Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes - HTML preview
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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.
PAGE 48. In the Margin, for love Praise, read love of Praise. p. 75. l. 5. for signied, r. signified.
p. 88. l. l. for performe, r. forme. l. 35. for Soveraign, r. the Soveraign. p. 94. l. 14. for lands, r. hands. p. 100. l. 28. for in, r. in his. p. 102. l. 46. for in, r. is, p. 105. in the margin, for ver.
10. r. ver. 19. &c. p. 116. l. 46. for are involved, r. are not involved. p. 120. l. 42. for Those Bodies, r. These Bodies. p. 137. l. 2. for in generall. r, in generall, p. 139. l. 36. for were, r.
where. p. 166. l. 18. for benefit, r. benefits. p. 200. l. 48. dele also. l. 49. for delivered, r.
deliver. p. 203. l. 35. for other, r. higher. p. 204. l. 15. for of the, r. over the. p. 234. l. 1. for but of, r. but by mediation of. l. 15. dele and. l. 38. for putting, r. pulling. p. 262. l. 19. for tisme, r. Baptisme. p. 268. l. 48. for that the, r. that. p. 271. l. 1. for observe, r. obey. l. 4. for contrary the, r. contrary to the. p. 272. l. 36. for our Saviours of life, r. of our Saviours life. p.
275. l. 18. for if shall, r. if he shall. l. 30. for haven, r. heaven. l. 45. for of Church, r. of the Church. p. 276. l. 38. dele inter. l. 46. dele are. p. 285. l. 11. for he had, r. he hath. p. 287. l.
10. dele of. p. 298. l. 36. for to ay, r. to Lay. p. 361. l. 36. for him, r. them.
[These errata have been corrected in the text of this reprint.]
THE PHILOSOPHY OF HOBBES
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 it.'1
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.'3 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 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.'4
'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 sleep.'5
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 passion-wearied 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,'6 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 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,
, for both speech and reason; not that they thought there was no speech without
reason, but no reasoning without speech.'7 Truth is a necessity; but necessary truth is a will-
o'-the-wisp. 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'.8 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.9 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.'10 'As men abound in copiousness of language, so they become more wise, or
more mad than ordinary… 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.'11 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.'12 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 peace-maker. 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
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.'13 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
'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.'14— Hobbes's debate with Dr. Bramhall, Bishop of
'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 trump in card-playing,
save that in matter of government, when nothing else is turned up, clubs are trumps.'15— 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.
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.'16
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 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.'17
'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).'18
'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.'19
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; Hobbes found his epigram after he had crystallized his thought. In sum, the difference
between the styles of Bacon and Hobbes is to be measured by the difference between
ostentation and passionate thought. We can compare Hobbes's own defence of his style and
'There is nothing I distrust more than my elocution, which nevertheless I am confident,
excepting the mischances of the press, is not obscure. That I have neglected the ornament of
quoting ancient poets, orators, and philosophers, contrary to the custom of late time, (whether
I have done well or ill in it,) proceedeth from my judgement, grounded on many reasons. For
first, all truth of doctrine dependeth either upon reason, or upon Scripture; both which give credit to many, but never receive it from any writer. Secondly, the matters in question are not
of fact, but of right, wherein there is no place for witnesses. There is scarce any of those old writers that contradicteth not sometimes both himself and others; which makes their
testimonies insufficient. Fourthly, such opinions as are taken only upon credit of antiquity, are
not intrinsically the judgement of those that cite them, but words that pass, like gaping, from
mouth to mouth. Fifthly, it is many times with a fraudulent design that men stick their corrupt
doctrine with the cloves of other men's wit. Sixthly, I find not that the ancients they cite, took
it for an ornament, to do the like with those that wrote before them. Seventhly, it is an
argument of indigestion, when Greek and Latin sentences unchewed come up again, as they
