions that form the basis of a functioning society, as distinct from the force-backed structures of a state , the commercial institutions of the market, and private criminal...

 and the state); the view that all legitimate political power must be "representative" and based on the consent of the people; and a liberal interpretation of law which leaves people free to do whatever the law does not explicitly forbid.

He was one of the founders of modern political philosophy. His understanding of humans as being matter and motion, obeying the same physical laws as other matter and motion, remains influential; and his account of human nature as self-interested cooperation, and of political communities as being based upon a "social contract
Social contract
The social contract is an intellectual device intended to explain the appropriate relationship between individuals and their governments. Social contract arguments assert that individuals unite into political societies by a process of mutual consent, agreeing to abide by common rules and accept...

" remains one of the major topics of political philosophy
Political philosophy
Political philosophy is the study of such topics as liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of a legal code by authority: what they are, why they are needed, what, if anything, makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect and why, what form it...

.

In addition to political philosophy, Hobbes also contributed to a diverse array of other fields, including history
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

, geometry
Geometry
Geometry arose as the field of knowledge dealing with spatial relationships. Geometry was one of the two fields of pre-modern mathematics, the other being the study of numbers ....

, the physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 of gas
Gas
Gas is one of the three classical states of matter . Near absolute zero, a substance exists as a solid. As heat is added to this substance it melts into a liquid at its melting point , boils into a gas at its boiling point, and if heated high enough would enter a plasma state in which the electrons...

es, theology
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

, ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

, and general philosophy.

Early life and education


Thomas Hobbes was born at Westport
Westport, Wiltshire
Westport, sometimes called Westport St. Mary, was a village and civil parish in Wiltshire, England. The philosopher Thomas Hobbes was born in Westport in 1588; his father, also Thomas Hobbes, lived at Westport while serving as curate of Brokenborough. Westport no longer exists as a separate village...

, now part of Malmesbury
Malmesbury
Malmesbury is a market town and civil parish located in the southern Cotswolds in the county of Wiltshire, England. Historically Malmesbury was a centre for learning and home to Malmesbury Abbey...

 in Wiltshire, England, on 5 April 1588. Born prematurely when his mother heard of the coming invasion of the Spanish Armada
Spanish Armada
This article refers to the Battle of Gravelines, for the modern navy of Spain, see Spanish NavyThe Spanish Armada was the Spanish fleet that sailed against England under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia in 1588, with the intention of overthrowing Elizabeth I of England to stop English...

, Hobbes later reported that "my mother gave birth to twins: myself and fear." His childhood is almost a complete blank, and his mother's name is unknown. His father, also named Thomas, was the vicar
Vicar
In the broadest sense, a vicar is a representative, deputy or substitute; anyone acting "in the person of" or agent for a superior . In this sense, the title is comparable to lieutenant...

 of Charlton
Charlton, Wiltshire
Charlton, Wiltshire may refer to three villages in Wiltshire, England:* Charlton, Brinkworth, a village in the former North Wiltshire district* Charlton, Cranborne Chase, a village in the former Salisbury district...

 and Westport
Westport, Wiltshire
Westport, sometimes called Westport St. Mary, was a village and civil parish in Wiltshire, England. The philosopher Thomas Hobbes was born in Westport in 1588; his father, also Thomas Hobbes, lived at Westport while serving as curate of Brokenborough. Westport no longer exists as a separate village...

. Thomas Sr. abandoned his three children to the care of an older brother, Thomas junior's uncle Francis, when he was forced to flee to London after being involved in a fight with a clergyman outside his own church. Hobbes was educated at Westport church from the age of four, passed to the Malmesbury school
Malmesbury School
Malmesbury School, is a co-educational 11-18 comprehensive school in the Wiltshire town of Malmesbury, serving a large and predominantly rural catchment area. It has 1250 students on roll, including 225 in the 6th Form.- History :...

 and then to a private school kept by a young man named Robert Latimer, a graduate of the University of Oxford. Hobbes was a good pupil, and around 1603 he went up to Magdalen Hall, which is most closely related to Hertford College, Oxford
Hertford College, Oxford
Hertford College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. It is located in Catte Street, directly opposite the main entrance of the original Bodleian Library. As of 2006, the college had a financial endowment of £52m. There are 612 students , plus various visiting...

. The principal John Wilkinson was a Puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

, and he had some influence on Hobbes.

