Address this question on the Discussion: How do Natural Law concepts in the Social Contract ideas of Hobbes, Loc

Address this question on the Discussion: How do Natural Law concepts in the Social Contract ideas of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau change from their Classical, Medieval Christian, and Reformed Christian formulations? Be sure to include a discussion of the separation of religious and political offices, toleration of religious pluralism, statesmanship, democracy, and positive law/public policy formation.Discussion Board Forum Instructions**must be free of grammatical errors, must be properly formatted in current Turabian style, and must consist of well-reasoned, contemplative, and substantive posts and replies, rather than mere ipse dixit. These threads and replies must provide citations to the sources of or support for your ideas as well as any quoted materials and/or borrowed ideas. **Remember that the art of communication is in many ways the essence of effective political leadership. Everything you write—every paper, post, and email—creates or reinforces an impression of you. You are encouraged to begin to cultivate the communication skills of the statesmen and stateswomen—the ability to logically and persuasively speak the truth with compassion and respect.**compose an original post presenting your own interpretation of the assigned prompt, writing 600–700 words.**Original posts must include at least 3 references to the course readings and 1 Scripture reference in addition to any other sources you wish to include.

The Online Library of Liberty
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Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1909 ed) [1651]
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Online Library of Liberty: Leviathan (1909 ed)
Edition Used:
Hobbes’s Leviathan reprinted from the edition of 1651 with an Essay by the Late
W.G. Pogson Smith (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1909).
Author: Thomas Hobbes
Introduction: William George Pogson Smith
About This Title:
The 1909 edition of Hobbe’s best known work of political philosophy is the edition
used by Michael Oakeshott in his discussion of Hobbe’s ideas in Hobbes on Civil
Association (1937, 1975 Liberty Fund).
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Online Library of Liberty: Leviathan (1909 ed)
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the
study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
Copyright Information:
The text is in the public domain.
Fair Use Statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may
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Online Library of Liberty: Leviathan (1909 ed)
Table Of Contents
The Philosophy of Hobbes an Essay
Hobbes and Descartes .
To My Most Honor’d Friend M R Francis Godolphin of Godolphin.
Errata .
The Introduction .
Part I.: Of Man.
Chap. I.: Of Sense .
Chap. II.: Of Imagination .
Chap. III.: Of the Consequence Or Trayne of Imaginations .
Chap. IV.: Of Speech .
Chap. V.: Of Reason , and Science .
Chap. VI.: Of the Interiour Beginnings of Voluntary Motions; Commonly
Called the Passions . and the Speeches By Which They Are Expressed .
Chap. VII.: Of the Ends, Or Resolutions of Discourse .
Chap. VIII.: Of the Vertues Commonly Called Intellectuall; and Their Contrary
Defects .
Chap. IX.: Of the Severall Subjects of Knowledge .
Chap. X.: Of Power , Worth , Dignity , Honour , and Worthinesse .
Chap. XI.: Of the Difference of Manners .
Chap. XII.: Of Religion .
Chap. XIII.: Of the Naturall Condition of Mankind, As Concerning Their
Felicity, and Misery .
Chap. XIV.: Of the First and Second Naturall Lawes , and of Contracts .
Chap. XV.: Of Other Lawes of Nature .
Chap. XVI.: Of Persons, Authors , and Things Personated .
Part II.: Of Common-wealth.
Chap. XVII.: Of the Causes, Generation, and Definition of a Common – Wealth
Chap. XVIII.: Of the Rights of Soveraignes By Institution .
Chap. XIX.: Of the Severall Kinds of Common-wealth By Institution, and of
Succession to the Soveraigne Power .
Chap. XX.: Of Dominion Paternall , and Despoticall .
Chap. XXI.: Of the Liberty of Subjects .
Chap. XXII.: Of Systemes Subject, Politicall, and Private .
Chap. XXIII.: Of the Publique Ministers of Soveraign Power .