use to do, unchanged. Lastly, though I reverence those men of ancient time, that either have
written truth perspicuously, or set us in a better way to find it out ourselves; yet to the
antiquity itself I think nothing due. For if we will reverence the age, the present is the oldest. If the antiquity of the writer, I am not sure, that generally they to whom such honour is given,
were more ancient when they wrote, than I am that am writing. But if it be well considered,
the praise of ancient authors proceeds not from the reverence of the dead, but from the
competition, and mutual envy of the living.'20
Aubrey has more to tell us. For instance, about his reading:
'He had read much, if one considers his long life; but his contemplation was much more than
his reading. He was wont to say that if he had read as much as other men, he should have
knowne no more than other men.'21
About his love of 'ingeniose conversation':
'I have heard him say, that at his lord's house in the country there was a good library, and
bookes enough for him, and that his lordship stored the library with what bookes he thought
fitt to be bought; but he sayd, the want of learned conversation was a very great
inconvenience, and that though he conceived he could order his thinking as well perhaps as
another man, yet he found a great defect.'22
Studying Hobbes as we do in historical manuals of philosophy, with their extracted systems,
we usually fail to recognize how strongly the blood of the controversialist ran in his veins. Yet
the Leviathan is first and foremost a controversial episode—a fighting work. Hobbes himself
professed regret that his thoughts for those ten years of civil war were so unhinged from the
mathematics, but he certainly entered into the quarrel with alacrity. His interests were pre-
eminently occupied with ecclesiastical problems. Born in 1588, an Oxford student at the time
of the Gunpowder Plot, an indignant witness of the struggle of that age between religion and
science, like every honest Englishman he pursued Pope and Jesuit with an undying hate. For
the aversion to Rome and the Roman claims there was ample justification. By his Bull of
Deposition in 1570 Pope Pius V had challenged the struggle, and rendered the position of
English Catholics untenable. From a respected if prohibited faith they became recusants: from
recusants, traitors. It was the Papal policy and its indefatigable agents the Jesuits which were
to blame. What peace was possible with men who repudiated moral obligations, who hesitated
at no crime ad maiorem Dei gloriam? The same dishonesty which covered their actions and
their name with infamy for succeeding generations, rendered their apologetic literature the
poorest trash and the most immoral stuff that was ever justly consigned to oblivion. Bellarmine
and Baronius once were names to conjure with: does any one respect them now? Their only
merit is that they called for answer—and some of the answers are among the most precious
treasures of English Theology. Hobbes too must break a lance with Bellarmine in the Leviathan.
And Hobbes was not the least vigorous or the worst equipped of the English champions.
For indeed Hobbes deserves a place among the Masters in English Theology. Strange company,
it may seem. But if Hobbes be read in connexion with the line of great English apologists—
apologists for Protestantism and apologists for Anglicanism, it will at once be evident to any
unprejudiced mind that the lines of defence and attack on which the Fathers of Anglicanism—
Jewel, Hooker, Andrewes, Laud, Chillingworth, Jeremy Taylor—conducted the debate were
adopted with a thoroughness all his own by Hobbes. He dotted the i's and crossed the t's of the
divines; sharpened their logic, sounded their inferences, and appended a few corollaries from
which they themselves might have shrunk. The theory of a national and autonomous Church
outlined by Jewel and compendiously stated by Hooker ('the prince has power to change the
public face of religion'), hardly allowed of clearer definition in Hobbes's brief chapter23 on the
identity of Church and Commonwealth and the consequences flowing therefrom.
Again, the distinction between the necessary and the variable, fundamentals and non-
fundamentals, articles of faith and matters of opinion, was the real principle of the
Reformation. For the constant effort of the Roman Church was to extend the list of matters
which were de fide, and to minimize the variable element as far as possible. So that, when he asserts and proves that the unum necessarium, the only article of faith, which the Scripture maketh necessary to salvation, is this, that Jesus is the Christ, Hobbes is taking the Anglican
position occupied for instance by Chillingworth and Jeremy Taylor. Not that he ever dreamt, as
they did, of allowing the antithesis to become the premiss of religious freedom. With him—as
with Laud—it drove to an opposite conclusion. If a practice, an opinion, is non-essential, then it
is indifferent; if indifferent, then the commonwealth, i.e. the sovereign, must decide. What the
rule was did not matter, all that mattered was that a rule there should be.
