Thomas Hobbes

(1588-1679) Background: Born in England in 1588, Thomas Hobbes became remembered for his work in philosophy and government, among many other things. Not much is known of this great man’s beginnings, however. Thomas Hobbes was a man who became interested in history; he looked at the past to see what would happen in the present. Because as everyone knows, history repeats itself.
1. Can be attributed to the U.S. Constitution a. He saw people as weak and selfish, and thus in constant need of the governance that could save them from destruction. These ideas profoundly affected the Federalists during the early formation of U.S. law. The Federalists turned to Hobbes's work for justification for passage of the U.S. Constitution as well as for intellectual support for their own movement in the years following that passage. Today, Hobbes is read not only for his lasting contributions to political-legal theory in general but for the ideas that helped shape U.S. history. Embracing Hobbes's pessimism, the Federalists saw the American people as unable to survive as a nation without a strong central government that would protect them from foreign powers. i. America would not be the nation it is today WITHOUT Thomas Hobbes, and that is a fact. 2. He tutored future Charles II of England a. Since Hobbes was very pro-monarchy, it is understandable how a leader such as Charles II, struggled against Parliament to maintain absolute power. i. If Charles II had defeated Parliament in the epic power struggle that they had held, Parliament would be no more. And Thomas Hobbes could be directly attributed to England being an absolute monarchy, much like France.

3. Work with optics a. Hobbes’s most significant contributions to natural science were in the field of optics. i. The most polished of Hobbes’s optical works was A Minute or First Draught of the Optiques (1646). 1. Hobbes’s optical theory held that the dilations and contractions of an original light source, such as the Sun, are transmitted by contact

with a uniform, pervading ethereal medium, which in turn stimulates the eye and the nerves connected to it, eventually resulting in a “phantasm,” or sense-image, in the brain. a. This directly contradicted Aristotle’s work on optics b. His work on optics was used to help formulate Isaac Newton’s theories on optics. 4. Man is inherently evil. a. Hobbes was a staunch believer in the idea that man has certain instincts for self betterment and will put his needs ahead of others’. i. Kids throw temper tantrums, not because they are taught to, but because that is what they know will get
them what they want. b. With these beliefs he wrote his Bible, his coup de gras, his Sistine Chapel i. … Leviathan, or the Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil (1651) 1. His ideas were that men NEEDED a Leviathan, a powerful sea monster that leaves them in fear, that makes their decisions for them. a. He believed this because.. Man is inherently evil.

b. The Leviathan HAD to be government. He wanted the government to be absolute and without mercy. He figured there would be far less civil war if one person got what they wanted, and everyone modified their needs to him. i. However, he did contradict himself once when he believed that there should be a voice of the people that can talk to the king and let him know how the people feel of his actions.
2. Thus, people could not survive on their own in the state of nature. This foundation led him to a theory of the law: only by submitting to the protection of a sovereign power could individuals avoid constant

and war. The sovereign's authority would have to be absolute. Law derived from this authority rather than from objective truth, which he argued did not exist. All citizens of the state were morally bound to follow the sovereign's authority; otherwise, law could not function. Hobbes chose the leviathan (a large sea animal) to represent the state, and he maintained that like a whale, the state could only be guided by one intelligence: its sovereign's


4. Hobbes’ Leviathan was meant to give a strong statement for monarchy in england, but it was released during the time of Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protectorate. Hobbes could possibly be attributed to the fall of the Commonwealth of England and the Stuart Restoration. 5. Although all of this sounds fine and good, the monarchs actually disliked his ideas, because they thought the formulation of their power was designed on the DIVINE RIGHT THEORY, not off of fear. 5. Hobbes and Locke

a. Thomas Hobbes' theories on "The Social Contract" came before
Locke's. Hobbes influenced him, that is why many experts or historians claim that Locke's ideas were "superior" and overall, more directly influential to virtually every democratic revolution following them. In reports, it is never sequenced as "Hobbes, in contrast to Locke...," it is always comparing Locke's ideas to Hobbes'.

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