Chap. XXIV.: Of the Nutrition , and Procreation of a Common-wealth .
Chap. XXV.: Of Counsell .
Chap. XXVI.: Of Civill Lawes .
Chap. XXVII.: Of Crimes, Excuses , and Extenuations .
Chap. XXVIII.: Of Punishments , and Rewards .
Chap. XXIX.: Of Those Things That Weaken, Or Tend to the Dissolution of a
Common-wealth .
Chap. XXX.: Of the Office of the Soveraign Representative .
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Chap. XXXI.: Of the Kingdome of God By Nature .
Part III.: Of Achristian Common-wealth.
Chap. XXXII.: Of the Principles of Christian Politiques .
Chap. XXXIII.: Of the Number, Antiquity, Scope, Authority, and Interpreters
of the Books of Holy Scripture .
Chap. XXXIV.: Of the Signification of Spirit, Angel , and Inspiration In the
Books of Holy Scripture .
Chap. XXXV.: Of the Signification In Scripture of Kingdome of God , of Holy,
Sacred , and Sacrament .
Chap. XXXVI.: Of the Word of God , and of Prophets .
Chap. XXXVII.: Of Miracles , and Their Use .
Chap. XXXVIII.: Of the Signification In Scripture of Eternall Life, Hell,
Salvation, the World to Come , and Redemption .
Chap. XXXIX.: Of the Signification In Scripture of the Word Church .
Chap. Xl.: of the Rights of the Kingdome of God, In Abraham, Moses, the High
Priests, and the Kings of Judah.
Chap. Xli.: of the Office of Our Blessed Saviour .
Chap. Xlii.: of Power Ecclesiasticall .
Chap. Xliii.: of What Is Necessary For a Mans Reception Into the Kingdome of
Heaven .
Part IV.: Of the Kingdome of Darknesse.
Chap. Xliv.: of Spirituall Darknesse From Misinterpretation of Scripture .
Chap. Xlv.: of DÆmonology , and Other Reliques of the Religion of the
Gentiles .
Chap. Xlvi.: of Darknesse From Vain Philosophy , and Fabulous Traditions .
Chap. Xlvii.: of the Benefit That Proceedeth From Such Darknesse, and to
Whom It Accreweth .
A Review, and Conclusion.
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It was well known to all students of philosophy and history in Oxford, and to many
others, that W. G. Pogson Smith had been for many years engaged in preparing for an
exhaustive treatment of the place of Hobbes in the history of European thought, and
that he had accumulated a great mass of materials towards this. These materials fill
many notebooks, and are so carefully arranged and indexed that it is clear that with a
few more months he would have been able to produce a work worthy of a very high
place in philosophical literature. Unhappily the work that he could have done himself
cannot be done by any one else unless he has given something like the same time and
brings to the collection something like the same extensive and intimate knowledge of
the philosophy of the period as Pogson Smith possessed. It is hoped indeed that, by
the permission of his representatives, this great mass of material will be deposited in
the Bodleian Library and made available for scholars, and that thus the task which he
had undertaken may some time be carried out.
Among his papers has been found an essay which presents a very interesting and
suggestive treatment of the position of Hobbes. The essay is undated, and it is quite
uncertain for what audience it was prepared. It is this essay which is here published as
an introduction to the Leviathan. It is printed with only the necessary verification of
references, and one or two corrections of detail. It is always difficult to judge how far
it is right to print work which the author himself has not revised, but we feel that,
while something must inevitably be lost, the essay has so much real value that, even
as it stands, it should be published. Something may even be gained for the reader in
the fresh and unconstrained character of the paper. The pursuit of the ideal of a perfect
and rounded criticism, which all serious scholars aim at, has sometimes the
unfortunate result of depriving a man’s work of some spontaneity. In Oxford at any
rate, and it is probably the case everywhere, many a scholar says his best things and
expresses his most penetrating judgements in the least formal manner. Those who
were Mr. Pogson Smith’s friends or pupils will find here much of the man
himself—something of his quick insight, of his unconventional directness, of his
broad but solid learning; something also of his profound feeling for truth, of his scorn
of the pretentious, of his keen but kindly humour.
