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Thomas Hobbes

Thomas HobbesBorn: 5-Apr-1588
Birthplace: Westport, Wiltshire, England
Died: 4-Dec-1679
Location of death: Hardwick, England
Cause of death: Stroke
Remains: Buried, Churchyard in Ault Hucknall, England

Gender: Male
Religion: Christian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Philosopher, Author

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Leviathan

English philosopher, born at Malmesbury on the 5th of April 1588, was the son of a clergyman of that town. At the age of 14, he went to Oxford, and was put through the usual course of Aristotelian logic and physics. His instructions in the syllogism he afterwards held in very small estimation. At the age of twenty, having taken his degree and departed Oxford, he was recommended to Lord Hardwicke, afterwards Earl of Devonshire, as tutor to his eldest son, this being the commencement of an intimate connection with that great family which lasted through his long life.

In 1610, he went abroad with his pupil, and made the tour of France and Italy. After his return, he still continued to live with the Devonshire family, and his residence in London afforded him opportunities of becoming acquainted with Francis Bacon, Sir Walter Raleigh, Ben Jonson, and the other distinguished men of the time. Meantime, he was occupied with his classical, political, and philosophical studies, and prepared for publication his first work, a translation of Thucydides, which came out in 1628, he having now attained the age of forty.

The Earl of Devonshire having died in 1626, and the young earl, Hobbes' pupil, in 1628, he was plunged in great grief, and took the opportunity afforded him of going abroad with the son of Sir Gervase Clifton, and remained some time in France. In 1631, however, his connection with the Devonshire family was resumed. By the desire of the dowager-countes, he undertook the education of the young earl, the son of the former pupil, then only thirteen. In 1634, he went to Paris, and on this occasion was much in the society of Father Mersenne. He returned to England in 1637. He seems to have applied himself to the composition of his first original work, entitled Elementa Philosophica de Cive, printed in Paris in 1642. This is the first exposition that he gave of his moral and political philosophy. His advocacy of pure and unrestrained monarchy as the best possible form of government, with an absolute submission on the part of the subjects both in law and morality and religion to the will of the monarch, has probably given more general offense than any political theory ever propounded. It has been made the subject not merely of incessant attack, but of gross misrepresentation. He published soon after two small treatises, Human Nature and De Corpore Politico. The first contains his views as to the constitution of the mind, and entitles him to be considered as the father of modern systematic psychology. Although the work is valuable in itself, he still considers it as a prelude to the other treatise. De Corpore Politico, or on the nature of society, which is here handled for the second time by him, and in much the same strain. He goes over the whole ground a third time in the Leviathan, published in 1651, the fullest and best known exposition of his views on mind, politics, morals, and religion. Here he contends as before in favor of pure monarchy, which he represents to have grown out of a primitive contract between the sovereign and the people, moved by the desire to escape from all the evils of a state of nature, which is a state of war. He is far from justifying tyranny; on the contrary, he enjoins upon the monarch a government according to just laws, and considers that this is more likely to be obtained by the government of a single person, whose selfish aims must be sooner satiated than if the supreme power were distributed in a number of hands.

After the meeting of the Long Parliament in 1640, he had returned to Paris, from his dread of the civil troubles. In 1647, he was appointed mathematical tutor to the Prince of Wales, afterwards Charles II, and stood high in the esteem of that prince; but the obnoxious character of his writings, especially after the publication of the Leviathan, so offended the royalist clergy, in common with all other sects, that Charles was induced to part with him; and he himself, being constitutionally timid, took the alarm for his personal safety, and abruptly fled from Paris to England. In England, he found himself safe, the Protestant government according him the most ample toleration. Very different was his position after the "glorious" restoration of his own friends; for although Charles granted him a pension of 100 annually, the dislike to his views was so general that they were condemned by parlaiment in 1666, and he was even in danger of even more severe measures. His connection with the Earl of Devonshire, with whom he lifed in the latter part of his life, was no doubt a powerful protection to him. His old age was fruitful in additions to his writings, and was marked by some sharp controversies. His last works were a translation of Homer, and a History of the Civil Wars. He died on the 4th December, 1679, in his 92nd year.

Although Hobbes himself did not consider himself an atheist, he did believe that all substances are material and thus God must also be a physical being. This rather unorthodox belief gets him labeled as an atheist on some listings. Further evidence that he was not an atheist is that he spent the entirety of Book III in Leviathan showing how his philosophy and religious views as presented were consistent with standard Christian doctrine.

    University: Oxford University

    Asteroid Namesake 7012 Hobbes

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