Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Thomas Hobbes

English Political Philosopher

"They that live under the government of Democracy, attribute all the inconvenience to that form of Commonwealth."

"This fear of things invisible, is the natural seed of that, which everyone in himself calleth religion; and in them that worship, or fear that power otherwise than they do, superstition."

"This is commonly, in the schools, called metaphysics, as being part of the philosophy of Aristotle, which hath that for title; but it is in another sense; for there it signifieth as much as books written or placed after his natural philosophy. But the schools take them for books of supernatural philosophy; for the word metaphysic will bear both these senses."

"This naturall proclivity of men, to hurt each other."

"Those men that are so remissly governed that they dare take up arms to defend or introduce an opinion, are still in war, and their condition not peace, but only a cessation of arms for fear of one another, and they live as it were in the precincts of battle continually."

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

"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."

"To be seduced by Orators, as a Monarch by Flatterers."

"To imitate one’s enemy is to dishonor."

"To make covenants with brute beasts is impossible, because not understanding our speech, they understand not, nor accept of any translation of right, nor can translate any right to another; and without mutual acception, there is no covenant. - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, pt.I, ch.14, 1651."

"To understand this for sense it is not required that a man should be a geometrician or a logician, but that he should be mad."

"True and False are attributes of speech, not of things. And where speech is not, there is neither Truth nor Falsehood."

"Understanding is by the flame of the passions never enlightened, but dazzled."

"Understanding is nothing else than conception caused by speech."

"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: and therefore the notion of time, is to be considered in the nature of war; as it is in the nature of weather. For as the nature of foul weather, lieth not in a shower or two of rain; but in an inclination thereto of many days together: so the nature of war, consisteth not in actual fighting; but in the know disposition thereto, during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is peace."

"We are not to renounce our senses and experience, nor (that which is the undoubted Word of God) our natural Reason. For they are the talents which he hath put into our hands to negotiate, till the coming again of our blessed savior, and therefore not to be folded up in the napkin of an implicate faith, but employed in the purchase of justice, peace, and true religion. For though there be many things in God's Word above Reason--that is to say, which cannot by natural reason be either demonstrated or confuted--yet there is nothing contrary to it."

"What is the heart but a spring, and the nerves but so many strings, and the joints but so many wheels, giving motion to the whole body?"

"What reason is there that he which laboreth much, and, sparing the fruits of his labor, consumeth little, should be more charged than he that, living idly, getteth little and spendeth all he gets, seeing the one hath no more protection from the commonwealth than the other?"

"Whatsoever accidents Or qualities our sense make us think there be in the world, they are not there, but are seemings and apparitions only. The things that really are in the world without us, are those motions by which these seemings are caused. And this is the great deception of sense, which also is by sense to be corrected. For as sense telleth me, when I see directly, that the colour seemeth to be in the object; so also sense telleth me, when I see by reflection, that colour is not in the object."

"Whatsoever is the object of any man's Appetite or Desire; that is it which he for his part calleth Good: and the object of his Hate and Aversion, evil."

"Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same 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 condition there is no place for industry... 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."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"Where men build on false grounds, the more they build, the greater is the ruin."

"Where there is no common power, there is no law, no injustice."

"Whether men will or not, they must be subject always to the Divine Power. By denying the existence or providence of God, men may shake off their ease, but not their yoke."

"Whosoever persuadeth by reasoning from principles written, maketh him to whom he speaketh judge, both of the meaning of those principles and also of the force of his inferences upon them."

"Why any man should take the law of his country rather than his own Inspiration, for the rule of his action."

"Why may we not say, that all Automata (Engines that move themselves by springs and wheeles as doth a watch) have an artificiall life? For what is the Heart, but a Spring; and the Nerves, but so many Strings; and the Joynts, but so many Wheeles, giving motion to the whole Body, such as was intended by the Artificer? Art goes yet further, imitating the rationall and most excellent worke of Nature, Man. For by Art is created the great LEVIATHAN called a COMMON-WEALTH, or STATE, (in latine CIVITAS) which is but an Artificiall Man; though of greater stature and strength than the Naturall, for whose protection and defence it was intended; and in which, the Soveraignty is an Artificiall Soul, as giving life and motion to the whole body."

"Words are the counters of wise men, and the money of fools."

"Words are the money of fools. It can never be that war shall preserve life, and peace destroy it."

"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."