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Wherein does the greatness of Hobbes consist? It is a question I often put to myself,
as I lay him down. It was a question which exercised his contemporaries—friends or
foes—and drove them to their wits’ end to answer. If I were asked to name the highest
and purest philosopher of the seventeenth century I should single out Spinoza without
a moment’s hesitation. But Spinoza was not of the world; and if a man will be
perverse enough to bind the Spirit of Christ in the fetters of Euclid, how shall he find
readers? If I were asked to select the true founders of modern science I should bracket
Galileo, Descartes, and Newton, and resolutely oppose Hobbes’s claim to be of the
company. If his studies in Vesalius prepared him to extend his approbation to
Harvey’s demonstration of the circulation of the blood, his animosity to Oxford and
her professors would never allow him seriously to consider the claims of a science
advanced by Dr. Wallis; the sight of a page of algebraic symbols never elicited any
feeling but one of sturdy contempt, and the remark that it looked ‘as if a hen had been
scratching there’. To the end of his days he dwelt among points of two dimensions,
and superficies of three; he squared the circle and he doubled the cube. “Twas pity,’
said Sir Jonas Moore, and many more, ‘that he had not began the study of
mathematics sooner, for such a working head would have made great advancement in
Of inductive science he is very incredulous. Bacon, contemplating ‘in his delicious
walkes at Gorhambury’, might indeed better like Mr. Hobbes taking down his
thoughts than any other, because he understood what he wrote; he probably learnt to
understand my Lord, who dictated his alphabet of simple natures, his receipts for the
discovery of forms, his peddling experiments and his laborious conceits. I mention
this because most German critics, with perhaps more than their usual careless
audacity of assumption, find a niche for Hobbes as the spiritual fosterling of the great
empiricist Bacon. Now if there was one thing for which Hobbes had neither sympathy
nor even patience, it was experimental science. The possession of a great telescope
was no doubt a curious and useful delight; but ‘not every one that brings from beyond
seas a new gin, or other jaunty device, is therefore a philosopher’.2. Let the gentlemen
of Gresham College, whose energy it must be granted shames the sloth of our ancient
universities,—let them apply themselves to Mr. Hobbes’s doctrine of motion, and
then he will deign to cast an eye on their experiments. He did not think their gropings
would carry them very far. ‘Experience concludeth nothing universally.’1. If he
despaired of wringing her secret from Nature, he never doubted that he held the key to
every corner of the human heart. He offers us a theory of man’s nature which is at
once consistent, fascinating, and outrageously false. Only the greatest of realists could
have revealed so much and blinded himself to so much more. You cry angrily—It is
false, false to the core; and yet the still small voice will suggest, But how much of it is
really true? It is poor, immoral stuff! so you might say in the pulpit, but you know that
it probes very deep. It is only the exploded Benthamite philosophy with its hedonistic
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calculus tricked out in antique piquancy of phrase! If you really hold this, if you think
that Hobbes’s man is nothing more than a utilitarian automaton led by the nose by
suburban pleasures and pains, you have no sense of power, of pathos, or of irony. It is
only the trick of the cheap cynic, you retort in fine. Yes, it is cynicism; but it is not
cheap. Nature has made man a passionate creature, desirous not of pleasure but of
power; the passions themselves are not simple emotions, but charged with and
mastered by the appetite for power; honour consisteth only in the opinion of power;
the worth of a man is, as of all other things, his price; that is to say, so much as would
be given for the use of his power; the public worth of a man, which is the value set on
him by the commonwealth, is that which men commonly call dignity. Leave men to
themselves, they struggle for power; competition, diffidence, vainglory driving them.
Sober half-hours hush with their lucid intervals the tumult of the passions; even so on
earth they bring no beatitude. Care for the future is never banished from thought;
felicity is a continual progress of the desire from one object to another.
