By Thomas Hobbes:
By Thomas Hobbes:
This text was copied from Wikipedia on 15 May 2015 at 6:00AM.
|Born||(1588-04-05)5 April 1588
Westport near Malmesbury, Wiltshire, England
|Died||4 December 1679(1679-12-04) (aged 91)
|School||Social contract, classical realism, empiricism, determinism, materialism, ethical egoism|
|Political philosophy, history, ethics, geometry|
|Modern founder of the social contract tradition; life in the state of nature is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short"|
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury (/hɒbz/; 5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679), in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury,[a] was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy. His 1651 book Leviathan established social contract theory, the foundation of most later Western political philosophy.
Though on rational grounds a champion of absolutism for the sovereign, Hobbes also developed some of the fundamentals of European liberal thought: 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 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 and political science. 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" remains one of the major topics of political philosophy.
Thomas Hobbes was born at Westport, now part of Malmesbury in Wiltshire, England, on 5 April 1588. Born prematurely when his mother heard of the coming invasion of the Spanish Armada, 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 of Charlton and Westport. Thomas Hobbes Sr. had an older brother, Francis Hobbes, who was a wealthy merchant with no family of his own. Thomas Hobbes, the younger, had one brother Edmund who was about two years older than he. Thomas Sr. abandoned his wife, two sons and a daughter, leaving them in the care of his brother, 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 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. The principal John Wilkinson was a Puritan, 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, Baron of Hardwick (and later Earl of Devonshire), and began a lifelong connection with that family.
Hobbes became a companion to the younger William and they both took part in a grand tour of Europe 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' History of the Peloponnesian War, 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 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 in June 1628. The widowed countess dismissed Hobbes but he soon found work, again as a tutor, this time to Gervase Clifton, the son of Sir Gervase Clifton, 1st Baronet. 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 in 1636 and later was a regular debater in philosophic groups in Paris, held together by Marin Mersenne. From 1637 he considered himself a philosopher and scholar.
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. 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 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, 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, which demonstrates that the events of the English Civil War had little effect on his contractarian methodology. It should be noted, however, that the arguments in 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 he argued that they were. This was perhaps a reflection either of Hobbes's thoughts concerning the engagement controversy 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 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 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, 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. 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 and others, to referee the controversy between John Pell and Longomontanus over the problem of squaring the circle.
The English Civil War broke out in 1642, and when the Royalist cause began to decline in the middle of 1644 there followed 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 through the Elsevier press at Amsterdam with a new preface and some new notes in reply to objections.
In 1647 Hobbes took up a position as mathematical instructor to the young Charles, Prince of Wales, who had come over from Jersey 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), 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 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 irrevocably lost. Hobbes also criticised religious doctrines on rationalistic grounds in the Commonwealth.
During the years of the composition of Leviathan, Hobbes remained in or near Paris. In 1647 a serious illness 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; scholars disagree 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 was published under the title of Philosophicall Rudiments concerning Government and Society. Meanwhile, the printing of the greater work proceeded, 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, 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 found himself 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 to England, 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.
In Leviathan, Hobbes set out his doctrine of the foundation of states and legitimate governments and creating an objective science of morality. This gave rise to social contract theory. Leviathan was written during the English Civil War; 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 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; much of this was based on Hugo Grotius' works. 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). 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 condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving, and removing, such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
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. According to Hobbes, society is a population beneath a sovereign authority, to whom all individuals in that society cede some rights for the sake of protection. Any power exercised by this authority can not be resisted because the protector's sovereign power derives from individuals' surrendering their own sovereign power for protection. The individuals are thereby the authors of all decisions made by the sovereign. "he that complaineth of injury from his sovereign complaineth that whereof he himself is the author, and therefore ought not to accuse any man but himself, no nor himself of injury because to do injury to one's self is impossible". There is no doctrine of separation of powers in Hobbes's discussion. According to Hobbes, the sovereign must control civil, military, judicial, and ecclesiastical powers.
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, addressed at Hobbes. Bramhall, a strong Arminian, 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 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.
