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.

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.

Now the science of virtue and vice, is moral philosophy; and therefore the true doctrine of the laws of nature, is the true moral philosophy.

That when a thing lies still, unless somewhat else stir it, it will lie still for ever, is a truth that no man doubts of. But that when a thing is in motion, it will eternally be in motion, unless somewhat else stay it, though the reason be the same, namely that nothing can change itself, is not so easily assented to. For men measure not only other men but all other things, by themselves; and, because they find themselves subject after motion to pain and lassitude, think everything else grows weary of motion, and seeks repose of its own accord; little considering whether it be not some other motion wherein that desire of rest they find in themselves consisteth. From hence it is that the schools say heavy bodies fall downwards out of an appetite to rest, and to conserve their nature in that place which is most proper for them; ascribing appetite and knowledge of what is good for their conservation, which is more than man has, to things inanimate, absurdly.

The government itself, or the administration of its affairs, are better committed to one, then many.

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. For the right men have by Nature to protect themselves, when none else can protect them, can by no covenant be relinquished.

The sudden disappointment of a hope leaves a scar which the ultimate fulfillment of that hope never entirely removes.

To agree with in opinion, is to honor, as being a sign of approving his judgment and wisdom. To dissent, is dishonor, and an upbraiding of error.

When a body is once in motion, it moveth, unless something else hinder it, eternally; and whatsoever hindereth it cannot in an instant, but in time and by degrees, quite extinguish it; and, as we see in the water though the wind cease the waves give not over rolling for a long time after: so also it happeneth in that motion which is made in the internal parts of a man, then, when he sees, dreams, etc. For, after the object is removed, or the eye shut, we still retain an image of the thing seen, though more obscure than when we see it. And this is it the Latins call ‘imagination,’ from the image made in seeing; and apply the same, though improperly, to all the other senses. But the Greeks call it ‘fancy,’ which signifies ‘appearance,’ and is as proper to one sense as to another. ‘Imagination,’ therefore, is nothing but ‘decaying sense,’ and is found in men, and many other living creatures, as well sleeping as waking.

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.

Glory, or internal gloriation or triumph of the mind, is the passion which proceedeth from the imagination or conception of our own power above the power of him that contendeth with us.

If we could suppose a great multitude of men to consent to the observation of justice, and other laws of Nature, without a common Power to keep them all in awe; we might as well suppose all mankind to do the same; and then there neither would be nor need to be any civil government or commonwealth at all, because there would be Peace without subjection.

It is each individual that must ultimately be his own protector.

Men measure not only other men, but all other things, by themselves.

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English Political Philosopher