Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679) was an English philosopher of the social contract, realism and empirical methods. The life of unsocialized man – solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
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Thomas Hobbes quotes
Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them with-all. 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, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.
When all the world is overcharged with inhabitants, then the last remedy of all is war, which provideth for every man, by victory or death.
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.
For war, consists not in battle only, or the act of fighting; but in a tract of time, wherein the will to contend by war is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of time, is to be considered in the nature of war; as it is in the nature of Weather.
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.
In these four things, opinion of ghosts, ignorance of second causes, devotions towards what men fear, and taking of things casual for prognostics, consisteth the natural seed of religion; which by reason of the different fancies, judgements, 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.
If men are not naturally in a state of war, why do they always carry arms and why do they have keys to lock their doors?
For it can never be that war shall preserve life, and peace destroy it.
The first and fundamental law of Nature, which is, to seek peace and follow it.
Intemperance is naturally punished with diseases; rashness, with mischance; injustice; with violence of enemies; pride, with ruin; cowardice, with oppression; and rebellion, with slaughter.
Understanding being nothing else, but conception caused by Speech.
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.
Liberty, to define it, is nothing other than the absence of impediments to motion.
The RIGHT OF NATURE, which Writers commonly call Jus Naturale, is the Liberty each man hath, to use his own power, as he will himself, for the preservation of his own Nature; that is to say, of his own Life; and consequently, of doing any thing, which in his own Judgement, and Reason, he shall conceive to be the aptest means thereunto.
That a man be willing, when others are so too, as farre-forth, as for Peace, and defence of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself.
Give a man an inch, and he’ll take an mile.
Desire, to know why, and how, CURIOSITY; such as is in no living creature but Man; so that Man is distinguished, not only by his Reason; but also by this singular Passion from other Animals; in whom the appetite of food, and other pleasures of Sense, by predominance, take away the care of knowing causes; which is a Lust of the mind, that by a perseverance of delight in the continual and indefatigable generation of Knowledge, exceedeth the short vehemence of any carnal Pleasure.
Felicity is a continual progress of the desire from one object to another, the attaining of the former being still but the way to the latter.The cause whereof is that the object of man’s desire is not to enjoy once only, and for one instant of time, but to assure forever the way of his future desire. And therefore the voluntary actions and inclinations of all men tend not only to the procuring, but also to the assuring of a contented life, and differ only in the way, which ariseth partly from the diversity of passions in diverse men, and partly from the difference of the knowledge or opinion each one has of the causes which produce the effect desired.
In the first place, I put for a general inclination of all mankind a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in death. And the cause of this is not always that a man hopes for a more intensive delight than he has already attained to, or that he cannot be content with a moderate power, but because he cannot assure the power and means to live well, which he hath present, without the acquisition of more.
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 mislike it, heresy: and yet heresy signifies no more than private opinion.
And this Feare of things invisible, is the naturall Seed of that, which every one in himself calleth Religion; and in them that worship, or feare that Power otherwise than they do, Superstition.
For Prudence, is but Experience; which equal time, equally bestows on all men, in those things they equally apply themselves unto.
As first a man cannot lay down the right of resisting them, that assault him by force, to take away his life; because he cannot be understood to aim thereby, at any Good to himself.
Original form: A Rule, By Which The Laws Of Nature May Easily Be Examined And though this may seem too subtile a deduction of the Lawes of Nature, to be taken notice of by all men; whereof the most part are too busie in getting food, and the rest too negligent to understand; yet to leave all men unexcusable, they have been contracted into one easie sum, intelligible even to the meanest capacity; and that is, “Do not that to another, which thou wouldest not have done to thy selfe;”
The interpretation of the laws of nature in a Commonwealth dependeth not on the books of moral philosophy. The authority of writers, without the authority of the Commonwealth, maketh not their opinions law, be they never so true.
Covenants, without the Sword, are but Words, and of no strength to secure a man at all.
Another doctrine repugnant to civil society, is that whatsoever a man does against his conscience, is sin; and it dependeth on the presumption of making himself judge of good and evil. For a man’s conscience and his judgement are the same thing, and as the judgement, so also the conscience may be erroneous.
Leisure is the mother of Philosophy; and Common-wealth, the mother of Peace, and Leisure: Where first were great and flourishing Cities, there was first the study of Philosophy.
The praise of ancient authors proceeds not from the reverence of the dead, but from the competition and mutual envy of the living.
Curiosity is the lust of the mind
If I read as many books as most men do, I would be as dull-witted as they are.
It is one thing to desire, another to be in capacity fit for what we desire.
The source of every crime, is some defect of the understanding; or some error in reasoning; or some sudden force of the passions. Defect in the understanding is ignorance; in reasoning, erroneous opinion.