At university, Hobbes appears to have followed his own curriculum; he was "little attracted by the scholastic learning". He did not complete his B.A. degree until 1608, but he was recommended by Sir James Hussey, his master at Magdalen, as tutor to William, the son of William Cavendish
William Cavendish, 2nd Earl of Devonshire
William Cavendish, 2nd Earl of Devonshire was an English courtier and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1614 until 1626 when he succeeded to the peerage and sat in the House of Lords.-Life:...

, Baron of Hardwick (and later Earl of Devonshire
Duke of Devonshire
Duke of Devonshire is a title in the peerage of England held by members of the Cavendish family. This branch of the Cavendish family has been one of the richest and most influential aristocratic families in England since the 16th century, and have been rivalled in political influence perhaps only...

), and began a life-long connection with that family.

Hobbes became a companion to the younger William and they both took part in a grand tour
Grand Tour
The Grand Tour was the traditional trip of Europe undertaken by mainly upper-class European young men of means. The custom flourished from about 1660 until the advent of large-scale rail transit in the 1840s, and was associated with a standard itinerary. It served as an educational rite of passage...

 in 1610. Hobbes was exposed to European scientific and critical methods during the tour in contrast to the scholastic philosophy which he had learned in Oxford. His scholarly efforts at the time were aimed at a careful study of classic Greek and Latin authors, the outcome of which was, in 1628, his great translation of Thucydides
Thucydides
Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

' History of the Peloponnesian War
History of the Peloponnesian War
The History of the Peloponnesian War is an account of the Peloponnesian War in Ancient Greece, fought between the Peloponnesian League and the Delian League . It was written by Thucydides, an Athenian general who served in the war. It is widely considered a classic and regarded as one of the...

, the first translation of that work into English from a Greek manuscript. It has been argued that three of the discourses in the 1620 publication known as Horea Subsecivae: Observations and Discourses, also represent the work of Hobbes from this period.

Although he associated with literary figures like Ben Jonson
Ben Jonson
Benjamin Jonson was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems...

 and thinkers such as Francis Bacon, he did not extend his efforts into philosophy until after 1629. His employer Cavendish, then the Earl of Devonshire, died of the plague
Bubonic plague
Plague is a deadly infectious disease that is caused by the enterobacteria Yersinia pestis, named after the French-Swiss bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin. Primarily carried by rodents and spread to humans via fleas, the disease is notorious throughout history, due to the unrivaled scale of death...

 in June 1628. The widowed countess dismissed Hobbes but he soon found work, again as a tutor, this time to Gervase Clifton
Sir Gervase Clifton, 2nd Baronet
-Family:Gervase was the only son of Sir Gervase Clifton, 1st Baronet, and his first wife Lady Penelope Rich, daughter of Robert Rich, 1st Earl of Warwick and Lady Penelope Devereux. His mother died in 1613, and his father married six more times and had many more children.He studied at Trinity...

, the son of Sir Gervase Clifton, 1st Baronet
Sir Gervase Clifton, 1st Baronet
Sir Gervase Clifton, 1st Baronet , K.B. was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1614 and 1666. He supported the Royalist cause in the English Civil War.-Political career:...

. This task, chiefly spent in Paris, ended in 1631 when he again found work with the Cavendish family, tutoring the son of his previous pupil. Over the next seven years as well as tutoring he expanded his own knowledge of philosophy, awakening in him curiosity over key philosophic debates. He visited Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 in 1636 and later was a regular debater in philosophic groups in Paris, held together by Marin Mersenne
Marin Mersenne
Marin Mersenne, Marin Mersennus or le Père Mersenne was a French theologian, philosopher, mathematician and music theorist, often referred to as the "father of acoustics"...

. From 1637 he considered himself a philosopher and scholar.

In Paris


Hobbes's first area of study was an interest in the physical doctrine of motion and physical momentum. Despite his interest in this phenomenon, he disdained experimental work as in physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

. He went on to conceive the system of thought to the elaboration of which he would devote his life. His scheme was first to work out, in a separate treatise, a systematic doctrine of body, showing how physical phenomena were universally explicable in terms of motion, at least as motion or mechanical action was then understood. He then singled out Man from the realm of Nature and plants. Then, in another treatise, he showed what specific bodily motions were involved in the production of the peculiar phenomena of sensation, knowledge, affections and passions whereby Man came into relation with Man. Finally he considered, in his crowning treatise, how Men were moved to enter into society, and argued how this must be regulated if Men were not to fall back into "brutishness and misery". Thus he proposed to unite the separate phenomena of Body, Man, and the State.

