Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher who was lived from 1588-1679. He attended Oxford University where he studied classics. His occupation was a tutor, but he also traveled around Europe to meet with scientists and to study different forms of government. He became interested in why people allowed themselves to be ruled, and what would be the best form of government for England. Thomas Hobbes was the first great figure in modern moral philosophy.
Hobbes had a pessimistic view of people; he believed humans were selfish creatures who would do anything to better their positions. He also thought that people could not be trusted to make decisions on their own, and a country needed an authority figure to provide direction and leadership. Therefore, Hobbes believed in an absolute monarchy – a government that gave all power to a king or queen. He also thought that people should obey their king, even if he is a tyrant. He said that because people were only interested in promoting their own self-interests, democracy would never work. In fact, he thought democracy was very dangerous. But even though he distrusted democracy, he believed that a diverse group of representatives presenting the problems of the common person would prevent a king from being unfair and cruel. Hobbes coined the phrase, “Voice of the people,” meaning one person could be chosen to represent a group with similar views.
In 1651, Thomas Hobbes wrote his famous work, “Leviathan” which put into writing his views on democracy and monarchy. In this work, he said that life in the state of nature is “nasty, brutish, and short” and without government, we would be living in this state of nature. Hobbes ideas that people should decide how they should be ruled set the stage for the “social contract” proposed some years later by John Locke. Society makes a kind of contract with itself to give power to a ruling body. In “Leviathan” Hobbes also said that nations are like people in that they are selfishly motivated, and that every country was in constant battle for power and wealth. He wanted people to stop fighting and relinquish control to a single ruler.
Hobbes idea’s weren’t just about government, though. He was one of the strongest opponents to the idea of spirituality. He believed in materialism – that everything that happens is a result of the physical world, and that the soul does not exist. According to Hobbes, nature is made up of material matter – there is nothing spiritual or magical about it.
Hobbes didn’t like the idea of spirit in the mind, because he felt it led people to cause trouble by claiming they were directly in contact with God. In fact, during Thomas Hobbes’ life, people often used spirituality as an excuse to disobey the government and the church.
Hobbes believed that all thoughts and sensations in the mind are produced mechanically by the senses and the brain, but the problem is that our mind doesn’t always tell us the truth, it often tells us things we want to believe, or things that we’re afraid might be true.