- NAME: Thomas Hobbes
- OCCUPATION: Historian, Philosopher, Political Scientist, Scientist, Academic Author, Journalist
- BIRTH DATE: April 05, 1588
- DEATH DATE: December 04, 1679
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Westport, near Mamesbury, Wiltshire, England
- PLACE OF DEATH: Derbyshire, England
- AKA: Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury
- AKA: Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury
Best Known For
Thomas Hobbes, an English philosopher in the 17th century, was best known for his book Leviathan (1651) and his political views on society.
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Parts of the work anticipate the better-known Leviathan, which would come nine years later.
While still in Paris, Hobbes began work on what would become his magnum opus and one of the most influential books ever written: Leviathan, or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil (usually referred to as simply Leviathan). Leviathan ranks high as an essential Western treatise on statecraft, on par with Machiavelli's The Prince.
In Leviathan, written during the English Civil Wars (1642-1651), Hobbes argues for the necessity and natural evolution of the social contract, a social construct in which individuals mutually unite into political societies, agreeing to abide by common rules and accept resultant duties to protect themselves and one another from whatever might come otherwise. He also advocates rule by an absolute sovereign, saying that chaos--and other situations identified with a "state of nature" (a pre-government state in which individuals' actions are bound only by those individuals' desires and restraints)--could be averted only by a strong central government, one with the power of the biblical Leviathan (a sea creature), which would protect people from their own selfishness. He also warned of "the war of all against all" (Bellum omnium contra omnes), a motto that went on to greater fame and represented Hobbes' view of humanity without government.
As Hobbes lays out his thoughts on the foundation of states and legitimate government, he does it methodically: The state is created by humans, so he first describes human nature. He says that in each of us can be found a representation of general humanity and that all acts are ultimately self-serving--that in a state of nature, humans would behave completely selfishly. He concludes that humanity's natural condition is a state of perpetual war, fear and amorality, and that only government can hold a society together.
After his return to England in 1651, Hobbes continued to write. De Corpore was published in 1655, and De Homine was published in 1658, completing the Elements of Philosophy trilogy. In his later years, Hobbes turned his attention to a boyhood favorite--classics--publishing translations of Homer's The Odyssey and The Iliad.
Hugely influential, Hobbes' ideas form the building blocks of nearly all Western political thought, including the right of the individual, the importance of republican government, and the idea that acts are allowed if they are not expressly forbidden. The historical importance of his political philosophy cannot be overstated, as it went on to influence the likes of John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant, to name a few.
Hobbes died on December 4, 1679.
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