Hobbes opposed the existing academic arrangements, and assailed the system of the original universities in Leviathan. He went on to publish "De Corpore", which contained not only tendentious views on mathematics, but also an unacceptable proof of the squaring of the circle. This all led mathematicians to target him for polemics and sparked John Wallis to become one of his most persistent opponents. From 1655, the publishing date of "De Corpore", Hobbes and Wallis went round after round trying to disprove each other's positions. After years of debate, the spat over proving the squaring of the circle gained such notoriety that this feud has become one of the most infamous in mathematical history.
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 Martinich (1995, p. 31) has pointed out, in Hobbes's time, the term "atheist" was frequently applied to people who believed in God, but not divine providence, 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". 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, whose views were not condemned in the First Council of Nicaea.) He also, like Locke, stated that true revelation 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.
In 1658, Hobbes published 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' 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 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. 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 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, 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 into "rugged" English rhymes that in 1673 led to a complete translation of both Iliad 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's Church, Ault Hucknall in Derbyshire, England.
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A Brief Life of Thomas Hobbes, 1588-1679 by John Aubrey see...
"...The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) is best known for his political thought, and deservedly so. His vision of the world is strikingly original and still relevant to contemporary politics. His main concern is the problem of social and political order: how human beings can live together in peace and avoid the danger and fear of civil conflict. He poses stark alternatives: we should give our obedience to an unaccountable sovereign (a person or group empowered to decide every social and political issue)...."
For more go 'ere. Life and Times
Two Intellectual Influences
Ethics and Human Nature
Materialism Versus Self-Knowledge
The Poverty of Human Judgment and our Need for Science
The Natural Condition of Mankind
The Laws of Nature and the Social Contract
Why Should we Obey the Sovereign?
Life Under the Sovereign
References and Further Reading
a brief life of Thomas Hobbes by John Aubrey
Unmentioned. Leviathan; He upset many of the Clergy , Anglicans and Roman Catholicks.
Book can be got for under 10 $ and well well digesting.
4 parts. I Of Man [nature] ,
II of Common-wealth,
III of Christianity and Common-wealth,
IV of Kingdom of Darknesse.
Thomas Hobbes, a man of much learning, more thinking, and not a little knowledge of the world, was one of the most celebrated and admired authors of his age. His style is incomparably better than that of any other writer in the reign of Charles I. and was, for its uncommon strength and purity, scarcely equalled in the succeeding reign. He has, in translation, done Thucydides as much justice as he has done injury to Homer: but he looked upon himself as born for much greater things than treading in the footsteps of his predecessors. He was for striking out new paths in science, government, and religion; and for removing the landmarks of former ages. His ethics have a strong tendency to corrupt our morals, and his politics to destroy that liberty which is the birthright of every human creature. He is commonly represented as a sceptic in religion, and a dogmatist in philosophy, but he was a dogmatist in both. The main principles of his "Leviathan" are as little founded in moral or evangelical truth, as the rules he laid down for squaring the circle are in the mathematical demonstration. His book on human Nature is esteemed the best of his works. Ob. 4 Dec. 1679, Æt. 92.
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1775.
