Hobbes, Thomas

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)


Thomas Hobbes (April 5, 1588 – December 4, 1679) was an English philosopher, scientist, and historian who is best known for his contribution to the founding of modern political philosophy[1].

Background

Hobbes was born on April 5, 1588 near Malmesbury in Westport, North Wiltshire. He is often referred to as “Thomas Hobbes of Mamesbruy”. While little is known about his mother, his father’s name was Thomas Hobbes Senior[2]. Hobbes had an older brother Edmund and a younger sister, Anne[3]. Hobbes started school at an early age and entered Magdalen College in Oxford at age 15[4]. Hobbes was an intellectual figure who occupied his time with speculation of philosophy, theology, biblical interpretation, natural sciences and mathematics. He believed that everything that happens is a result of the physical world and that the soul does not exist[5]. Hobbes viewed government as a means to ensure collective security and in metaphysics, he defended materialism, the view that only material things are real[6]. Hobbes died on December 4, 1679, at the age of ninety-one[7].

Major Works

In 1640, Hobbes made his first official statement of political philosophy with Elements of Law, Natural and Politic, which was based on natural law theories from Thomas Aquinas to Hugo Grotius. However, Hobbes’ altered his view in 1642 when he revised and reissued portions of his work in a Latin version called De Cive[8].

Hobbes’ 1651 book, Leviathan expressed his idea that basic human motives are selfish[9]. It established the foundation for most of Western political philosophy. Among his many contributions to philosophy, this composition is widely considered to be one of the most influential examples of social contract theory. Hobbes used the social contract method to suggest that humans ought to submit to the authority of sovereign power[10]. The overall outlook of Leviathan is nominalist, materialist and anticlerical.

Law and Ethics

Hobbes took a nominalist approach to ethics as he argued that ethical judgments are the result of human thought and culture and that justice is a function of positive law[11]. In addition to his doctrine of law, Hobbes developed ideas of human nature depicting human behaviour to be rooted in self-interest, especially in the sense of survival[12]. While he did not develop implications of the doctrine of human equality, it is widely known that Hobbes was a strong believer in human equality.

Ethics of freedom

Hobbes rejected the existence of freedom as a power which led him to a fundamental alteration of the theory of law and of the relation of law to liberty. Hobbes based a theory of laws and liberty on rationality[13]. Hobbes suggests that there are three types of freedom: freedom as free will, as a right to liberty, and a desirable state or condition of liberation[14].




[1] Thomas Hobbes. (n.d.) In Encyclopedia Britannica online.Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/268448/Thomas-Hobbes. Retrieved on 2012, September 28.
[2] Thomas Hobbes. (2008). Complete dictionary of scientific biography. Retrieved from http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Thomas_Hobbes.aspx. Retrieved on 2012, September 30.
[3]Newey, Glen. (2008). Routledge philosophy guidebook to Hobbes and Leviatha. New York, NY: Routledge.
[4] Hodges, Miles. (2007, July 19). Life of Thomas Hobbes. Retrieved from http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/hobbes/hobbesbio.htm. Retrieved on 2012, September 28.
[5] Thomas Hobbes. (2002). Online guide to ethics and moral philosophy. Retrieved from http://caae.phil.cmu.edu/cavalier/80130/part1/sect4/Hobbes.html. Retrieved on 2012, September 29.
[6] Thomas Hobbes. (n.d.) In Encyclopedia Britannica online. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/268448/Thomas-Hobbes. Retrieved on 2012, September 28.
[7] Thomas Hobbes Biography. (n.d.) In Encyclopedia of world biography. Retrieved from http://www.notablebiographies.com/He-Ho/Hobbes-Thomas.html. Retrieved on 2012, September 28.
[8] Thomas Hobbes. (n.d.) In Encyclopedia Britannica online.Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/268448/Thomas-Hobbes. Retrieved on 2012, September 28.
[9] Thomas Hobbes Biography. (n.d.) In Encyclopedia of world biography. Retrieved from http://www.notablebiographies.com/He-Ho/Hobbes-Thomas.html. Retrieved on 2012, September 28.
[10]Hobbes's Moral and Political Philosophy. (2008, August 23). Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hobbes-moral/. Retrieved on 2012, September 28.
[11] Thomas Hobbes. (2008). Complete dictionary of scientific biography. Retrieved from http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Thomas_Hobbes.aspx. Retrieved on 2012, September 29.
[12] Thomas Hobbes. (2008). Complete dictionary of scientific biography. Retrieved from http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Thomas_Hobbes.aspx. Retrieved on 2012, September 29.
[13]Pink, Thomas. (2011). Thomas Hobbes and the ethics of freedom. Online Research in Philosophy, 54(5):541-563
[14]Pink, Thomas. (2011). Thomas Hobbes and the ethics of freedom. Online Research in Philosophy, 54(5):541-563