Hobbes came home, in 1637, to a country riven with discontent which disrupted him from the orderly execution of his philosophic plan. However, by the end of the Short Parliament
Short Parliament
The Short Parliament was a Parliament of England that sat from 13 April to 5 May 1640 during the reign of King Charles I of England, so called because it lasted only three weeks....

 in 1640, he had written a short treatise called The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic. It was not published and only circulated among his acquaintances in manuscript form. A pirated version, however, was published about ten years later. Although it seems that much of The Elements of Law was composed before the sitting of the Short Parliament
Short Parliament
The Short Parliament was a Parliament of England that sat from 13 April to 5 May 1640 during the reign of King Charles I of England, so called because it lasted only three weeks....

, there are polemical pieces of the work that clearly mark the influences of the rising political crisis. Nevertheless, many (though not all) elements of Hobbes's political thought were unchanged between The Elements of Law and Leviathan
Leviathan (book)
Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil — commonly called simply Leviathan — is a book written by Thomas Hobbes and published in 1651. Its name derives from the biblical Leviathan...

,
which demonstrates that the events of the English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

 had little effect on his contractarian methodology. It should be noted, however, that the arguments in Leviathan
Leviathan (book)
Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil — commonly called simply Leviathan — is a book written by Thomas Hobbes and published in 1651. Its name derives from the biblical Leviathan...

were modified from The Elements of Law when it came to the necessity of consent in creating political obligation. Namely, Hobbes wrote in The Elements of Law that Patrimonial kingdoms were not necessarily formed by the consent of the governed, while in Leviathan
Leviathan (book)
Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil — commonly called simply Leviathan — is a book written by Thomas Hobbes and published in 1651. Its name derives from the biblical Leviathan...

he argued that they were. This was perhaps a reflection either of Hobbes's thoughts concerning the engagement controversy
Engagement controversy
The Engagement Controversy was a debate in England from 1649-1652 regarding loyalty to the new regime after the execution of Charles I. During this period hundreds of pamphlets were published in England supporting 'engagement' to the new regime or denying the right of English citizens to shift...

 or of his reaction to treatises published by Patriarchalists, such as Sir Robert Filmer, between 1640 and 1651.

When in November 1640 the Long Parliament
Long Parliament
The Long Parliament was made on 3 November 1640, following the Bishops' Wars. It received its name from the fact that through an Act of Parliament, it could only be dissolved with the agreement of the members, and those members did not agree to its dissolution until after the English Civil War and...

 succeeded the Short, Hobbes felt he was a marked man by the circulation of his treatise and fled to Paris. He did not return for eleven years. In Paris he rejoined the coterie about Mersenne, and wrote a critique of the Meditations on First Philosophy
Meditations on First Philosophy
Meditations on First Philosophy is a philosophical treatise written by René Descartes and first published in 1641 . The French translation was published in 1647 as Méditations Metaphysiques...

of Descartes, which was printed as third among the sets of "Objections" appended, with "Replies" from Descartes in 1641. A different set of remarks on other works by Descartes succeeded only in ending all correspondence between the two.

Hobbes also extended his own works somewhat, working on the third section, De Cive
De Cive
De Cive is a book by Thomas Hobbes published in 1642, and one of his major works.It anticipates the classical republican line of argument in the better-known Leviathan...

, which was finished in November 1641. Although it was initially only circulated privately, it was well received, and included lines of argumentation to be repeated a decade later in the Leviathan
Leviathan (book)
Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil — commonly called simply Leviathan — is a book written by Thomas Hobbes and published in 1651. Its name derives from the biblical Leviathan...

. He then returned to hard work on the first two sections of his work and published little except for a short treatise on optics (Tractatus opticus) included in the collection of scientific tracts published by Mersenne as Cogitata physico-mathematica in 1644. He built a good reputation in philosophic circles and in 1645 was chosen with Descartes, Gilles de Roberval
Gilles de Roberval
Gilles Personne de Roberval , French mathematician, was born at Roberval, Oise, near Beauvais, France. His name was originally Gilles Personne or Gilles Personier, that of Roberval, by which he is known, being taken from the place of his birth.Like René Descartes, he was present at the siege of La...

 and others, to referee the controversy between John Pell
John Pell
-Early life:He was born at Southwick in Sussex. He was educated at Steyning Grammar School, and entered Trinity College, Cambridge, at the age of thirteen. During his university career he became an accomplished linguist, and even before he took his B.A. degree corresponded with Henry Briggs and...

 and Longomontanus over the problem of squaring the circle
Squaring the circle
Squaring the circle is a problem proposed by ancient geometers. It is the challenge of constructing a square with the same area as a given circle by using only a finite number of steps with compass and straightedge...