Once again, Anglican polemics had been constrained to welcome the aid of philology against
controversialists who—let us charitably assume in ignorance of Greek—employed texts which
were forgeries, and emended those which were not. Jeremy Taylor was more than doubtful as
to the value of patristic testimony, and could not away with the Athanasian Creed.
Hobbes goes so far as to subject the whole canon of Scripture to a critical examination, which
in its boldness anticipates the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus of Spinoza.
And yet the Church of England always viewed this self-constituted ally with something more
than suspicion. His Erastianism was of a type which only Selden and a few lawyers could
appreciate. Honest Baillie spoke of him as Hobbes the Atheist; there were those who hinted
darkly that he was no other than Antichrist. It is true his views on the Trinity were of a
Sabellian complexion; and in one famous passage he was incautious enough to make Moses
one of the three persons thereof. In Hobbes's time Legate and Wightman had been burnt for
less. He himself would have made an unwilling martyr. 'There was a report (and surely true),'
says Aubrey, 'that in Parliament, not long after the king was settled, (in fact it was 1668),
some of the bishops made a motion to have the good old gentleman burnt for a heretique.'24 I
don't know that they actually went as far as that, whatever they thought; but certain it is they
inquired into his books, that the University of Cambridge in 1669 compelled one Daniel
Scargill, Fellow of Corpus Christi, to recant his Hobbism,25 and that Hobbes himself was
grievously alarmed. And with some justice: for despite his eloquent legal defence, I doubt
whether the common lawyers would have been deterred from issuing the writ de haeretico
Happily the only result was to send up the price of his books—this from the good Pepys, who
tried to buy them. What did Pepys think of them?
Hobbes may well have been uncomfortable: he knew, better probably than even the bishops,
how thoroughly he deserved to be burnt. With sophistry and sense, with satire and suggestion,
he had been fighting, single-handed, in the cause of the lay intellect. 'When Mr. T. Hobbes was
sick in France the divines came to him and tormented him (both Roman Catholic, Church of
England, and Geneva). Sayd he to them, "Let me alone or else I will detect all your cheates
from Aaron to yourselves."'26 The threatened attack—vivacious, detailed, and precise—was
delivered in the last two books of the Leviathan. How thorough the assault was you may judge for yourselves if you will read them; the tone you may estimate from a few illustrations, which
may perhaps encourage you to read further.27
A good-natured critic will refuse to see in Hobbes anything more than the sturdy Protestant,
the stalwart champion of national religion, denouncing with equal emphasis the frauds of
priestcraft and the irresponsibility of private judgement. His friends certainly believed that 'the
good old gentleman' was a sound Christian at heart. He may have been: it is more evident that
he was an Erastian. Many of us—most of us in fact—are Erastians with certain limitations:
Hobbes was an Erastian without limitations. It is customary to count him among the pioneers
of Natural Religion and Rational Theology. For such a view I can find no evidence. Natural Law
is indeed the law of reason—found out by reason: but National Religion is not the religion of
reason. Nature indeed plants the seeds of religion—fear and ignorance; kingcraft and priest-
craft water and tend it. The religion of reason is the religion of the State—and the State bids us
captivate our reason. 'It is with the mysteries of our religion as with wholesome pills for the
sick: which swallowed whole have the virtue to cure; but chewed are for the most part cast up
again without effect.'28
Hobbes had his bitter jest with his contemporaries, and the whirligig of time has had its
revenges. He has suffered much from his opponents, more from his defenders, most from his
plagiarists. Oxford once burnt the Leviathan: she now prescribes it to her students; but the prescribed portion is very limited, and there is no reason to suppose that she has ever
understood him. It was, after all, a nemesis well deserved. A great partisan by nature, Hobbes
became by the sheer force of his fierce, concentrated intellect a master builder in philosophy.
The stimulus of opposition roused him to think. He hated error, and therefore, to confute it, he
shouldered his way into the very sanctuary of truth. But his hands were not clean, nor his spirit
pure; patient research and absolute devotion were not in his nature to give; he never felt the
'bright shoots of everlastingness', and resolutely closed his eyes to the high vision. With all his
intellectual power he is of the earth earthy; at best the Lydian stone of philosophy, and 'rare at
1. Aubrey's Brief Lives, in 2 vols., edited by A. Clark, 1898: i. 332.
2. Aubrey, i. 335–6.
3. Hobbes's English Works, iv. 18, ed. Molesworth, 1839.
4. p. 75.
