Thomas Hobbes

Philosopher, Author

1588 – 1679

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Who was Thomas Hobbes?

Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy. His 1651 book Leviathan established the foundation for most of Western political philosophy from the perspective of social contract theory.

Hobbes was a champion of absolutism for the sovereign, but he 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; 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.

Famous Quotes:

  • Words are wise men's counters, they do but reckon by them: but they are the money of fools.
  • The obligation of subjects to the sovereign is understood to last as long, and no longer, than the power lasteth by which he is able to protect them.
  • War consisteth not in battle only, or the act of fighting; but in a tract of time, wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known.
  • Force, and fraud, are in war the two cardinal virtues.
  • No mans error becomes his own Law; nor obliges him to persist in it.
  • Sudden glory is the passion which makes those grimaces called laughter.
  • Science is the knowledge of consequences, and dependence of one fact upon another.
  • Words are the money of fools.
  • Such is the nature of men, that howsoever they may acknowledge many others to be more witty, or more eloquent, or more learned; yet they will hardly believe there be many so wise as themselves.
  • There is no such thing as perpetual tranquillity of mind while we live here; because life itself is but motion, and can never be without desire, nor without fear, no more than without sense.

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Apr 5, 1588
Westport, Wiltshire
Also known as
  • Thomas Hobbs
  • Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury
  • Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury
  • Anglicanism
  • English people
  • United Kingdom
  • England
  • Hertford College, Oxford
    (1603 - 1608)
  • Malmesbury School
Lived in
  • Paris
Dec 4, 1679

on July 23, 2013


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