.

Civil War in England


The English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

 broke out in 1642, and when the Royalist
Cavalier
Cavalier was the name used by Parliamentarians for a Royalist supporter of King Charles I and son Charles II during the English Civil War, the Interregnum, and the Restoration...

 cause began to decline in the middle of 1644 there was an exodus of the king's supporters to Europe. Many came to Paris and were known to Hobbes. This revitalised Hobbes's political interests and the De Cive was republished and more widely distributed. The printing began in 1646 by Samuel de Sorbiere
Samuel de Sorbiere
Samuel [de] Sorbière was a French physician and man of letters, a philosopher and translator, who is best known for his promotion of the works of Thomas Hobbes and Pierre Gassendi, in whose view of physics he placed his support, though unable to refute René Descartes, but who developed a...

 through the Elsevier press
House of Elzevir
Elzevir is the name of a celebrated family of Dutch booksellers, publishers, and printers of the 17th and early 18th centuries. The duodecimo series of "Elzevirs" became very famous and very desirable among bibliophiles, who sought to obtain the tallest and freshest copies of these tiny...

 at Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

 with a new preface and some new notes in reply to objections.

In 1647, Hobbes was engaged as mathematical instructor to the young Charles, Prince of Wales
Charles II of England
Charles II was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.Charles II's father, King Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War...

, who had come over from Jersey
Jersey
Jersey, officially the Bailiwick of Jersey is a British Crown Dependency off the coast of Normandy, France. As well as the island of Jersey itself, the bailiwick includes two groups of small islands that are no longer permanently inhabited, the Minquiers and Écréhous, and the Pierres de Lecq and...

 around July. This engagement lasted until 1648 when Charles went to Holland.

The company of the exiled royalists led Hobbes to produce an English book to set forth his theory of civil government in relation to the political crisis resulting from the war. The State, it now seemed to Hobbes, might be regarded as a great artificial man or monster (Leviathan
Leviathan
Leviathan , is a sea monster referred to in the Bible. In Demonology, Leviathan is one of the seven princes of Hell and its gatekeeper . The word has become synonymous with any large sea monster or creature...

), composed of men, with a life that might be traced from its generation under pressure of human needs to its dissolution through civil strife proceeding from human passions. The work was closed with a general "Review and Conclusion", in direct response to the war which raised the question of the subject's right to change allegiance when a former sovereign's power to protect was irrecoverably gone. Also he criticised religious doctrines on rationalistic grounds in the Commonwealth.


During the years of the composition of Leviathan he remained in or near Paris. In 1647 Hobbes was overtaken by a serious illness which disabled him for six months. On recovering from this near fatal disorder, he resumed his literary task, and carried it steadily forward to completion by 1650. Meanwhile, a translation of De Cive was being produced; there has been much scholarly disagreement over whether Hobbes translated the work himself or not.

In 1650, a pirated edition of The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic was published. It was divided into two separate small volumes (Human Nature, or the Fundamental Elements of Policie and De corpore politico, or the Elements of Law, Moral and Politick). In 1651 the translation of De Cive
De Cive
De Cive is a book by Thomas Hobbes published in 1642, and one of his major works.It anticipates the classical republican line of argument in the better-known Leviathan...

was published under the title of Philosophicall Rudiments concerning Government and Society. Meanwhile, the printing of the greater work was proceeding, and finally it appeared about the middle of 1651, under the title of Leviathan, or the Matter, Forme, and Power of a Common Wealth, Ecclesiasticall and Civil
Leviathan (book)
Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil — commonly called simply Leviathan — is a book written by Thomas Hobbes and published in 1651. Its name derives from the biblical Leviathan...

, with a famous title-page engraving in which, from behind hills overlooking a landscape, there towered the body (above the waist) of a crowned giant, made up of tiny figures of human beings and bearing sword and crozier in the two hands.