5. p. 82.
6. p. 24.
7. p. 29.
8. p. 37.
9. Aubrey, i. 394.
10. p. 35.
11. p. 29.
12. p. 111.
13. p. 126.
14. Molesworth, v. 194.
15. Ibid., vi. 122.
16. Molesworth, i. 393.
17. Aubrey, i. 351.
18. Ibid., i. 339.
19. Aubrey, i. 334.
20. pp. 555–6.
21. Aubrey, i. 349.
22. Ibid., i. 337–8.
23. Chapter xxxix, pp. 361–3.
24. Aubrey, i. 339.
25. Somers Tracts, ed. 1809–12, vol. vii, p. 371.
26. Aubrey, i. 357.
27. Cf. on Inspiration, pp. 312–14; on Hell, p. 351; on the Soul, p. 526; on the Hot-houses of
Vain Philosophy, p. 518; on Aristotelity and Theology, pp. 523–4; on the Universities, p. 523.
Cf. his sketch of the origin and history of Universities, p. 523.
28. p. 287.
29. Aubrey, i. 394.
The Matter, Forme, & Power
By THOMAS HOBBES of Malmesbury.
Printed for ANDREW CROOKE, at the Green Dragon
in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1651.
TO MY MOST HONOR'D FRIEND Mr FRANCIS GODOLPHIN
YOUR most worthy Brother Mr Sidney Godolphin, when he lived, was pleas'd to think my
studies something, and otherwise to oblige me, as you know, with reall testimonies of his good
opinion, great in themselves, and the greater for the worthinesse of his person. For there is not
any vertue that disposeth a man, either to the service of God, or to the service of his Country,
to Civill Society, or private Friendship, that did not manifestly appear in his conversation, not
as acquired by necessity, or affected upon occasion, but inhærent, and shining in a generous
constitution of his nature. Therefore in honour and gratitude to him, and with devotion to your
selfe, I humbly Dedicate unto you this my discourse of Common-wealth. I know not how the
world will receive it, nor how it may reflect on those that shall seem to favour it. For in a way
beset with those that contend, on one side for too great Liberty, and on the other side for too
much Authority, 'tis hard to passe between the points of both unwounded. But yet, me thinks,
the endeavour to advance the Civill Power, should not be by the Civill Power condemned; nor
private men, by reprehending it, declare they think that Power too great. Besides, I speak not
of the men, but (in the Abstract) of the Seat of Power, (like to those simple and unpartiall
creatures in the Roman Capitol, that with their noyse defended those within it, not because
they were they, but there,) offending none, I think, but those without, or such within (if there
be any such) as favour them. That which perhaps may most offend, are certain Texts of Holy
Scripture, alledged by me to other purpose than ordinarily they use to be by others. But I have
done it with due submission, and also (in order to my Subject) necessarily; for they are the
Outworks of the Enemy, from whence they impugne the Civill Power. If notwithstanding this,
you find my labour generally decryed, you may be pleased to excuse your selfe, and say I am a
man that love my own opinions, and think all true I say, that I honoured your Brother, and
honour you, and have presum'd on that, to assume the Title (without your knowledge) of
being, as I am,
Your most humble, and most
Paris. Aprill 15/25. 1651.
