Thomas Hobbes (1588 – )was an English scholar and philosopher. Hobbes lived in Paris through the English Civil Wars. He wrote about many topics, including politics, geometry, physics, religion, and history.
Hobbes was one of many scholars who tried to answer the question, “Why do we have government?”
Poor, Nasty, Brutish, and Short
Hobbes saw humans as naturally selfish and quick to fight. He believed that before there were governments, people lived in a state of nature. In a state of nature, everyone had a right to everything. In order to get what they wanted, people would always be at war with everyone else. Nobody would produce anything like inventions, art, or even crops or tools because they would be afraid other people would take them away. Hobbes didn’t paint a very pretty picture of life without government.
Hobbes lived at a time when many philosophers were thinking about the nature of government. He was one of the first of his era to discuss the idea of a social contract between people and their government. A contract is an agreement in which both sides agree to something in order to reach a shared goal.
In Hobbes’ view, people agreed to give up some rights and power in exchange for protection.
But for Hobbes, the social contract was no two-way street. He believed that once the people agreed to hand over power in exchange for protection, they lost the right to overthrow, replace, or even question the government.
In such condition… the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. – T. Hobbes
Hobbes wrote a book called Leviathan (luh-VI-uh-then) to explain how he thought governments should work.
Hobbes wrote Leviathan during the English Civil War. He wrote about the social contract, and he spent much of the book trying to show that a strong central authority was the only way to avoid the evils of war.
Hobbes believed a single sovereign, or ruler, should have total authority over the people.
believed in a monarchy led by a king. That’s because he thought that government would work best if all the power rested in one place.
No three branches for Hobbes! Many political thinkers—including America’s Founding Fathers—built on Hobbes’ ideas, especially the idea of a social contract.
Hobbes was more concerned with protection and order than rights.
But people like John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau changed the focus from monarchy to democracy—power with the people instead of a sovereign.
They began to see that people have rights that must be protected even from government.
Why Government? Name: Reading — Side A Experience Exposure to the World A Man with Many Hats John Locke was born in England in 1632, at