The work had immediate impact. Soon Hobbes was more lauded and decried than any other thinker of his time. However, the first effect of its publication was to sever his link with the exiled royalists, forcing him to appeal to the revolutionary English government for protection. The exiles might very well have killed him; the secularist spirit of his book greatly angered both Anglicans and French Catholics. Hobbes fled back home, arriving in London in the winter of 1651. Following his submission to the council of state he was allowed to subside into private life in Fetter Lane
Fetter Lane
Fetter Lane is a street in the ward of Farringdon Without in London England. It runs from Fleet Street in the south to Holborn in the north.The earliest mention of the street is "faitereslane" in 1312. The name occurs with several spellings until it settles down about 1612. There is no agreement...

.

Leviathan



In Leviathan
Leviathan (book)
Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil — commonly called simply Leviathan — is a book written by Thomas Hobbes and published in 1651. Its name derives from the biblical Leviathan...

, Hobbes set out his doctrine of the foundation of states
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

 and legitimate governments – originating social contract theory. Leviathan was written during the English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

; much of the book is occupied with demonstrating the necessity of a strong central authority to avoid the evil of discord and civil war.

Beginning from a mechanistic
Mechanism (philosophy)
Mechanism is the belief that natural wholes are like machines or artifacts, composed of parts lacking any intrinsic relationship to each other, and with their order imposed from without. Thus, the source of an apparent thing's activities is not the whole itself, but its parts or an external...

 understanding of human beings and the passions, Hobbes postulates what life would be like without government, a condition which he calls the state of nature
State of nature
State of nature is a term in political philosophy used in social contract theories to describe the hypothetical condition that preceded governments...

. In that state, each person would have a right, or license, to everything in the world. This, Hobbes argues, would lead to a "war of all against all" (bellum omnium contra omnes
Bellum omnium contra omnes
Bellum omnium contra omnes, a Latin phrase meaning "the war of all against all," is the description that Thomas Hobbes gives to human existence in the state of nature thought experiment that he conducts in De Cive and Leviathan ....

). The description contains what has been called one of the best known passages in English philosophy, which describes the natural state mankind would be in, were it not for political community:
In such a state, people fear death, and lack both the things necessary to commodious living, and the hope of being able to toil to obtain them. So in order to avoid it people accede to a social contract and establish a civil society
Civil society
Civil society is composed of the totality of many voluntary social relationships, civic and social organizations, and institutions that form the basis of a functioning society, as distinct from the force-backed structures of a state , the commercial institutions of the market, and private criminal...

. According to Hobbes, society is a population beneath a sovereign
Sovereign
A sovereign is the supreme lawmaking authority within its jurisdiction.Sovereign may also refer to:*Monarch, the sovereign of a monarchy*Sovereign Bank, banking institution in the United States*Sovereign...

 authority
Authority
The word Authority is derived mainly from the Latin word auctoritas, meaning invention, advice, opinion, influence, or command. In English, the word 'authority' can be used to mean power given by the state or by academic knowledge of an area .-Authority in Philosophy:In...

, to whom all individuals in that society cede some rights for the sake of protection. Any abuses of power by this authority are to be accepted as the price of peace. There is no doctrine of separation of powers
Separation of powers
The separation of powers, often imprecisely used interchangeably with the trias politica principle, is a model for the governance of a state. The model was first developed in ancient Greece and came into widespread use by the Roman Republic as part of the unmodified Constitution of the Roman Republic...

 in Hobbes's discussion. According to Hobbes, the sovereign must control civil, military, judicial, and ecclesiastical powers.

John Bramhall


Hobbes now turned to complete the fundamental treatise of his philosophical system. He worked so steadily that De Corpore was first printed in 1654. Also in 1654, a small treatise, Of Liberty and Necessity, was published by Bishop John Bramhall
John Bramhall
John Bramhall was an Archbishop of Armagh, and an Anglican theologian and apologist. He was a noted controversialist who doggedly defended the English Church from both Puritan and Roman Catholic accusations, as well as the materialism of Thomas Hobbes.-Early life:Bramhall was born in Pontefract,...

, addressed at Hobbes. Bramhall, a strong Arminian
Arminianism
Arminianism is a school of soteriological thought within Protestant Christianity based on the theological ideas of the Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius and his historic followers, the Remonstrants...