NATURE (the Art whereby God hath made and governes the World) is by the Art of man, as in
many other things, so in this also imitated, that it can make an Artificial Animal. For seeing life
is but a motion of Limbs, the begining whereof is in some principall part within; why may we
not say, that all Automata (Engines that move themselves by springs and wheeles as doth a
watch) have an artificiall life? For what is the Heart, but a Spring; and the Nerves, but so many Strings; and the Joynts, but so many Wheeles, giving motion to the whole Body, such as was intended by the Artificer? Art goes yet further, imitating that Rationall and most excellent worke of Nature, Man. For by Art is created that great LEVIATHAN called a COMMON-WEALTH,
or STATE, (in latine CIVITAS) which is but an Artificiall Man; though of greater stature and
strength than the Naturall, for whose protection and defence it was intended; and in which, the
Soveraignty is an Artificiall Soul, as giving life and motion to the whole body; The Magistrates, and other Officers of Judicature and Execution, artificiall Joynts; Reward and Punishment (by which fastned to the seate of the Soveraignty, every joynt and member is moved to performe
his duty) are the Nerves, that do the same in the Body Naturall; The Wealth and Riches of all the particular members, are the Strength; Salus Populi (the peoples safety) its Businesse; Counsellors, by whom all things needfull for it to know, are suggested unto it, are the Memory; Equity and Lawes, an artificiall Reason and Will; Concord, Health; Sedition, Sicknesse; and Civill war, Death. Lastly, the Pacts and Covenants, by which the parts of this Body Politique were at first made, set together, and united, resemble that Fiat, or the Let us make man, pronounced by God in the Creation.
To describe the Nature of this Artificiall man, I will consider
First, the Matter thereof, and the Artificer; both which is Man.
Secondly, How, and by what Covenants it is made; what are the Rights and just
Power or Authority of a Soveraigne; and what it is that preserveth and dissolveth
Thirdly, what is a Christian Common-wealth.
Lastly, what is the Kingdome of Darkness.
Concerning the first, there is a saying much usurped of late, That Wisedome is acquired, not by reading of Books, but of Men. Consequently whereunto, those persons, that for the most part can give no other proof of being wise, take great delight to shew what they think they have
read in men, by uncharitable censures of one another behind their backs. But there is another
saying not of late understood, by which they might learn truly to read one another, if they
would take the pains; and that is, Nosce teipsum, Read thy self: which was not meant, as it is now used, to countenance, either the barbarous state of men in power, towards their inferiors;
or to encourage men of low degree, to a sawcie behaviour towards their betters; But to teach
us, that for the similitude of the thoughts, and Passions of one man, to the thoughts, and
Passions of another, whosoever looketh into himself, and considereth what he doth, when he
does think, opine, reason, hope, feare, &c, and upon what grounds; he shall thereby read and know, what are the thoughts, and Passions of all other men, upon the like occasions. I say the
similitude of Passions, which are the same in all men, desire, feare, hope, &c; not the similitude of the objects of the Passions, which are the things desired, feared, hoped, &c: for these the constitution individuall, and particular education do so vary, and they are so easie to
be kept from our knowledge, that the characters of mans heart, blotted and confounded as
they are, with dissembling, lying, counter-feiting, and erroneous doctrines, are legible onely to
him that searcheth hearts. And though by mens actions wee do discover their designe
sometimes; yet to do it without comparing them with our own, and distinguishing all
circumstances, by which the case may come to be altered, is to decypher without a key, and
be for the most part deceived, by too much trust, or by too much diffidence; as he that reads,
is himself a good or evil man.
But let one man read another by his actions never so perfectly, it serves him onely with his
acquaintance, which are but few. He that is to govern a whole Nation, must read in himself,
not this, or that particular man; but Man-kind: which though it be hard to do, harder than to
learn any Language, or Science; yet, when I shall have set down my own reading orderly, and
perspicuously, the pains left another, will be onely to consider, if he also find not the same in
himself. For this kind of Doctrine, admitteth no other Demonstration.
CONCERNING the Thoughts of man, I will consider them first Singly, and afterwards in Trayne, or dependance upon one another. Singly, they are every one a Representation or Apparence, of some quality, or other Accident of a body without us; which is commonly called an Object.
Which Object worketh on the Eyes, Eares, and other parts of mans body; and by diversity of
working, produceth diversity of Apparences.
The Originall of them all, is that which we call SENSE; (For there is no conception in a mans
mind, which hath not at first, totally, or by parts, been begotten upon the organs of Sense.) The rest are derived from that originall.
To know the naturall cause of Sense, is not very necessary to the business now in hand; and I
have elsewhere written of the same at large. Nevertheless, to fill each part of my present
method, I will briefly deliver the same in this place.
