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A Resource Guide for Philosophy Students

Created by Jennifer Leslie Torgerson, MA

This page last modified:  September 13, 2015

© copyright, 1997 - present


School of Athens

Thomas Hobbes

1588 – 1679 CE





Baird and Kaufmann.  Philosophical Classics:  From Plato to Nietzsche, 2nd Edition. (Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Prentice Hall, 1997 [1994]).


Huntington Cairns.  Legal Philosophy from Plato to Hegel.  (Baltimore, MD:  Johns Hopkins University Press, 1967 [1949]).


Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy:  Book Two.  (New York, NY:  Doubleday, 1985 [1944]).


Martin Curd and J.A. Cover.  Philosophy of Science:  The Central Issues.  (New York: NY:  W.W. Norton & Company, 1998).


David Grene.  The Peloponnesian War Thucydides; The Complete Hobbes Translation. (Chicago, IL:  University of Chicago Press, 1989 [1959]).


W. T. Jones.    A History of Western Philosophy:  Hobbes to Hume, 2nd Edition.  (San Diego, CA:  Harcourt Brace, 1980 [1952]).


Daniel Kolak.  The Mayfield Anthology of Western Philosophy.  (Mountain View, CA:  Mayfield Publishing, 1998).


Louis P. Pojman.  Classics of Philosophy.  (New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1998).


Thomas Hobbes.  Leviathan.  (New York, NY:  Collier Books, 1962).


T. V. Smith and Marjorie Grene.  Philosophers Speak for Themselves:  From Descartes to Locke.  (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1967 [1940]).


Robert C. Solomon.  Introducing Philosophy:  A Text with Integrated Readings, 9th Edition.  (Oxford, UK:  Oxford University Press, 2008).


William O. Stephens.  The Person:  Readings in Human Nature.  (Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006).


Avrum Stroll and Richard H. Popkin.  Philosophy and the Human Spirit:  A Brief Introduction.  (New York, NY:  Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1973).




The principle works of Hobbes


De Cive (1642)

The Elements of Law, Natural and Political AKA Human Nature and De Corpore Politico (1650, published without permission)

Leviathan (1651)

Philosophical Requirements Concerning Government and Society (1651, English translation of De Cive)

De Corpore or On the Body (1655)

De Homine or On Man (1658)

Revised Latin version of Leviathan (1668)



Thomas Hobbes and mechanism

Thomas Hobbes (1588 -1679), an English philosopher, went further to popularize mechanistic materialism in his writings, including Leviathan. Hobbes explained conscious life as sensations that are movements in the brain and nervous system. This view was further enhanced by Newton and his laws of motion and his study of mechanics in general. By the twentieth century various biologists, psychologists, and physiologists were employing mechanistic interpretations of all living things, including man. All movements, from those of distant stars to those of man, can be explained without any appeal to nonphysical principles.  According to mechanistic materialism, mind and its activities are forms of behavior. Materialism takes many forms: from ancient materialistic atomism to the metaphysical behaviorialism and physical realism of modern times.


Newton and his laws of motion & man as a machine

(1)  A body at rest will remain at rest or in motion with a constant velocity unless acted upon by an outside force.

(2)  The sum of the forces acting on a body is equal to the product of it mass and acceleration (F = ma).

(3)  For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Man is no more than a material machine or mechanism;   just as everything else in the universe is due to mechanistic causes, so is the existence of man.  Mind is a brain, and a brain is a physical body.

It would seem that all things are predetermined in the old mechanism.


Einstein, Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and the New Mechanism

But all things are not predetermined in the new mechanism.  Due to uncertainty (Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle ~ cannot know the velocity and location of an electron with certainty at the same time) some events are seen as uncaused.

Einstein also eliminated the view that time-space was absolute.  The fabric of time-space is curved.

E = mc2

Planck came up with the idea of quantum.  He assumed that energy is radiated in packages, or quanta, where each quantum has energy directly proportional to the frequency of the radiation.  This nonclassical assumption predicts a spectrum (of light, etc.) that does not agree with nature.  Based on quantum theory, Bohr came up with a new spectrum for the hydrogen atom, showing the orbits of excited electrons.

Matter has been 'dematerialized'.  How do particles acquire mass?  Learn more about the “God particle” or the Higgs Boson field. 

Criticisms of mechanism

The critics of mechanism would claim that mechanistic materialism commits the reduction fallacy. This is a fallacy which occurs when some complex situation or whole is described as "nothing but" some kind of element or simple part. For example. when the materialist asserts that mind is merely a form of matter, the critic claims that he is guilty of a crude reductionism. The reductionist reduces all phenomena to one type and thereby denies or at least blurs useful distinctions (such as mind from body).

Other critiques of materialism:

(1) There are no observable nor analytical methods establishing materialism as true with certainty.

(2) Materialism cannot account for the nature of thought because materialism states that the nature of a thing is entirely derived from the substance from which it is made i.e. the matter. The essence of thought is wholly outside of itself because thought are about things and are not reducible or identical to that thing. A material thing cannot have "aboutness."

"Aboutness" is only in the thought about the material object.


There are two types of determinism:  hard and soft.

Soft determinism is generally called indeterminism. Indeterminism is the theory that some events do not have causes.  For example, the human will is considered to be undetermined, or free to make choices.  This is also called free volition or free will.  Hence, in an universe of deterministic causes, the human will is still uncaused.