, had met and debated with Hobbes and afterwards wrote down his views and sent them privately to be answered in this form by Hobbes. Hobbes duly replied, but not for publication. But a French acquaintance took a copy of the reply and published it with "an extravagantly laudatory epistle." Bramhall countered in 1655, when he printed everything that had passed between them (under the title of A Defence of the True Liberty of Human Actions from Antecedent or Extrinsic Necessity). In 1656 Hobbes was ready with The Questions concerning Liberty, Necessity and Chance, in which he replied "with astonishing force" to the bishop. As perhaps the first clear exposition of the psychological doctrine of determinism, Hobbes's own two pieces were important in the history of the free-will
Free will
"To make my own decisions whether I am successful or not due to uncontrollable forces" -Troy MorrisonA pragmatic definition of free willFree will is the ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints. The existence of free will and its exact nature and definition have long...

 controversy. The bishop returned to the charge in 1658 with Castigations of Mr Hobbes's Animadversions, and also included a bulky appendix entitled The Catching of Leviathan the Great Whale.

John Wallis



Beyond the spat with Bramhall, Hobbes was caught in a series of conflicts from the time of publishing his De Corpore
De Corpore
De Corpore is a 1655 book by Thomas Hobbes. As its full Latin title Elementorum philosophiae sectio prima De corpore implies, it was part of a larger work, conceived as a trilogy. De Cive had already appeared, while De Homine would be published in 1658...

in 1655. In Leviathan he had assailed the system of the original universities. Because Hobbes was so evidently opposed to the existing academic arrangements, and because De Corpore contained not only tendentious views on mathematics, but an unacceptable proof of the squaring of the circle (which was apparently an afterthought), mathematicians took him to be a target for polemic
Polemic
A polemic is a variety of arguments or controversies made against one opinion, doctrine, or person. Other variations of argument are debate and discussion...

s. John Wallis was not the first such opponent, but he tenaciously pursued Hobbes. The resulting controversy continued well into the 1670s.

Atheism


Hobbes has been accused of atheism, or (in the case of Bramhall) of teachings which could lead to atheism. This was an important accusation, and Hobbes himself wrote, in his answer to Bramhall's "the catching of the Leviathan" that "atheism, impiety, and the like are words of the greatest defamation possible". Hobbes always defended himself from such accusations.
In more recent times also, much has been made of his religious views by scholars such as Richard Tuck and J. G. A. Pocock, but there is still widespread disagreement about the exact significance of Hobbes's unusual views on religion.

As has pointed out, in Hobbes's time, the term "atheist" was frequently applied to people who believed in God, but not divine providence
Divine providence
In Christian theology, divine providence, or simply providence, is God's activity in the world. " Providence" is also used as a title of God exercising His providence, and then the word are usually capitalized...

, or to people who believed in God, but also maintained other beliefs which were inconsistent with such belief. He says that this "sort of discrepancy has led to many errors in determining who was an atheist in the early modern period
Early modern period
In history, the early modern period of modern history follows the late Middle Ages. Although the chronological limits of the period are open to debate, the timeframe spans the period after the late portion of the Middle Ages through the beginning of the Age of Revolutions...

". In this extended early modern sense of atheism, Hobbes did indeed take positions which were in strong disagreement with church teachings of his time. For example, Hobbes argued repeatedly that there are no incorporeal substances, and that all things, including human thoughts, and even God, heaven, and hell are corporeal, matter in motion. He argued that "though Scripture acknowledge spirits, yet doth it nowhere say, that they are incorporeal, meaning thereby without dimensions and quantity". (In this view, Hobbes claimed to be following Tertullian
Tertullian
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian , was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and...

, whose views were not condemned in the Nicene creed
Nicene Creed
The Nicene Creed is the creed or profession of faith that is most widely used in Christian liturgy. It is called Nicene because, in its original form, it was adopted in the city of Nicaea by the first ecumenical council, which met there in the year 325.The Nicene Creed has been normative to the...

.) He also, like Locke
Locke
-People:*Locke , information about the surname and list of people*Locke *John Locke , English philosopher*Matthew Locke , baroque composer*Edwin A...

, stated that true revelation
Revelation
In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing, through active or passive communication with a supernatural or a divine entity...

 can never be in disagreement with human reason and experience, although he also argues that people should accept revelation and its interpretations also for the reason that they should accept the commands of their sovereign, in order to avoid war.

