Thomas Hobbes


English Political Philosopher

Author Quotes

A commonwealth is said to be instituted when a multitude of men do agree, and covenant, every one with every one, that to whatsoever man, or assembly of men, shall be given by the major part the right to present the person of them all, that is to say, to be their representative; every one, as well he that voted for it as he that voted against it, shall authorize all the actions and judgments of that man, or assembly of men, in the same manner as if they were his own, to the end to live peaceably amongst themselves, and be protected against other men.

And law was brought into the world for nothing else but to limit the natural liberty of particular men in such manner as they might not hurt, but assist one another, and join together against a common enemy.

But since all doe grant that is done by RIGHT, which is not done against Reason, we ought to judg those Actions onely wrong, which are repugnant to right Reason, (i.e.) which contradict some certaine Truth collected by right reasoning from true Principles; but that Wrong which is done, we say it is done against some Law: therefore True Reason is a certaine Law, which (since it is no lesse a part of Humane nature, than any other faculty, or affection of the mind) is also termed naturall. Therefore the Law of Nature, that I may define it, is the Dictate of right Reason, conversant about those things which are either to be done, or omitted for the constant preservation of Life, and Members, as much as in us lyes.

Desire to know why and how— curiosity which is a lust of the mind that a perseverance of delight in the continued and indefatigable generation of knowledge— exceedeth the short vehemence of any carnal pleasure.

For if we take liberty in the proper sense, for a corporal liberty; that is to say, freedom from chains and prison, it were very absurd for men to clamour as they do for the liberty they so manifestly enjoy. Again, if we take liberty for an exemption from laws, it is no less absurd for men to demand as they do that liberty by which all other men may be masters of their lives. And yet as absurd as it is, this it is they demand, not knowing that the laws are of no power to protect them without a sword in the hands of a man, or men, to cause those laws to be put in execution.

From whence it happens, that they which trust to books, do as they that cast up many little sums into a greater, without considering whether those little sums were rightly cast up or not; and at last finding the error visible, and not mistrusting their first grounds, know not which way to clear themselves; but spend time in fluttering over their books, as birds that entering by the chimney, and finding themselves enclosed in a chamber, flutter at the false light of a glass window, for want of wit to consider which way they came in.

If men are naturally in a state of war, why do they always carry arms and why do they have keys to lock their doors?

It is an easy thing, for men to be deceived, by the specious name of Libertie.

Men are freed of their covenants two ways; by performing, or by being forgiven. For performance is the natural end of obligation, and forgiveness the restitution of liberty, as being a retransferring of that right in which the obligation consisted.

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

That we have of Geometry, which is the mother of all Naturall Science, wee are not indebted for it to the Schools.

The Future being but a fiction of the mind, applying the sequels of actions Past, to the actions that are Present.

The object of man's desire is not to enjoy once only, and for one instant of time; but to assure for ever, the way of his future desires.

The source of every crime is some defect of the understanding; or some error in reasoning; or some sudden force of the passions.

Thoughts are to the Desires as Scouts and Spies, to range abroad, and find the way to the things Desired.

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 withall. 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.

A covenant not to defend myself from force, by force, is always void. - Thomas Hobbes.

And therefore God, that seeth and disposeth all things, seeth also that the liberty of man in doing what he will is accompanied with the necessity of doing that which God will, and no more or less.

But what is all this to Justice? for neither, if I sell my goods for as much as I can get for them, doe I injure the buyer, who sought, and desir'd them of me? neither if I divide more of what is mine to him who deserves lesse, so long as I give the other what I have agreed for, do I wrong to either? which truth our Saviour himself, being God, testifies in the Gospell. This therefore is no distinction of Justice, but of equality; yet perhaps it cannot be deny'd, but that Justice is a certain equality, as consisting in this onely; that since we are all equall by nature, one should not arrogate more Right to himselfe, than he grants to another, unlesse he have fairly gotten it by Compact.

Do not that to another, which thou wouldst not have done to thyself.

For it can never be that war shall preserve life, and peace destroy it.

Give an inch, he’ll take an ell.

If nature therefore have made men equal, that equality is to be acknowledged: or if nature have made men unequal, yet because men that think themselves equal will not enter into conditions of peace, but on equal terms, such equality must be admitted.... I put this: that every man acknowledge another for his equal by nature. The breach of this precept is pride. - Thomas Hobbes. Leviathan, 1651.

It is commanded by the Law of nature, That every man in dividing Right to others, shew himselfe equall to either party. By the foregoing Law we are forbidden to assume more Right by nature to our selves, than we grant to others. We may take lesse if we will, for that sometimes is an argument of modesty. But if at any time matter of Right be to be divided by us unto others, we are forbidden by this Law to favour one more or lesse than another.

Men condemne the same things in others, which they approve in themselves; on the other side, they publickly commend what they privately condemne; and they deliver their Opinions more by Hear-say, than any Speculation of their own; and they accord more through hatred of some object, through fear, hope, love, or some other perturbation of mind, than true Reason. And therefore it comes to passe, that whole Bodyes of people often doe those things by Generall accord, or Contention, which those Writers most willingly acknowledge to be against the Law of Nature.

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English Political Philosopher