‘So that in the first place, I put for a general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual
and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in death.’1.
’For as Prometheus, which interpreted is, the prudent man, was bound to the hill
Caucasus, a place of large prospect, where an eagle, feeding on his liver, devoured in
the day as much as was repaired in the night: so that man, which looks too far before
him, in the care of future time, hath his heart all the day long, gnawed on by fear of
death, poverty, or other calamity; and has no repose nor pause of his anxiety, but in
Such, then, is the lust and the burden of man. What is the deliverance? Spinoza found
it in philosophy; the truth shall make you free: but Hobbes was a philosopher who had
no faith in truth. Pascal found it in the following of Christ; but I doubt whether
religion ever meant much more than an engine of political order to Hobbes. Rousseau,
whose survey of human nature often strangely and suspiciously resembles that of
Hobbes, advocated—in some moods at least—a return to nature. Rousseau’s ‘nature’
was a pig-sty, but Hobbes’s state of nature was something far worse than that.
Hobbes was never disloyal to intellect, grievously as he affronted its paramount
claims; he was not of those who see virtue in the renunciation of mathematics, logic,
and clothes. Passion-ridden intellect had mastered man in a state of nature; a passionwearied intellect might deliver man from it. If man cannot fulfil his desire, he can
seek peace and ensue it by the invention of fictions. It is not prudence, but curiosity,
that distinguisheth man from beast. He wonders; he is possessed; a passionate thought
leaps to the utterance; the word is born; the idea is fixed; from henceforth he will
boldly conclude universally; science has come in the train of language. This most
noble and profitable invention of speech, ‘without which there had been amongst men
neither commonwealth nor society, nor contract nor peace, no more than amongst
lions, bears, and wolves,’1. is man’s proudest triumph over nature. By his own art he
fetters himself with his own fictions—the fictions of the tongue. You shall no longer
hold that men acquired speech because man was a reasoning animal; in truth man
became capable of science, i.e. reason, because he invented speech. It was not nature
which in secular travail brought reason to the birth; but man saw nature’s poverty of
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invention, and boldly substituted his own. He created reason in the interests of peace.
Voltaire profanely said that if there were no God it would be necessary to invent one;
convictions of similar cogency drove the Hobbean man to bow his neck to the
dictatorship of the neologist. ‘The Greeks have but one word, λόγος, for both speech
and reason; not that they thought there was no speech without reason, but no
reasoning without speech.’1. Truth is a necessity; but necessary truth is a will-o’-thewisp. Seekers after truth—how Hobbes despised them, all that deluded race who
dreamt of a law whose seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world:
all things in heaven and earth doing her homage! Rather, boldly conclude that truth is
not to be sought, but made. Let men agree what is to be truth, and truth it shall be.
There is truth and truth abounding when once it is recognized that truth is only of
universals, that there is nothing in the world universal but names, and that names are
imposed arbitrio hominum. Fiction is not, as people hold, the image or the distortion
of the real which it counterfeits; it is the very and only foundation of that reality
which is rational. Here is Hobbes’s answer to that question which, in its varied
phrasing, has never ceased to trouble philosophy. Are there innate ideas? What is the
ultimate criterion of truth? Is there a transcendent reason? What is common sense?
Are there any undemonstrable and indubitable axioms fundamental to all thought?
How is a synthetic a priori judgement possible?