Later life


Hobbes published, in 1658, the final section of his philosophical system, completing the scheme he had planned more than twenty years before. De Homine consisted for the most part of an elaborate theory of vision. The remainder of the treatise dealt cursorily with some of the topics more fully treated in the Human Nature and the Leviathan. In addition to publishing some controversial writings on mathematics and physics, Hobbes also continued to produce philosophical works. From the time of the Restoration he acquired a new prominence; "Hobbism" became a byword for all that respectable society ought to denounce. The young king, Hobbes's former pupil, now Charles II, remembered Hobbes and called him to the court to grant him a pension of £100.

The king was important in protecting Hobbes when, in 1666, the House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

 introduced a bill against atheism and profaneness. That same year, on 17 October 1666, it was ordered that the committee to which the bill was referred "should be empowered to receive information touching such books as tend to atheism, blasphemy and profaneness... in particular... the book of Mr. Hobbes called the Leviathan". Hobbes was terrified at the prospect of being labelled a heretic, and proceeded to burn some of his compromising papers. At the same time, he examined the actual state of the law of heresy
Christian heresy
Christian heresy refers to non-orthodox practices and beliefs that were deemed to be heretical by one or more of the Christian churches. In Western Christianity, the term "heresy" most commonly refers to those beliefs which were declared to be anathema by the Catholic Church prior to the schism of...

. The results of his investigation were first announced in three short Dialogues added as an Appendix to his Latin translation of Leviathan, published at Amsterdam in 1668. In this appendix, Hobbes aimed to show that, since the High Court of Commission
Court of High Commission
The Court of High Commission was the supreme ecclesiastic court in England. It was instituted by the crown during the Reformation and finally dissolved by parliament in 1641...

 had been put down, there remained no court of heresy at all to which he was amenable, and that nothing could be heresy except opposing the Nicene Creed
Nicene Creed
The Nicene Creed is the creed or profession of faith that is most widely used in Christian liturgy. It is called Nicene because, in its original form, it was adopted in the city of Nicaea by the first ecumenical council, which met there in the year 325.The Nicene Creed has been normative to the...

, which, he maintained, Leviathan did not do.

The only consequence that came of the bill was that Hobbes could never thereafter publish anything in England on subjects relating to human conduct. The 1668 edition of his works was printed in Amsterdam because he could not obtain the censor's licence for its publication in England. Other writings were not made public until after his death, including Behemoth: the History of the Causes of the Civil Wars of England and of the Counsels and Artifices by which they were carried on from the year 1640 to the year 1662. For some time, Hobbes was not even allowed to respond, whatever his enemies tried. Despite this, his reputation abroad was formidable, and noble or learned foreigners who came to England never forgot to pay their respects to the old philosopher.

His final works were a curious mixture: an autobiography in Latin verse in 1672, and a translation of four books of the Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

into "rugged" English rhymes that in 1673 led to a complete translation of both Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

and Odyssey in 1675.

In October 1679, Hobbes suffered a bladder disorder, which was followed by a paralytic stroke from which he died on 4 December 1679. He is said to have uttered the last words "A great leap in the dark" in his final moments of life. He was interred within St. John the Baptist Church in Ault Hucknall
Ault Hucknall
Ault Hucknall is a small village, which gives its name to the surrounding civil parish, in the Bolsover district of Derbyshire, England.Local residents describe the settlement as the "smallest village in England", although as a village is not legally defined in England, this is not a provable claim...

 in Derbyshire, England.

Selected bibliography

  • 1620. Three of the discourses in the Horae Subsecivae.
  • 1629. Translation of Thucydides
    Thucydides
    Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

    's History of the Peloponnesian War
    History of the Peloponnesian War
    The History of the Peloponnesian War is an account of the Peloponnesian War in Ancient Greece, fought between the Peloponnesian League and the Delian League . It was written by Thucydides, an Athenian general who served in the war. It is widely considered a classic and regarded as one of the...

  • 1640. The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic
  • 1650. Treatise on Human Nature
  • 1642. De Cive
    De Cive
    De Cive is a book by Thomas Hobbes published in 1642, and one of his major works.It anticipates the classical republican line of argument in the better-known Leviathan...

    (Latin)
  • 1651. Philosophicall Rudiments concerning Government and Society (English translation of De Cive)
  • 1651. Leviathan, or the Matter, Forme, and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiasticall and Civil
    Leviathan (book)
    Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil — commonly called simply Leviathan — is a book written by Thomas Hobbes and published in 1651. Its name derives from the biblical Leviathan...

