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Thomas Hobbes (b. 1588) was an English philosopher, renowned for his political philosophy, most notably in his masterpiece Leviathan.
He experienced the social unrest and political instability of the English Civil War up close. This inspired his philosophical analyses, as he tried to understand human nature, society, and the basis of the political system.
As a result, Hobbes’ ideas have greatly influenced our understanding of human nature, society, war, the need for law and government. Hobbes claimed that individuals’ voluntary consent justified the power of government.
In this blog post, I’ve gathered 45 most impactful Thomas Hobbes quotes and analyzed some of them from the perspective of Hobbes’ political and philosophical views.
14 Thomas Hobbes Quotes on Life & Human Nature
The first and fundamental law of Nature, which is, to seek peace and follow it.Thomas Hobbes
In essence, this statement illustrates that peace is not just a desire or a whim, but rather an internal drive that drives our actions.
This means that seeking peace requires active and intentional choice. It is a commitment to resolving conflicts and developing understanding to bridge differences and cultivate compassion in human relationships.
This, in turn, confirms that peace is not an individual goal, but a collective endeavor. And to achieve that, we must recognize the connectedness of our lives and the value of creating harmony within a community.
All in all, peace serves as the bedrock on which societies are built. And in the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes as outlined in “Leviathan”, this also requires the establishment of laws and systems that uphold justice and protect the individual rights of all members of society by the government.
The flesh endures the storms of the present alone; the mind, those of the past and future as well as the present. Gluttony is a lust of the mind.Thomas Hobbes
The original of all great and lasting societies consisted not in the mutual good will men had toward each other, but in the mutual fear they had of each other.Thomas Hobbes
Such is the nature of men, that howsoever they may acknowledge many others to be more witty, or more eloquent, or more learned; yet they will hardly believe there be many so wise as themselves.Thomas Hobbes
Curiosity is the lust of the mind.Thomas Hobbes
Just as desire is an intense longing for something, curiosity is the mind’s burning desire for knowledge. It ignites a fire within us, driving us to discover the wonders of the universe and explore the limits of human understanding.
This interesting comparison suggests that curiosity is equally intense as lust. It tempts our curious minds and seduces us with new perspectives.
Like a thirst that can never be satisfied, curiosity keeps us on our toes. The quest for knowledge propels scientists to discover the secrets of the cosmos, artists to explore uncharted creative realms, and philosophers to explore existential questions.
However excessive curiosity has its own dangers. That’s why we need to nurture and utilize this lust of mind to extend our horizons.
Also Read: 99 Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes on Success, Self-reliance, Life, Nature, & Happiness (Explained)
It’s not the pace of life I mind.Thomas Hobbes
It’s the sudden stop at the end.
Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.Thomas Hobbes
It is one thing to desire, another to be in capacity fit for what we desire.Thomas Hobbes
If any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies.Thomas Hobbes
This quote perfectly summarizes Hobbes’ philosophy on human nature. He believed that humans are intrinsically self-interested beings, motivated by self-preservation, power, and personal gain.
This self-interest, combined with a shortage of resources and conflicting interests, leads to constant competition between individuals.
When two people desire the same thing that cannot be shared, such as a particular position of power, they are forced to engage in conflict to secure it for themselves. This competition breeds hostility between the individuals involved, as each perceives the other as an obstruction to their goals.
That’s why for Hobbes, the natural world, without a strong central authority, is a conflict-ridden state driven by a “war of all against all.” And the establishment of a governing body is necessary to resolve conflicts and promote peaceful coexistence.
The secret thoughts of a man run over all things, holy, profane, clean, obscene, grave, and light, without shame or blame.Thomas Hobbes
The passions of men are commonly more potent than their reason.Thomas Hobbes
Words are the money of fools.Thomas Hobbes
There is no such thing as perpetual tranquillity of mind while we live here; because life itself is but motion, and can never be without desire, nor without fear, no more than without sense.Thomas Hobbes
If you really think about it, eternal and continuous peace of mind is an unattainable goal for as long as we live.
This is because life itself is change driven, both physical and mental. This never-ending cycle prevents us from experiencing lasting peacefulness. Just as our bodies are constantly moving, our minds are filled with fears and desires that drive us forward.
Desires are an integral part of life. They arise from our needs and wants and push us to pursue our dreams. However, desires also create a sense of unrest within us, keeping us in a loop, preventing us from reaching long-lasting inner peace.
In short, everlasting peace of mind is an impossible goal because our lives are full of change, desire, and fear. And embracing this restlessness can help us understand ourselves and this life better.