The same temper which leads him to stifle thought with language carries him on to
substitute definitions for first principles. Prima philosophia—metaphysics in
Aristotle’s sense—is first a body of definitions. These definitions are our points of
departure: we must start by agreeing upon them. For ‘the light of human minds is
perspicuous words, by exact definitions first snuffed and purged from ambiguity’.1. A
definition must be held to be satisfactory if it be clear. The master claims a free and
absolute right of arbitrary definition. The scholar queries: Is the definition true? is it
adequate? does it assort with reality? To whom the master testily replies: You are
irrelevant; your only right is to ask, Is it clear? Unless my definitions are accepted as
first principles, science, i.e. a deductive system of consequences, is impossible, and
inference foreclosed. Let me remind you again that agreement on definitions is the
sine qua non of intelligible reasoning; and then for the sake of peace and lucidity let
me beg—nay insist—that you accept my ruling on the use of names. Are they not
arbitrary? Is not one man’s imposition as good as another’s? Mine therefore—at least
for purposes of argument—rather better than yours? Hobbes knew what he was about;
he was ‘rare at definitions’, said the admiring John Aubrey.1. It was because he very
clearly saw that in the prerogative of definition lay the sovereignty in philosophy.
But, you say, he must recognize some real, unconventional, transcendent standard of
truth somewhere: for otherwise by what right does he distinguish between truth and
error? And what is the meaning of the charges ‘absurd’ and ‘insignificant’ so freely
lavished on opinions with which he disagrees? I can only reply that his distinctions
between truth and falsehood, sense and absurdity, are perfectly consistent with the
doctrine I have been expounding. Man’s privilege of reason ‘is allayed by another:
and that is, by the privilege of absurdity; to which no living creature is subject, but
man only. …for it is most true that Cicero saith of them somewhere: that there can be
nothing so absurd but may be found in the books of philosophers.’2. ‘As men abound
in copiousness of language, so they become more wise, or more mad than ordinary…
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For words are wise men’s counters, they do but reckon by them; but they are the
money of fools, that value them by the authority of an Aristotle, a Cicero, or a
Thomas, or any other doctor whatsoever.’3. The causes of this endowment of
absurdity are but want of definition, want of adherence to definitions, want of the
power of syllogizing. A glance at Hobbes’s relentless application of this fundamental
principle will be sufficient. Good and evil are terms of individual imposition; by tacit
agreement one may say they are left to a personal interpretation; there is no common
rule of good and evil to be taken from the nature of the objects themselves. But the
moral virtues and vices are universal names: they take their definition ex arbitrio
hominum, i.e. from the will of the State. ‘The fool hath said in his heart, there is no
such thing as justice; and sometimes also with his tongue.’1. The fool might arrive at
his conclusion by an easy deduction from the principles of Hobbes. For if he had
studied Hobbes’s code of nature with ordinary care he would have discovered that the
justice of which Leviathan is begotten is carefully emptied of all ethical content.
There is indeed a justice, an obligation arising out of contract, which naturally refuses
to discuss its own title; and there is another justice, the parody of equity, which
explains itself with a humorous grin as the fiction of equality playing the peacemaker. You, X, say you’re as good as any one else: Y says he’s quite your match, and
he’ll take you on: permit me to assume then for purposes of codification a hypothesis
of universal equality, and to refer you to the golden rule for your future behaviour!
At length man’s pride and passions compel him to submit himself to government.
Leviathan is set on his feet; he is the king of the proud; but his feet are of clay; he too
is a fiction. This time Hobbes resorts to the lawyers, borrows from them their
mystico-legal fiction of the persona moralis, the corporation, and sends the mystical
elements in it to the right about. ‘It is the unity of the representer, not the unity of the
represented, that maketh the person one: …and unity cannot otherwise be understood
in multitude.’1. The sovereign is the soul, the person, the representative, the will, the
conscience of the commonwealth; i.e. the sovereign is the commonwealth in that
fictional sense which alone is truth in science and in practice. Once again there is no
such thing as objective right: therefore we must invent a substitute for it by
establishing a sovereign who shall declare what shall be right for us. On this point
Hobbes is unmistakably emphatic.
‘The law is all the right reason we have, and (though he, as often as it disagreeth with
his own reason, deny it) is the infallible rule of moral goodness. The reason whereof
is this, that because neither mine nor the Bishop’s reason is right reason fit to be a rule
of our moral actions, we have therefore set up over ourselves a sovereign governor,
and agreed that his laws shall be unto us, whatsoever they be, in the place of right
reason, to dictate to us what is really good. In the same manner as men in playing turn
up trump, and as in playing their game their morality consisteth in not renouncing, so
in our civil conversation our morality is all contained in not disobeying of the laws.’1.