  • 1651. Pirated Edition of The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic, repackaged to include two parts:
    • Human Nature, or the Fundamental Elements of Policie
    • De Corpore Politico
  • 1655. De Corpore
    De Corpore
    De Corpore is a 1655 book by Thomas Hobbes. As its full Latin title Elementorum philosophiae sectio prima De corpore implies, it was part of a larger work, conceived as a trilogy. De Cive had already appeared, while De Homine would be published in 1658...

    (Latin)
  • 1656. De Corpore (English translation)
  • 1658. De Homine (Latin)
  • 1654. Letters upon Liberty and Necessity
  • 1656. The Questions concerning Liberty, Necessity and Chance
  • 1668. Latin translation of the Leviathan
    Leviathan (book)
    Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil — commonly called simply Leviathan — is a book written by Thomas Hobbes and published in 1651. Its name derives from the biblical Leviathan...

  • 1675. English translation of Homer
    Homer
    In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

    's Iliad
    Iliad
    The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

    and Odyssey
    Odyssey
    The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

  • 1681. Postumously A Dialogue between a Philosopher and a Student of the Common Laws of England (written 1666)
  • 1681. Posthumously Behemoth, or The Long Parliament
    Behemoth (book)
    Behemoth, full title Behemoth: the history of the causes of the civil wars of England, and of the counsels and artifices by which they were carried on from the year 1640 to the year 1660, also known as The Long Parliament, is a book written by Thomas Hobbes discussing the English Civil War...

    (written in 1668, unpublished at the request of the King)

Hobbes commentary online


Leviathan online


General works online

  • The English Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury; Now First Collected and Edited by Sir William Molesworth, Bart., (London: Bohn, 1839–45). 11 volumes. Can be found on the internet:-
  • Volume 1. De Corpore
    De Corpore
    De Corpore is a 1655 book by Thomas Hobbes. As its full Latin title Elementorum philosophiae sectio prima De corpore implies, it was part of a larger work, conceived as a trilogy. De Cive had already appeared, while De Homine would be published in 1658...

    translated from Latin to English.
  • Volume 2. De Cive
    De Cive
    De Cive is a book by Thomas Hobbes published in 1642, and one of his major works.It anticipates the classical republican line of argument in the better-known Leviathan...

    .
  • Volume 3. The Leviathan
  • Volume 4.
  • TRIPOS ; in Three Discourses :
  • I. Human Nature, or the Fundamental Elements of Policy
  • II. De Corpore Politico, or the Elements of Law
  • III. Of Liberty and Necessity
  • An Answer to Bishop Bramhall's Book, called " The Catching of the Leviathan"
  • An Historical Narration concerning Heresy, and the Punishment thereof Considerations upon the Reputation, Loyalty, Manners, and Religion of Thomas Hobbes
  • Answer to Sir William Davenant's Preface before " Gondibert"
  • Letter to the Right Honourable Edward Howard
    • Volume 5. The Questions concerning Liberty, Necessity and Chance, clearly stated and debated between Dr Bramhall Bishop of Derry and Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury.
    • Volume 6.
  • A Dialogue Between a Philosopher & a Student of the Common Laws of England
  • A Dialogue of the Common Law
  • Behemoth: the History of the Causes of the Civil Wars of England, and of the Counsels and Artifices By Which They Were Carried On From the Year 1640 to the Year 1660
  • The Art of Rhetoric Plainly Set Forth. With Pertinent Examples For the More Easy Understanding and Practice of the Same
  • The Art of Sophistry
  • Seven Philosophical Problems
  • Decameron Physiologicum
  • Proportion of a straight line to half the arc of a quadrant
  • Six lessons to the Savilian Professors of the Mathematics
  • ΣΤΙΓΜΑΙ, or Marks of the absurd Geometry etc. of Dr Wallis
  • Extract of a letter from Henry Stubbe
  • Three letters presented to the Royal Society
    Royal Society
    The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

     against Dr Wallis
  • Considerations on the answer of Dr Wallis
  • Letters and other pieces
    • Volume 8 and 9. The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
      Thucydides
      Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

      , translated into English by Hobbes.
    • Volume 10. The Iliad, and The Odyssey, translated by Hobbes into English
    • Volume 11. Index.

  • The Latin works can also be found
  • Volume I. Biographical and Elementorum Philosophiae I: De Corpore
  • Volume II. Elementorum Philosophiae II and III: De Homine and De Cive
  • Volume III. Latin version of Leviathan.
  • Volume IV. Various concerning mathematics, geometry and physics.
  • Volume V. Various short works.