HOBBES, (Thomas) was born at Malmesbury in Wiltshire in 1588, and educated at Magdalenhall, Oxford. In 1608 he was engaged by the earl of Devonshire, as tutor to lord William Cavendish, with whom he made the tour of Europe. On the death of his patron and pupil, he became employed in the same character by a young gentleman; but the countess dowager of Devonshire recalled him to undertake the education of the young earl; a trust which he discharged with great fidelity. In 1628 he published an English translation of Thucydides, and reprinted it in 1634. The same year he accompanied the earl upon his travels, and at Pisa contracted an intimacy with Galileo. In 1637 he returned with his pupil to England, and, through the recommendation of Sir Charles Cavendish, afterwards duke of Newcastle, he was appointed mathematical tutor to the prince of Wales, afterwards Charles II. In 1650 appeared in English, his Treatise on Human Nature, and another De Corpore Politico, or The Elements of the Law. This latter piece was presented to Gassendus, and read by him a few months before his death; who is said to have kissed it, and then to have given his opinion of it in the following words :— "This treatise is indeed small in bulk, but, in my judgment, the very marrow of science." In 1651 he published his religious, political, and moral principles, in a complete system, which he called "The Leviathan," and caused a copy of it to be presented to the king; but his Majesty was dissuaded from giving it any countenance. In his 88th year, he published a translation, in English verse, of the whole Iliad and Odyssey of Homer: but his poetry was below mediocrity; though he had before given some tokens of a poetic turn, in a Latin poem, entitled De Mirabilitus Pecci, or The Wonders of the Peak. He engaged in a dispute with Dr. Wallis, on the subject of Mathematics, but gained no honour in the contest. On the Restoration of the king he obtained a pension; but in 1666 the parliament passed a censure on his writings, at which he was exceedingly alarmed. There have been few persons whose writings have had a more pernicious influence, in spreading irreligion and infidelity than those of Hobbes; and yet none of his pieces are directly levelled against revealed religion.—His Leviathan, by which he is now chiefly known, tends not only to subvert the authority of scripture, but to destroy God's moral government of the world: it cofounds the natural difference of good and evil, virtue and vice; it destroys the best principles of the human nature; and, instead of that innate benevolence and social disposition which should unite men together, supposes all men to be naturally in a state of war with one another. ...
... The earl of Devonshire remained his constant patron, and Hobbes continued in the family till his death, which happened in 1679, When his physician assured him there were no hopes of a recovery, he said, "Then I am glad to find a loop-hole to creep out of the world at." It is wonderful to relate, that though he was a sceptic, he had great apprehensions of dying, and could not bear to be left alone for fear of apparitions, though in his writings he ridicules all ideas of immaterial beings,
---Eccentric biography. 1801.
HOBBES, THOMAS (1588-1679), philosopher; educated at Malmesbury and Magdalen Hall, Oxford; B.A., 1608; twenty years tutor and secretary to William Cavendish, afterwards second Earl of Devonshire, and his son; his translation of Thucydides published, 1629; at Paris with Sir Gervase Clifton's son, 1629-31; visiting Italy and Paris, 1634, met Galileo, Gassendi, and Mersenne; said to have been Bacon's amanuensis; intimate with Harvey, Ben Jonson, Cowley, and Sidney Godolphin (1610-1643); resided at Paris, 1641-52; transmitted anonymous objections to Descartes's positions, published his 'Leviathan'(1651), and acted as mathematical tutor to Charles II; on his return to England submitted to council of state; saw much of Harvey and Selden; engaged in controversies with Bramhall in defence of his religion and philosophy, and with Seth Ward, Boyle, and John Wallis, on mathematical questions, the last exposing many of his blunders; received pension from Charles II, and was protected by him against Clarendon and the church party; his 'Behemoth' suppressed; left London, 1675; wrote autobiography in Latin verse at eighty-four and completed translation of Homer at eighty-six; buried in Hault Hucknall church. In metaphysics a thoroughgoing nominalist; his political philosophy (chiefly in 'Leviathan'), arguing that the body politic has been formed as the only alternative to a natural state of war, was attacked by Sir Robert Filmer, but mentioned with respect in Harrington's 'Oceana.' It influenced Spinoza, Leibnitz, and Rousseau, and was revived in England by the utilitarians. The chief critics of his metaphysical and ethical writings were Clarendon, Tenison, the Cambridge Platonists, and Samuel Clarke. The standard edition of his works is that of Sir W. Molesworth (1839-45). His works include, besides those mentioned, 'De Cive' (1642; English, 1651), 'Human Nature' (1650), 'De Corpore Politico' (originally 'Elements of Law '), 1680, ' De Homine' (1658), 'Quadrutura Circuli,' and other geometrical treatises, and 'Behemoth, or the Long Parliament' (edited by Dr. Ferdinand Tonnies, 1889).
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.