Hell is truth seen too late.
Science is the knowledge of Consequences, and dependence of one fact upon another.
By consequence, or train of thoughts, I understand that succession of one thought to another which is called, to distinguish it from discourse in words, mental discourse. When a man thinketh on anything whatsoever, his next thought after is not altogether so casual as it seems to be. Not every thought to every thought succeeds indifferently. [See B. F. Skinner]
For, from the time that the Bishop of Rome had gotten to be acknowledged for bishop universal, by pretence of succession to St. Peter, their whole hierarchy, or kingdom of darkness, may be compared not unfitly to the kingdom of fairies; that is, to the old wives’ fables in England concerning ghosts and spirits, and the feats they play in the night. And if a man consider the original of this great ecclesiastical dominion, he will easily perceive that the papacy is no other than the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof: for so did the papacy start up on a sudden out of the ruins of that heathen power.
As if it were Injustice to sell dearer than we buy; or to give more to a man than he merits. The value of all things contracted for, is measured by the Appetite of the Contractors: and therefore the just value, is that which they be contented to give.
God put me on this Earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I’m so far behind that I’ll never die
Look not at the greatness of the evil past, but the greatness of the good to follow.
But let one man read another by his actions never so perfectly, it serves him only with his acquaintance, which are but few. He that is to govern a whole Nation, must read in himself, not this, or that particular man; but Man-kind; which though it be hard to do, harder than to learn any Language, or Science; yet, when I shall have set down my own reading orderly, and perspicuously, the pains left another, will be only to consider, if he also find not the same in himself. For this kind of Doctrine, admit no other Demonstration.
For every man looketh that his companion should value him, at the same rate he sets upon himself.
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.
The privilege of absurdity; to which no living creature is subject but man only.
Hope for an appetite with an opinion of attaining it, is called hope-despair, and the same, without such opinion it is simply called despair.
By manners, I mean not here decency of behavior; as how one man should salute another, or how a man should wash his mouth, or pick his teeth before company, and such other points of the small morals; but those qualities of mankind that concern their living together in peace and unity. To which end we are to consider that the felicity of this life consisteth not in the repose of a mind satisfied. For there is no such finis ultimus [utmost aim] nor summum bonum [greatest good] as is spoken of in the books of the old moral philosophers. Nor can a man any more live whose desires are at an end than he whose senses and imaginations are at a stand.
For 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: For they see their own wit at hand, and other men’s at a distance.
COMMENTS on Thomas Hobbes
We often wonder at religion and its causes, but here Hobbes reveals it in a long sentence: In these four things,  opinion of ghosts,  ignorance of second causes,  devotions towards what men fear, and  taking of things casual for prognostics, consisteth 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. A brief analysis –  There are known to be unseen movers of events in our lives;  We personally do not have the time, energy or resources to discover these movers;  An easy way to cope with these forces is to propitiate their good will by acts of subservience;  By putting a mental spin on some associated random natural events we feel we are controlling these unseen forces… And this of things invisible, is the seed of that, which every one in himself calleth religion; and in them that worship, or fear that power otherwise than they do, superstition.
When all the world is overcharged with inhabitants, then the last remedy of all is war, which provideth for every man, by victory or death. This is at the heart of Darwin’s survival of the fittest, but two centuries earlier than Darwin. If Hobbes had said, in addition, that the survivors had children and the dead people didn’t he would have been even closer. The war that Hobbes writes of is not always armed combat, and usually isn’t. Most of the time our struggles are economic, in the form of distribution of goods and services. They are not as colorful as a bullet to the guts, but ultimately lack of food to the gut is just as effective in disposing of excess population. Death from famine isn’t necessary to reduce population, just sufficient reduction in quality and quantity of food will depress reproduction rates and eventually total population.
Understanding being nothing else, but conception caused by Speech. Einstein said his moments of creativity were visual images, which he then converted to words and mathematics, and yet Hobbes’s statement presages much of 20th-century philosophy, and a field we now call linguistics, by three centuries. Lev Vygotsky‘s work is only now being recognized, demonstrating that even intelligent followers are slow to learn.
The RIGHT OF NATURE, which Writers commonly call Jus Naturale, is the Liberty each man hath, to use his own power, as he will himself, for the preservation of his own Nature; that is to say, of his own Life; and consequently, of doing any thing, which in his own Judgement, and Reason, he shall conceive to be the aptest means thereunto. This is an essential observation, and it must be carefully written into constitutional rights of man, and compelled on the authorities to be obeyed.
God put me on this Earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I’m so far behind that I’ll never die.
That is how I feel occasionally since starting this series of posts named