THOMAS HOBBES (1588-1679) Thomas Hobbes was born in London in 1588. He received his college education at Oxford University in England, where he studied classics. He was one of the founders of modern political philosophy. Hobbes traveled to other European countries several times to meet with scientists and to study different forms of government. During his time outside of England, Hobbes became interested in why people allowed themselves to be ruled and what would be the best form of government for England.
Hobbes believed that humans were basically selfish creatures who would do anything to better their position. Left to themselves, he thought, people would act on their evil impulses. According to Hobbes, people therefore should not be trusted to make decisions on their own. In addition, Hobbes felt that nations, like people, were selfishly motivated. To Hobbes, each country was in a constant battle for power and wealth.
Governments were created, according to Hobbes, to protect people from their own selfishness and evil. The best government was one that had the great power of a leviathan, or sea monster. Hobbes believed in the rule of a king because he felt a country needed an authority figure to provide direction and leadership. Because the people were only interested in promoting their own self- interests, Hobbes believed democracy - allowing citizens to vote for government leaders - would never work.
In nature, people were cruel, greedy and selfish. They would fight, rob, and oppress one another. To escape this people would enter into a social contract: they would give up their freedom in return for the safety and order of an organized society. Therefore, Hobbes believed that a powerful government like an absolute monarchy was best for society – it would impose order and compel obedience. It would also be able to suppress rebellion. Hobbes has been used to justify absolute power in government. His view of human nature was negative, or pessimistic. Life without laws and controls would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
Hobbes wrote, "All mankind [is in] a perpetual and restless desire for power... that [stops] only in death." Consequently, giving power to the individual would create a dangerous situation that would start a "war of every man against every man" and make life "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.“ Despite his distrust of democracy, Hobbes believed that a diverse group of representatives presenting the problems of the common person would, hopefully, prevent a king from being cruel and unfair. During Hobbes lifetime, business began to have a big influence on government. Those who could contribute money to the government were given great status, and business interests were very powerful.
LEVIATHAN 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. In it, he argued that people were naturally wicked and could not be trusted to govern. Therefore, Hobbes believed that an absolute monarchy - a government that gave all power to a king or queen - was best.
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. 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" . 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.
HOBBES QUOTATION A mans conscience and his judgment is the same thing; and as the judgment, so also the conscience, may be erroneous. Curiosity is the lust of the mind. In the state of nature profit is the measure of right. Not believing in force is the same as not believing in gravitation. Leisure is the Mother of Philosophy.
"For the laws of nature (as justice, equity, modesty, mercy, and, in sum, doing to others as we would be done to) of themselves, without the terror of some power, to cause them to be observed, are contrary to our natural passions, that carry us to partiality, pride, revenge and the like. "Another doctrine repugnant to civil society, is that whatsoever a man does against his conscience, is sin; and it dependent on the presumption of making himself judge of good and evil. For a mans conscience and his judgment are the same thing, and as the judgments, so also the conscience may be erroneous. "Leisure is the mother of philosophy."
"Words are wise mens 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.“ .in the first place, I put for a general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceased only in death. "Man gives indifferent names to one and the same thing from the difference of their own passions; as they that approve a private opinion call it opinion; but they that dislike it, heresy: and yet heresy signifies no more than private opinion.“ "In these four things, opinion of ghosts, ignorance of second causes, devotions towards what men fear, and taking of things casual for prognostics, consistent the natural seed of religion; which by reason of the different fancies, judgments, and passions of several men, hath grown up into ceremonies so different, that those which are used by one man, are for the most part ridiculous to another.“
"During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man. "To this war of every man against every man, this also in consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law, where no law, no injustice. Force, and fraud, are in war the cardinal virtues. "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.“ "Moral philosophy is nothing else but the science of what is good, and evil, in the conversation, and society of mankind. Good, and evil, are names that signify our appetites, and aversions; which in different tempers, customs, and doctrines of men, are different."
"The source of every crime, is some defect of the understanding; or some error in reasoning; or some sudden force of the passions.“ "Corporations are may lesser commonwealths in the bowels of a greater, like worms in the entrails of a natural man.“ "Intemperance is naturally punished with diseases; rashness, with mischance; injustice; with violence of enemies; pride, with ruin; cowardice, with oppression; and rebellion, with slaughter.“ "I am about to take my last voyage, a great leap in the dark."
Those who could contribute money to the government were given great status, and business interests were very powerful. In order to offset the growing power of business, Hobbes believed that an individual could be heard in government by authorizing a representative to speak on their behalf. In fact, Hobbes came up with the phrase "voice of the people," which meant that one person could be chosen to represent a group with similar views. However, this "voice" was merely heard and not necessarily listened to - final decisions lay with the king.
JOHN BRAM HALL 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 Bram hall addressed at Hobbes. Bram hall, a strong Armenian 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." Bram hall countered in 1655, when he printed everything that had passed between them (under the title of A Defense 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, Hobbess 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. Hobbess Animadversions, and also included a bulky appendix entitled The Catching of Leviathan the Great Whale.
JOHN WALLIS Beyond the spat with Bram hall, Hobbes was caught in a series of conflicts from the time of publishing his De Corpore 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 polemics. 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 Bram hall) of teachings which could lead to atheism. This was an important accusation, and Hobbes himself wrote, in his answer to Bram halls "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 Hobbess unusual views on religion.
As Martinich (1995,) has pointed out, in Hobbess 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 Nicene creed.) 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.