Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Thomas Hobbes

English Political Philosopher

"Belief and unbelief never follow men’s commands. Faith is a gift from God which man can neither give nor take away by promise of rewards or menaces of torture."

"Continual success in obtaining those things which a man form time to time desireth, that is to say, continual prospering, is that men call felicity; I mean the felicity of this life. For 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."

"For... what liberty is; there can no other proof be offered but every man’s own experience, by reflection on himself, and remembering what he useth in his mind, that is, what he himself meaneth when he saith an action... is free. Now he that reflecteth so on himself, cannot but be satisfied... that a free agent is he that can do if he will, and forbear if he will; and that liberty is the absence of external impediments. But to those that out of custom speak not what they conceive, but what they heard, and are not able, or will not take the pains to consider what they think when they hear such words, no argument can be sufficient, because experience and matter of fact are not verified by other men’s arguments, but by every man’s own sense and memory."

"He that will do anything for his pleasure, must engage himself to suffer all the pains annexed to it; and these pains, are the natural punishments of those actions, which are the beginning of more harm than good. And hereby it comes to pass that intemperance is naturally punished with diseases; rashness with mischances; injustice with the violence of enemies: Pride, with ruin; cowardice, with oppression; negligent government of princes, with rebellion; and rebellion, with slaughter."

"Moral philosophy is nothing else but the science of what is good and evil in the conversation and society of mankind. God and evil are names that signify our appetites and aversions, which in different tempers, customs and doctrines of men are different."

"Our nature is inseparable from desires, and the very word “desire” (the craving for something not possessed) implies that our present felicity is not complete."

"Passions unguided are for the most part mere madness."

"The secret thoughts of a man run over all things holy, profane, clean, obscene, grave, and light, without shame, or blame; which verbal discourse cannot do, farther than the judgment shall approve of the time, place and persons."

"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."

"To forgive sin is not an act of injustice, though the punishment have been threatened. Even amongst men, though the promise of good bind the promiser; yet threats, that is to say, promises of evil, bind them not; much less shall they bind God, who is infinitely more merciful than men."

"To this war of every man, against every man, this is also 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 two cardinal virtues. Justice, and injustice, are none of the faculties neither of the body, nor mind. If they were, they might be in a man that were alone in the world, as well as his sense, and passions. They are qualities, that relate to men in society, not in solitude. It is consequent also to the same condition, that there be no propriety, no dominion, no mine and thing distinct; but only that to be every man’s, that he can get; and for so long, as he can keep it."

"Whosoever looketh into himself and considereth what he doth when he does think, opine, reason, hope, fear, etc., and upon what grounds; he shall thereby read and know what are the thoughts and passions of all men upon the like occasions."

"Whatever therefore is consequent to a tie of war, 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 withal. In such a 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 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, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

"A kingdom divided in itself cannot stand."

"Desire of knowledge, and arts of peace, inclineth men to obey a common power: for such desire containeth a desire of leisure, and consequently protection from other power than their own."

"Eloquence is power; because it is seeming prudence."

"He that is to govern a whole nation must read in himself, not this or that particular man; but mankind."

"Leisure is the mother of philosophy... The source of every crime , is some defect of the understanding; or some error in reasoning; or some sudden force of the passions... And the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."

"Science is the knowledge of consequences, and dependence of one fact upon another."

"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 they may be many so wise as themselves."

"The end of worship amongst men is power. For where a man seeth another worshipped, he supposeth him powerful, and is the readier to obey him; which makes his power greater. But God has no ends: the worship we do him proceeds from our duty and is directed according to our capacity by those rules of honor that reason dictateth to be done by the weak to the more potent men, in hope of benefit, for fear of damage, or in thankfulness for good already received from them."

"The nature of God is incomprehensible; that is to say, we understand nothing of what He is, but only that He is; and therefore the attributes we give Him are not to tell one another what He is, nor to signify our opinion of His nature, but our desire to honor Him with such names as we conceive most honorable amongst ourselves."

"There are very few so foolish, that they had not rather governe themselves, than be governed by others."

"To equal justice appertaineth also the equal imposition of taxes; the equality whereof dependeth not on the equality of riches, but on the equality of the debt that every man oweth to the commonwealth for his defense."

"To say the world was not created, but eternal, seeing that which is eternal has no cause, is to deny there is a God."

"Words are wise men's counters, they do but reckon by them; but they are the money of fools."

"Faith is a gift of God which man can neither give or take away by promise of rewards or menaces of torture."

"We all measure good and evil by the pleasure and pain we feel at present, or expect hereafter."

"Fear of things invisible, is the natural seed of that which every one in himself calleth religion."

"Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues."

"The Papacy is no other than the Ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof."

"A beauty is a promise of happiness."

"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."

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

"A crime arising from a sudden passion is not so great as when the same ariseth from long meditation. For in the former case, there is a place for extenuation, in the common infirmity of human nature, but he that doth it with premeditation, has used circumspection and cast his eye on the law, on the punishment, and on the consequence thereof to human society."

"A free man, is he, that in those things, which by his strength and wit he is able to do, is not hindered to do what he has a will to."

"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."

"A man cannot lay down the right of resisting them, that assault him by force, to take away his life. Because a man cannot tell, when he seeth men proceed against him by violence whether they intend his death or not."

"A man's conscience and his judgment is the same thing; and as the judgment, so also the conscience, may be erroneous."

"A private man has always the liberty (because thought is free) to believe or not believe in his heart those acts that have been given out for miracles, according as he shall see what benefits can accrue by men's belief, to those that pretend, or countenance them, and thereby conjecture whether they be miracles or lies."

"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; which sheweth him, that he has no more to do in learning the Lawes of Nature, but, when weighing the actions of other men with his own, they seem too heavy, to put them into the other part of the ballance, and his own into their place, that his own passions, and selfe-love, may adde nothing to the weight; and then there is none of these Lawes of Nature that will not appear unto him very reasonable."

"A sick or lame man's liberty to go is an impotence, and not a power or a liberty."

"A wise man should so write (though in words understood by all men) that wise men only should be able to commend him."

"All crimes are indeed sins, but not all sins crimes. A sin may be in the thought or secret purpose of a man, of which neither a judge, nor a witness, nor any man, can take notice."

"All generous minds have a horror of what are commonly called Facts. They are the brute beasts of the intellectual domain."

"All men that are ambitious of military command, are inclined to continue the causes of war; and to stir up trouble and sedition: for there is no honor military but by war; nor any such hope to mind an ill game, as by causing a new shuffle."

"And as to the faculties of the mind, setting aside the arts grounded upon words, and especially that skill of proceeding upon general, and infallible rules, called Science; which very few have, and but in few things; as being not a native faculty, born within us; nor attained, (as Prudence,) while we look after somewhat else."

"And covenants, without the sword, are but words and of no strength to secure a man at all."

"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."

"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."