—Hobbes’s debate with Dr. Bramhall, Bishop of Derry.
‘For, but give the authority of defining punishments to any man whatsoever, and let
that man define them, and right reason has defined them, suppose the definition be
both made, and made known before the offence committed. For such authority is to
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trump in card-playing, save that in matter of government, when nothing else is turned
up, clubs are trumps.’2. —A Dialogue of the Common Laws.
It is idle to qualify or defend such a political philosophy: it is rotten at the core. It is
valueless save in so far as it stimulates to refutation. We may be content to leave it as
a precious privilege to the lawyers, who need definitions and have no concern with
morality. And yet no thinker on politics has ever probed its fundamental conceptions
more thoroughly; and I say it advisedly, if you would think clearly of rights and
duties, sovereignty and law, you must begin with the criticism of Hobbes. For any
philosophy which is worth the name must spring out of scepticism; and every system
of philosophy which is worth serious attention must achieve the conquest of
scepticism. It is only a very botcher in philosophy or a very genial personage who can
really rest content with a merely sceptical attitude. Hobbes was no Carneades of
riotous dialectic, no Montaigne of cheerful and humorous resignation. His logic
plunged him into the abyss of scepticism; but the fierce dogmatism of his nature
revolted against it. David Hume imagined that it was left for him to send philosophy
to its euthanasia; but in truth Hobbes had seen it all, the whole sceptic’s
progress—seen it, and travelled it, and loathed it long ago.
Hobbes clutched at mathematics as the dogmatist’s last straw. Spite of the wreck of
objective ideals, what might not be effected with matter and motion! Here, if
anywhere, certainty might be found; here reason, baffled and disillusioned, might find
a punctum stans; a fulcrum to explain the universe.
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Hobbes And Descartes.
Hobbes thought in an atmosphere of dualism—yet Hobbes was a resolute opponent of
dualism. From 1637, the date of the Discours, the relation between matter and mind,
body and soul, was a cardinal—the cardinal problem. Descartes had awarded to each
substance co-ordinate, independent, absolute rights. The future business of
Cartesianism was to find a trait d’union—an explanation for a relation in fact which
had been demonstrated in theory inconceivable.
At first blush one might be inclined to say Hobbes remained untouched by the new
method. Starting on a basis of empiricism he developed a materialistic philosophy in
perfect independence of the current of idealistic thought which was flowing so
strongly on the Continent. It would be a mistaken view. Hobbes is powerfully
influenced by Descartes. Descartes prescribes for him his method—not Gassendi or
Bacon. But with Descartes’ dualism he will not away. He suspected Descartes of
paltering with philosophy to appease the Jesuits—his philosophy must find a corner
for the mysteries of the Catholic faith, e.g. transubstantiation, pro salute animae; and
was a system to be received which fell hopelessly apart in the middle, and which
demanded a miracle to restore a unity which a philosophy worthy of the name was
bound to demonstrate impossible?
A system—or philosophy—must be coherent at any price; a philosopher, whose
business it was to define, should see to that: words are wise men’s counters, and the
philosopher must play to win; coherence, not comprehension, is with Hobbes the
touchstone of philosophy, the test of truth. To Hobbes, rationalism is the fundamental
postulate; and a rational universe must be deduced from a single and simple principle.
Dualism was the consecration of the irrational.
But Hobbes deals in back blows—he does not meet the dualist face to face; he refuses
to see eye to eye with him; the problem shall be eluded, the position turned, in an
emergency the question at issue begged. Sensation need offer no difficulties:
sensation is only motion; it can only be caused by motion, it is only a form, a
manifestation of motion. Fancy, memory, comparison, judgement, are really carried
with sense—’sense hath necessarily some memory adhering to it.’1.
