Thomas Hobbes
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Mr. Hobbes
Education: University of Oxford
Region: Western Philosophers
Era 17th Century philosophy

(Modern Philosophy)

Born April 5 1588
Died December 4 1679 (aged 91)

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was an English philospher, physicist, mathematician, and historian.

As a philosopher Hobbes contemplated the nature of reasoning, sensation, imagination, and signification. He is considered to have been an empiricist, a nominalist, and a materialist, the latter particularly contrasting his philosophy with that of Aristotle. Hobbes agreed with Aristotle, however, that reliable knowledge is gained through reason and an understanding of the relationship of cause and effect.

Hobbesian theory and its contribution to Liberalism

For Hobbes, the natural state of man without any means to keep him from preying on others was where there are "no arts; no letters; no society;" only "continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." (ibid, Pt I Ch 13) Hobbes thus believed that government was necessary and should have absolute power to fulfill its duties, which were:

  • the individual's natural right to life; and
  • the protection of individuals from other individuals.

Liberalism thus had a strange birth whereby its foundations were founded not by beliefs in freedom and individual responsibility, but in the form of authoritarian power. But as much as Liberals did not subscribe to Hobbes' view of despotic government, they also found great appeal in his views that there were such things as Natural Rights, and that the State's prime responsibility was in enforcing them. Additionally, Hobbes' new method of using logic and reasoning (as influenced by Macchiavelli) also signalled a break from the previous custom of reasoning from previously-founded philosophical schools of thought (as did Thomas Aquinas and Ibn Rushd, who based their theories on Aristotelian tenets).

See also


  • "Thomas Hobbes." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Mar. 11, 2009.