Thomas Hobbes

English philosopher (1588–1679)

Thomas Hobbes (5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679) was a philosopher from England. His most famous book is Leviathan (1651).

Thomas Hobbes
after John Michael Wright (1617–1694)
Era17th-century philosophy
(Modern Philosophy)
RegionWestern Philosophers
SchoolSocial contract, realism
Main interests
Political philosophy, history, ethics, geometry
Notable ideas
modern founder of the social contract tradition; life in the state of nature is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short"



Hobbes was was a political philosopher. He wrote mainly about government and law. He tried to show that the best societies have one authority. This authority had virtually all power. All individuals living in society under the authority must give up some rights and freedoms, but in exchange they received protection. Hobbes didn't believe in any "separation of powers" among different people. He thought the ruling authority must control everything: civil, military, judicial, and ecclesiastical.



Hobbes believed that human nature makes people selfish and willing to hurt each other if we think it will help us. He believed nature makes all humans basically equal because we can all kill each other— for example, a small child can kill a strong man if he catches the man asleep. Imagine what things would be like without a government. It would be terrible—a "state of war". There would not be enough stuff for everyone, and people would disagree about who got what. Some people would fight each other, and everyone else would be very worried about their own safety. No one would be able to trust anyone else or make plans for the future. Life would be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" (people would be alone, poor, mean, and would not live for long).[1] Next, Hobbes argues that it would be a good idea for everyone to stop fighting and choose a Sovereign which could be one man or an assembly of men. Everyone should agree to obey the Sovereign, and give him all power of coercion or force of restraint under law. Once the Sovereign is in place, everyone has to obey him, even those who disagree with him. This is because everyone already agreed to obey him no matter what. Hobbes says it's better to be mostly safe under an all-powerful Sovereign, than to be in a state of war.

Hobbes wanted his argument to be like math, with each step leading to the next. However, many people disagreed with his argument. Some said that Hobbes was in favor of rebellion, because he said that people were naturally equal. Others said that humans are not as selfish as Hobbes thought. Today, most people do not like the idea of an all-powerful government. Nevertheless, Hobbes's argument was a very important one, and philosophers who are interested in government or political theory still study Hobbes's books very carefully.


  1. "Chapter XIII.: Of the Natural Condition of Mankind As Concerning Their Felicity, and Misery.". Leviathan. Archived from the original on 2020-12-04. Retrieved 2016-09-07.