The cause of Sense, is the Externall Body, or Object, which presseth the organ proper to each
Sense, either immediatly, as in the Tast and Touch; or mediately, as in Seeing, Hearing, and
Smelling: which pressure, by the mediation of Nerves, and other strings, and membranes of
the body, continued inwards to the Brain, and Heart, causeth there a resistance, or counter-
pressure, or endeavour of the heart, to deliver it self: which endeavour because Outward,
seemeth to be some matter without. And this seeming, or fancy, is that which men call Sense; and consisteth, as to the Eye, in a Light, or Colour figured; To the Eare, in a Sound; To the Nostrill, in an Odour; To the Tongue and Palat, in a Savour; And to the rest of the body, in Heat, Cold, Hardnesse, Softnesse, and such other qualities, as we discern by Feeling. All which qualities called Sensible, are in the object that causeth them, but so many several motions of the matter, by which it presseth our organs diversly. Neither in us that are pressed, are they
any thing else, but divers motions; (for motion, produceth nothing but motion.) But their
apparence to us is Fancy, the same waking, that dreaming. And as pressing, rubbing, or
striking the Eye, makes us fancy a light; and pressing the Eare, produceth a dinne; so do the
bodies also we see, or hear, produce the same by their strong, though unobserved action. For
if those Colours, and Sounds, were in the Bodies, or Objects that cause them, they could not
bee severed from them, as by glasses, and in Ecchoes by reflection, wee see they are; where
we know the thing we see, is in one place; the apparence, in another. And though at some
certain distance, the reall, and very object seem invested with the fancy it begets in us; Yet
still the object is one thing, the image or fancy is another. So that Sense in all cases, is
nothing els but originall fancy, caused (as I have said) by the pressure, that is, by the motion,
of externall things upon our Eyes, Eares, and other organs thereunto ordained.
But the Philosophy-schooles, through all the Universities of Christendome, grounded upon
certain Texts of Aristotle, teach another doctrine; and say, For the cause of Vision, that the thing seen, sendeth forth on every side a visible species(in English) a visible shew, apparition, or aspect, or a being seen; the receiving whereof into the Eye, is Seeing. And for the cause of Hearing, that the thing heard, sendeth forth an Audible species, that is, an Audible aspect, or Audible being seen; which entring at the Eare, maketh Hearing. Nay for the cause of
Understanding also, they say the thing Understood sendeth forth intelligible species, that is, an intelligible being seen; which comming into the Understanding, makes us Understand. I say not this, as disapproving the use of Universities: but because I am to speak hereafter of their office
in a Common-wealth, I must let you see on all occasions by the way, what things would be
amended in them; amongst which the frequency of insignificant Speech is one.
THAT when a thing lies still, unlesse somewhat els stirre it, it will lye still for ever, is a truth that no man doubts of. But that when a thing is in motion, it will eternally be in motion, unless
somewhat els stay it, though the reason be the same, (namely, that nothing can change it
selfe,) is not so easily assented to. For men measure, not onely other men, but all other
things, by themselves: and because they find themselves subject after motion to pain, and
lassitude, think every thing els growes weary of motion, and seeks repose of its own accord;
little considering, whether it be not some other motion, wherein that desire of rest they find in
themselves, consisteth. From hence it is, that the Schooles say, Heavy bodies fall downwards,
out of an appetite to rest, and to conserve their nature in that place which is most proper for
them; ascribing appetite and Knowledge of what is good for their conservation, (which is more
than man has) to things inanimate, absurdly.
When a Body is once in motion, it moveth (unless something els hinder it) eternally; and
whatsoever hindreth it, cannot in an instant, but in time, and by degrees quite extinguish it:
And as wee see in the water, though the wind cease, the waves give not over rowling for a
long time after; so also it happeneth in that motion, which is made in the internall parts of a
man, then, when he Sees, Dreams, &c. For after the object is removed, or the eye shut, wee
still retain an image of the thing seen, though more obscure than when we see it. And this is it,
the Latines call Imagination, from the image made in seeing; and apply the same, though
improperly, to all the other senses. But the Greeks call it Fancy; which signifies apparence, and is as proper to one sense, as to another. IMAGINATION therefore is nothing but decaying
sense; and is found in men, and many other living Creatures, aswell sleeping, as waking.
