Thomas Hobbes on the nature of man


NATURE, the art whereby God hath made and governs the world, is by the art of man so imitated that he can make an artificial animal. For by art is created that great leviathan called a commonwealth or state, which is but an artificial man; in which the sovereignty is an artificial soul, as giving life and motion; the magistrates and other officers the joints; reward and punishment the nerves; concord, health; discord, sickness; lastly, the pacts or covenants by which the parts were first set together resemble the fiat' of God at the Creation.

To describe this artificial man, I will consider: First, the matter and the artificer, both which is man; secondly, how it is made; thirdly, what is a Christian commonwealth; lastly, what is the kingdom of darkness.

And first, of man, The thoughts of man are, singly, every one a representation of some quality or accident of a body without us, called an object. There is no conception in the mind which has not first been begotten upon the organs of sense. The cause of sense is the eternal object which presseth upon the proper organ; not that, as hath been taught in the schools, the thing 'sendeth forth a visible or audible species.'

Imagination is the continuity of an image after the object is removed. When we would express that the image is decaying, we call it memory; in sleep, we call it dreams.

Of all invention, the most notable is that of speech, names, the register of thoughts; which are notes for remembrance, or signs, for transference. Truth consisteth in the right ordering of names in our affirmations. Words are wise men's counters, but the money of fools.

Reasoning is the reckoning, the addition and subtraction of the sequences of words, the sum being the conclusion. Which conclusions may be absurd, because men do not start--except in geometry--from the definitions of the words. Reason, therefore, implies speech.

In animals there are two sorts of motions--vital and voluntary. The beginings of motion within man are called 'endeavour.' Appetite is a motion towards; aversion a motion from-wards. Some are born in us, some are products of experience. The object of a man's appetite he calls 'good'; of his aversion, 'evil'; whether in promise (beautiful and ugly), in effect (pleasant, painful), or as means (useful, hurtful). Pleasures and pains arise from an object present, of the senses; or in expectation, of the mind. Thus 'pity' is the imagining of a like calamity befalling oneself.

'Deliberation' is the sum of the successive appetites or aversions which are concluded by the doing or not doing of the particular thing. 'Will' is the last appetite in deliberating. So, in the enquiry of the truth, opinions correspond to appetites, and the final judgement, the last opinion, to the will.

There are two kinds of knowledge; of 'fact,' and of 'the consequence of one affirmation to another.' The former is nothing else but sense and memory, and is absolute; the latter is called science, and is conditional. The register of the first is called history, natural or civil; that of the second is contained in books of philosophy, in corresponding groups--natural philosophy, and civil philosophy or politics. Natural philosophy breaks up into a number of groups, including mental and moral science.

Power is present means, whencesoever derived, to attain some future apparent good. Value is the price that will be given for the use of a man's power. To honour a man is to acknowledge his power; to dishonour him is to depreciate it. The public worth of a man is the value set on him by the commonwealth.

By manners, I mean those qualities of mankind which are concerned with their living together in peace and unity. Desire of power tends to produce strife; other desires, as for ease, or for knowledge, incline men to obey a common power. To receive benefits, or to do injuries, greater than can be repaid or expiated, tends to make us hate the benefactor or the injured party.

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