Hard determinism is the view that: (a) every event has a natural cause [this is sometimes called scientific determinism]; (b) is completely determined by fate [from Latin fatum: oracle- from the gods]; or (c) is predestined [by God].  Hard determinism is also called strict determinism.

Critiques of strict determinism:

(1) A human being is more than a determined process.  Consider creativity.  

(2) Does scientific determinism take into account the process we go through when we make careful, deliberate, free choices?

Hobbes’ view of the state of nature, the social contract, and the Leviathan

State of Nature: The condition of humanity without (or before) government. Its hypothetical description ranges from Hobbes’ portrayal of anarchy with brutal and continual war of “all against all” to Rousseau’s concept of the “noble savage” living in a condition of moral purity, happiness, and health

Hobbes’ Social Contract theory: Natural existence without a social contract means a state of war of one against all and all against all; no one would have property, rights, or claims. One must submit oneself to a contract for self-preservation and protection (guaranteed by a being or other source of military and legal power, to which allegiance and financial support is given).

Religion, Superstition, and True Religion (L, ch.6)

religion: “Fear of power invisible, feigned by the mind, or imagined from false tales publicly allowed.”

superstition: Fear of power invisible, feigned by the mind, or imagined from false tales publicly NOT allowed.

true religion: “[...] And when the power imagined, is truly as we imagine.”

Law of NATURE [L. ch. 14]: “A LAW OF NATURE, lex naturalis, is a precept or general rule, found out through reason, by which a man is forbidden to do that, which is destructive to his life, or taketh away the means to preserving the same; and to omit that, by which he thinketh that it may be best preserved.” (jus= right, lex=law).


[L. ch. 26] “Besides, there is no place in the world where men are permitted to pretend other commandments of God, than are declared for such by the commonwealth. Christian states punish those who revolt from the Christian religion, and all other states, those that set up any religion by them forbidden. For in whatsoever is not regulated by the commonwealth, it is equity, which is the law of nature, and therefore the eternal law of God, that every man equally enjoys his liberty.”

There are 19 laws of nature [L. ch. 14 +15]:

(1) “Naturally every man has a right to everything. The fundamental law of nature.”

(2) “From this fundamental law of nature, by which men are commanded to endeavor peace is derived from this second law; that a man be willing, when others are so too, as far-forth, as for peace, and defence of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things, and be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself.”

[L. ch 26] “Do not that to another, which thou thinkest unreasonable to be done by another to thyself.”

contract: [L. ch. 14] “The mutual transferring of right, is that which men call contract.”

pact or covenant: [L. ch. 14] “One of the contractors may deliver the thing contracted for on his part, and leave the other to perform his part at some determinate time after, and then the contract on his part, is called a pact or covenant : or both parts may contract now, to perform hereafter: in which cases, he that is to perform in time to come, being trusted, his performance is called keeping of promise, or faith, and the failing of performance, if it be voluntary, violation of faith.”

GOD: [L. ch. 2] “But evil men under the pretext that God can do any thing, are so bold as to say any thing when it serves their turn, though they think it untrue; it is the part of a wise man, to believe them no farther, than right of reason makes that which they say, appear credible. If this superstitious fear of spirits were taken away, and with it, prognostics from dreams, false prophecies, and so many other things depending thereon, by which crafty ambitious persons abuse the simple person, men would be much more fitted than they are for civil obedience.”

[L. ch 15] “He (the fool) does not therein deny, that there be covenants; and that they are sometimes broken, sometimes kept; and that such breach of them may be called injustice, and the observance of them justice: but he questioneth, whether injustice, taking away the fear of

Hobbes’ view of the state of nature, the social contract and the Leviathan: PAGE 2

God, for the same fool hath said in his heart that there is no God, and may not sometimes stand with that reason, which dictateth to every man his own good; and particularly then, when it conduceth to such a benefit, as shall put a man in a condition, to neglect not only the dispraise, and revilings, but also the power of other men. The Kingdom of God is gotten by violence: but what if it could be gotten by unjust violence? were it against reason so to get it, when it is impossible to receive hurt by it? and if it not against reason, it is not against justice: or else justice is not to be approved for good. From such reasoning as this, successful wickedness hath obtained the name virtue: and some that in all other things have disallowed the violation of faith; yet we have allowed it, when it is for the getting of a kingdom.”

commonwealth: [L. ch. 17] “[...] made by covenant of every man with every man, I authorize and give up my right of governing myself, to this man, or assembly of men, on this assembly of men, on this condition, that thou give up thy right to him and authorize all his actions in like manner. This done, the multitude so united in one person, is called a COMMONWEALTH, in Latin CIVITAS.”

Leviathan: [L. ch 17] “This is the generation of the great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently, of that mortal god, to which we owe under the authority of the immortal God, our peace and defence. For by this authority, given by him, that by terror thereof, he is enabled to form the wills of them all, to peace at home, and mutual aid against their enemies abroad.”

Civil Law: [L. ch. 26] “The ancient law of Rome was called civil law, from the word civitas, which signifies a commonwealth: and those countries, which having been under the Roman empire, and governed by that law, retain still such part thereof as they think fit, call that part the civil law, to distinguish it from the rest of their own civil laws. [...] This is not what I intend to speak of here. [...] CIVIL LAW, is, to every subject, those rules, which the commonwealth hath commanded him, by word, writing, or other sufficient sign of will, to make use of, for the distinction of right and wrong; that is to say what is contrary, and what is not contrary to the rule.”

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, (New York: Macmillian Publishing Company, 1962).