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Monday, 13 July 2015

Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679) is best known today for his 1651 work on political philosophy, Leviathan. He started it when he was the mathematical tutor to the exiled Prince Charles in Paris.


Leviathan promoted an absolutist government, where everybody has to give total obedience, as the only means of ensuing order.  It laid the foundation of most later Western political philosophy.

Hobbes took the name "Leviathian" from the Biblical name for the monster of the waters in Psalm 74 v14.

Hobbes' enemies incorrectly accused him of being an atheist. He was in fact, a religious reactionary. "After the Bible was translated into English", he once wrote, "every man, nay, every boy and wrench that could read English, thought they spoke with God Almighty and understood what he said."

After Hobbes' former pupil, now Charles II, ascended to the English throne, he remembered Hobbes and called him to the court to grant him a pension of £100.

Charles II was important in protecting Hobbes when in 1666 the House of Commons introduced a bill against atheism and profaneness. On October 17 it was ordered that the committee to which the bill was referred "should be empowered to receive information touching such books as tend to atheism, blasphemy and profaneness... in particular... the book of Mr. Hobbes called the Leviathan."

The only consequence that came of the bill was that Hobbes could never publish anything on subjects relating to human conduct.

In addition to political philosophy, Hobbes also contributed to a diverse array of other fields, including history, geometry, the physics of gases, theology, ethics, and general philosophy.



Hobbes suffered a paralytic stroke from which he died on December 4, 1679. He is said to have uttered the last words "A great leap in the dark" in his final moments of life. He was interred within St John the Baptist's Church, Ault Hucknall in Derbyshire.

The stuffed tiger Hobbes from Calvin and Hobbes, was named by its creator Bill Watterson after Thomas Hobbes as the comic character shares the philosopher's dim view of human nature.

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