Felicity is a continual progress of the desire, from one object to another; the attaining of the former being still but the way to the latter.Thomas Hobbes
9 Thomas Hobbes Quotes on War
The condition of man… is a condition of war of everyone against everyone.Thomas Hobbes
When Hobbes speaks of the “condition of man,” he means the natural state of humans without a government or social structure.
Imagine a world without laws, governments, or institutions that enforce order. As a result, Hobbes says, people are driven by their self-interests, leading to conflict.
The phrase “a condition of war” brings up images of violent clashes, but in this context, it extends beyond physical battles to cover various forms of competition among people. It is a state where everyone competes for their own satisfaction, sometimes at the expense of others.
It is important to note that Hobbes didn’t see this war as inevitable. On the contrary, he argued for a strong central authority, such as a government, to prevent this constant conflict.
During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man.Thomas Hobbes
To this war of every man against every man, this also in consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice have there no place.Thomas Hobbes
Where there is no common power, there is no law, where no law, no injustice. Force, and fraud, are in war the cardinal virtues.
Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues.Thomas Hobbes
When all the world is overcharged with inhabitants, then the last remedy of all is war, which provideth for every man, by victory or death.Thomas Hobbes
As the population outgrows the land’s capacity to support it, tensions rise. In this scenario, war is portrayed as the only way to meet the basic needs of individuals, as it promises either victory—the acquisition of power—or death.
In other words, the negative effects of overpopulation go beyond mere numbers and could disrupt social order, escalate conflicts, and threaten human existence.
This is because of our instinct for survival, which can lead us to violent conflict under extreme circumstances. After all, there’s only a delicate balance between individual self-interest and societal welfare.
Ultimately, this powerful statement forces us to think about the serious implications of population growth and the potential repercussions of ignoring them.
For it can never be that war shall preserve life, and peace destroy it.Thomas Hobbes
If men are naturally in a state of war, why do they always carry arms and why do they have keys to lock their doors?Thomas Hobbes
The reputation of power IS power.Thomas Hobbes
Humans are driven by a perpetual and restless desire of power.Thomas Hobbes
When Hobbes speaks of power, it refers to a range of things such as wealth, influence, social status, and control over others. It represents the ability to shape one’s own destiny, even at the expense of other members of society.
Hobbes says this desire for power is a basic part of our nature, coupled with our survival instincts. We constantly seek power in order to ensure our own well-being and increase our chances of prosperity.
So, power can be both a driving force for progress and a potential source of tension. It is a double-edged sword that can fuel greater achievement, but also lead to exploitation and oppression of others.
That’s why we need to examine how power influences our lives, individually and collectively, so we can navigate its influence in a way that ensures fairness and justice for all.
8 Thomas Hobbes Quotes on Government, Social Contract & Law
It is not wisdom but Authority that makes a law.Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes is known for his political theories and writings on social contract theory and makes an essential distinction between two influential forces here: wisdom and authority.
Wisdom is knowledge, understanding, and sound judgment, while authority is power, control, and the ability to command. Hobbes says it is the latter, authority, rather than wisdom, which shapes society’s laws.
In other words, the ability to dictate to others, rather than the merit or wisdom of a particular idea, determines the creation of laws.
This I believe, reveals a weakness in the legal system. While laws are ideally intended to promote justice and order, they can also be manipulated by those in power, leading to laws that serve their own interests more than society as a whole.
Not believing in force is the same as not believing in gravitation.Thomas Hobbes
Where there is no common power,Thomas Hobbes
there is no law.
How could a state be governed, or protected in its foreign relations if every individual remained free to obey or not to obey the law according to his private opinion.Thomas Hobbes
Government is necessary, not because man is naturally bad… but because man is by nature more individualistic than social.Thomas Hobbes
It is not innate evil that necessitates the presence of government, but rather a fundamental aspect of our nature: our natural tendency to be individualistic.
This individualistic inclination compels us to pursue our own desires, seek personal gain, and protect our well-being. It is this very drive that underlies our competitive instincts.
However, being isolated doesn’t contribute to our overall well-being. That’s why a harmonious society requires more than individual pursuits. It demands a system that moderates individual interests while establishing order, justice, and stability.
In this way, government helps us reconcile our individualistic tendencies with social cohesion. It serves as a unifying force that sets rules and boundaries. This way, individuals give up certain freedoms in exchange for protection, stability, and benefits.
All men, among themselves, are by nature equal. The inequality we now discern hath its spring from the civil law.Thomas Hobbes
Reason is the Soul of the Law.Thomas Hobbes
The law is the public conscience.Thomas Hobbes
6 Thomas Hobbes Quotes on Wisdom
Wisdom, properly so called, is nothing else but this:Thomas Hobbes
the perfect knowledge of the truth in all matters whatsoever.