And reason—pure intellection—the faculty of science—surely here we must appeal to
another source (cf. Descartes and Gassendi), surely we have passed into another
realm. Hobbes emphatically assures us that it is this reason, this capacity for general
hypothetical reason, this science or sapience, which marks man off from the brutes.
The distinction between science and experience, sapience and prudence, is
fundamental in his philosophy. And yet if we look more narrowly we shall find this
marvellous endowment of man is really the child of language—that most noble and
profitable invention. This bald paradox is a masterpiece of tactics. Speech is ushered
in with the fanfaronade, and lo! reason is discovered clinging to her train. Instinct
says, reason begets speech; paradox inverts, speech begets reason. Man acquires
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speech because he is reasonable )( man becomes capable of science because he has
invented speech. A wonderful hysteron proteron.
Hobbes derives some account from his audacity.
1. We easily understand how error is possible—no need of tedious discussion—error
dogs the heels of language.
2. Seeing that thought (science) depends on language, it is evident that to clarify
thought we must purge language—re-definition the true task of philosophy.
In my necessarily harsh review I may have seemed to have found no answer to my
opening question. Does it not involve a petitio principii? Is he great after all? I am
content to rest the issue on one test alone—the test of style. I am adopting no
superficial test, when I boldly affirm that every great thinker reveals his greatness in
his style. It is quite possible—unhappily common—to cultivate style without thought;
it is absolutely impossible to think really, deeply, passionately, without forging a
style. Now Hobbes’s style is something quite unique in our literature. Of course I
don’t mean it stands out of the seventeenth century; to read a paragraph is to fix its
date. But no other seventeenth-century writer has a style like it: it is inimitable. It
would be childish to measure it with the incommensurable; to pit it against the fluent
magnificence of Milton or the quaint and unexpected beauties of Sir Thomas Browne.
But it is fair to try Hobbes’s English by the touchstone of Bacon’s. Those critics who
deny Bacon’s title to a primacy in philosophy are generally ready enough to
acknowledge his high position as a writer. And Bacon and Hobbes are writers of the
same order. They are both sententious; they are both grave and didactic; they both
wield the weapons of imagery, apophthegm, and epigram; they are both—let us admit
it—laboured stylists. It is, I think, highly probable that Hobbes learnt something of
literary craftsmanship from Bacon in those Gorhambury contemplations. But
Hobbes’s writing is just as decisively superior to Bacon’s, as his philosophy. Bacon
aimed at concealing the poverty of his thought by the adornment of his style: he wrote
for ostentation. When that solemn humbug, that bourgeois Machiavel, took up his pen
to edify mankind, he first opened his commonplace books, stuffed with assorted
anecdotes, quotations, conceits, and mucrones verborum, and then with an eye to the
anthology, proceeded to set down ‘what oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed’.
It must be admitted it reads remarkably well. The sentences are brave and brief at first
inspection: you mistake terseness of language for condensation of thought. But read
again. Many examples of this can be found in such an essay as ‘Of Study’. Now turn
to Hobbes; but before you do so, open Aubrey and learn the open secret of his style.
‘He was never idle; his thoughts were always working.’1.
‘He sayd that he sometimes would sett his thoughts upon researching and
contemplating, always with this rule, that he very much and deeply considered one
thing at a time (scilicet a weeke or sometimes a fortnight).’2.
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Online Library of Liberty: Leviathan (1909 ed)
‘He walked much and contemplated, and he had in the head of his staffe a pen and
inke-horne, carried always a note booke in his pocket, and as soon as a thought darted,
he presently entred it into his booke, or otherwise he might perhaps have lost it….
Thus that book (the Leviathan) was made.’1.
In Hobbes the clauses are clean, the sentences jolt, the argument is inevitable. Bacon
wrote to display his wit: Hobbes to convince and confute. Bacon invented epigram to
coax the public ear; Hobb