Thomas Hobbes

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Thomas Hobbes (5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679) was an influential English philosopher, best known for his work in political philosophy. Influenced by the political realism of Machiavelli[1] and the exposition of Newtonian physics concerning motion at his time, Hobbes proposed, in Leviathan, a mechanistic view of human nature and a form of justification of absolutist governance, conditional upon the monarch's ability to preserve order. While arguing for an absolutist monarchy he rejected and argued vigorously against the "divine right of kings"; his justification for monarchy was based solely on the empirical scientific knowledge of his time.

Hobbes was born in Westport, adjacent to Malmesbury in Wiltshire, the second son of a clergyman. He was a scholar in Latin and Greek, having been educated at Grammar school in the west of England and later at Oxford. After graduation he became a companion and tutor to the son of the first Earl of Devonshire and thus given the use of a large private library and the company of many important noblemen, writers and amateur scientists.

In 1610 Hobbes and his charge toured France and Italy together, and on the trip Hobbes learned about the new astronomy being touted by Kepler and Galileo. On his return to England Hobbes settled down to his classical studies in the Earl's household until his death in 1625. During this period Hobbes became known as a respectable classicist and for a few years acted as informal secretary and translator for Francis Bacon. In 1629 Hobbes was in Geneva and became fascinated with geometry, whose deductive method influenced his later thinking.. For most of the period 1634–1650 Hobbes lived in Paris, in the later part of this period to avoid the enemies he supposed he had made through his translation of Thucydides, in order to promote that author's anti-democratic sentiments (Hobbes being a timid man). He also avoided the English Civil War. He was briefly the tutor to the future English King Charles II. In Paris Hobbes was a member of the circle of anti-Aristotelian philosophers that included Descartes, a philosopher with whom Hobbes disagreed on many points. He returned to England in 1651. He had a prolonged dispute with John Wilkins, professor of geometry at Oxford, a much better mathematician, and this may have prevented him from becoming a member of the Royal Society, which he attempted to enter.

As a political philosopher, Hobbes was concerned with the role that governments play in the ordering of society. Although he supported an absolutist government and opposed the separation of powers (soon afterwards to be put forward by John Locke) he has been considered one of the first social-contract theorists of the modern era. He wrote his most famous work, Leviathan, in 1651; it brought him notoriety as being anti-clerical and insufficiently in favour of the English monarchy. His arguments are thought to be extremely lucid and still worth refuting.[2][3]


  1. Honan, William (1995-12-20). 3 Hobbes Essays Renew Debate Over Machiavelli - New York Times. Retrieved on 2012-01-02.
  2. Peters, R. Hobbes. Penguin Books. 1956
  3. Russell, B. History of Western Philosophy. George Allen and Unwin. 1961