Wisdom, when truly understood, boils down to just one thing: comprehensive knowledge of truth in every possible matter.
As Hobbes points out, true wisdom transcends the boundaries of specific knowledge or expertise and includes a holistic view of truth in all aspects of life.
So, in a nutshell, wisdom is the pursuit of absolute truth in diverse areas such as philosophy, science, ethics, politics, and human nature, a knowledge that spans the entire spectrum of human existence.
As a final note, I have observed that Hobbes’ view of wisdom demands a holistic perspective that connects the dots between various domains and disciplines in life. As a result, wisdom becomes a unifying element that reveals the underlying connections between different forms of knowledge.
A wise man should so write (though in words understood by all men) that wise men only should be able to commend him.Thomas Hobbes
The world is governed by opinion.Thomas Hobbes
For if all things were equally in all men, nothing would be prized.Thomas Hobbes
For there are very few so foolish who would not rather govern themselves than be governed by others.Thomas Hobbes
Hobbes believed that people are naturally inclined toward self-governance, an innate desire to be independent rather than controlled by external forces. This inclination reflects their logical thinking since people are better equipped to make decisions aligned with their personal interests.
So, even the most foolish among us understand the advantages of being in control of our own lives and choices. Simply put, it is an attribute that transcends social status, intelligence, and background.
Hobbes’ theory also argues that this desire for self-governance does sometimes conflict with the necessity for social order. He referred to the natural order as a “war of all against all,” where unchecked personal freedoms could lead to chaos and violence.
To mitigate this, he proposed the concept of a social contract, where individuals agree to give up some of their absolute freedoms in exchange for the protection and benefits of a central authority.
All generous minds have a horror of what are commonly called ‘Facts’. They are the brute beasts of the intellectual domain.Thomas Hobbes
3 Thomas Hobbes Quotes on Philosophy
Leisure is the Mother of Philosophy.Thomas Hobbes
Leisure, in this context, means an unburdened state of mind, liberated from the shackles of everyday problems. In this space, the human intellect can ponder and seek profound truths about existence, knowledge, ethics, and human nature.
Leisurely moments in our lives, where we can reflect and engage in intellectual pursuits, are fertile grounds for philosophical seeds to sprout.
In our ultra-fast-paced society, it’s crucial to take time to relax intentionally. By doing so, we create space for deep introspection and philosophical thought.
In this way, we can nurture our intellectual curiosity and gain deeper insights into complex questions of life.
Hell is Truth Seen Too Late.Thomas Hobbes
Moral philosophy is nothing else but the science of what is good, and evil, in the conversation, and society of mankind.Thomas Hobbes
Good, and evil, are names that signify our appetites, and aversions; which in different tempers, customs, and doctrines of men, are different.
3 Thomas Hobbes Quotes on Democracy
A democracy is no more than an aristocracy of orators. The people are so readily moved by demagogues that control must be exercised by the government over speech and press.Thomas Hobbes
Demagogues are individuals who are skilled at shaping public opinion, often with the help of emotions, prejudices, or simplistic solutions to complex problems.
And the public in general is highly prone to political manipulation. So, to combat demagoguery, Hobbes suggests that the government should control speech and the press.
While this proposition may seem controversial in modern democratic societies, I do believe that Hobbes raises a valid concern here. Unchecked political rhetoric can lead to misinformation and manipulation of public sentiment.
And this control, however, should not suppress free speech, but rather ensure that the voices heard in the public sphere are those that are in the public’s best interests.
In a Democracy, look how many Demagogs that is how many powerful Orators there are with the people.Thomas Hobbes
They that are discontented under monarchy, call it tyranny; and they that are displeased with aristocracy, call it oligarchy:Thomas Hobbes
so also, they which find themselves grieved under a democracy, call it anarchy, which signifies the want of government; and yet I think no man believes, that want of government, is any new kind of government.
2 Thomas Hobbes Quotes on Science & Knowledge
Science is the knowledge of consequences, and dependence of one fact upon another.Thomas Hobbes
Science is simply a search for knowledge and understanding, a systematic approach to understanding the web of cause and effect that drives our world.
In science, just like a domino effect, one fact leads to another, forming an intricate chain of connections. And by understanding these interconnections, scientists can uncover nature’s secrets never before known.
Over time, each new fact discovered contributes to collective understanding, providing insight into the ramifications of our universe.
In essence, science is not a solo job, it’s a collaborative one. Every scientist builds upon the discoveries of those who came before. And each new fact uncovers a broader context and inspires further investigation, creating a continuous cycle of learning.
The end of knowledge is power … the scope of all speculation is the performing of some action or thing to be done.Thomas Hobbes
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