The decay of Sense in men waking, is not the decay of the motion made in sense; but an
obscuring of it, in such manner, as the light of the Sun obscureth the light of the Starres;
which starrs do no less exercise their vertue by which they are visible, in the day, than in the
night. But because amongst many stroaks, which our eyes, eares, and other organs receive
from externall bodies, the predominant onely is sensible; therefore the light of the Sun being
predominant, we are not affected with the action of the starrs. And any object being removed
from our eyes, though the impression it made in us remain; yet other objects more present
succeeding, and working on us, the Imagination of the past is obscured, and made weak; as
the voyce of a man is in the noyse of the day. From whence it followeth, that the longer the
time is, after the sight, or Sense of any object, the weaker is the Imagination. For the
continuall change of mans body, destroyes in time the parts which in sense were moved; So
that distance of time, and of place, hath one and the same effect in us. For as at a great
distance of place, that which wee look at, appears dimme, and without distinction of the
smaller parts; and as Voyces grow weak, and inarticulate: so also after great distance of time,
our imagination of the Past is weak; and wee lose (for example) of Cities wee have seen, many
particular Streets; and of Actions, many particular Circumstances. This decaying sense, when wee would express the thing it self, (I mean fancy it selfe,) wee call Imagination, as I said before: But when we would express the decay, and signifie that the Sense is fading, old, and past, it is called Memory. So that Imagination and Memory, are but one thing, which for divers considerations hath divers names.
Much memory, or memory of many things, is called Experience. Againe, Imagination being
only of those things which have been formerly perceived by Sense, either all at once, or by
parts at severall times; The former, (which is the imagining the whole object, as it was
presented to the sense) is simple Imagination; as when one imagineth a man, or horse, which
he hath seen before. The other is Compounded; as when from the sight of a man at one time,
and of a horse at another, we conceive in our mind a Centaure. So when a man compoundeth
the image of his own person, with the image of the actions of an other man; as when a man
imagins himselfe a Hercules, or an Alexander, (which happeneth often to them that are much taken with reading of Romants) it is a compound imagination, and properly but a Fiction of the
mind. There be also other Imaginations that rise in men, (though waking) from the great
impression made in sense: As from gazing upon the Sun, the impression leaves an image of
the Sun before our eyes a long time after; and from being long and vehemently attent upon
Geometricall Figures, a man shall in the dark, (though awake) have the Images of Lines, and
Angles before his eyes: which kind of Fancy hath no particular name; as being a thing that
doth not commonly fall into mens discourse.
The imaginations of them that sleep, are those we call Dreams. And these also (as all other
Imaginations) have been before, either totally, or by parcells in the Sense. And because in
sense, the Brain, and Nerves, which are the necessary Organs of sense, are so benummed in
sleep, as not easily to be moved by the action of Externall Objects, there can happen in sleep,
no Imagination; and therefore no Dreame, but what proceeds from the agitation of the inward
parts of mans body; which inward parts, for the connexion they have with the Brayn, and other
Organs, when they be distempered, do keep the same in motion; whereby the Imaginations
there formerly made, appeare as if a man were waking; saving that the Organs of Sense being
now benummed, so as there is no new object, which can master and obscure them with a more
vigorous impression, a Dreame must needs be more cleare, in this silence of sense, than are
our waking thoughts. And hence it cometh to passe, that it is a hard matter, and by many
thought impossible to distinguish exactly between Sense and Dreaming. For my part, when I
consider, that in Dreames, I do not often, nor constantly think of the same Persons, Places,
Objects, and Actions that I do waking; nor remember so long a trayne of coherent thoughts,
Dreaming, as at other times; And because waking I often observe the absurdity of Dreames,
but never dream of the absurdities of my waking Thoughts; I am well satisfied, that being
awake, I know I dreame not; though when I dreame, I think my selfe awake.
And seeing dreames are caused by the distemper of some of the inward parts of the Body;
divers distempers must needs cause different Dreams. And hence it is, that lying cold breedeth
Dreams of Feare, and raiseth the thought and Image of some fearfull object (the motion from
the brain to the inner parts, and from the inner parts to the Brain being reciprocall:) And that
as Anger causeth heat in some parts of the Body, when we are awake; so when we sleep, the
over heating of the same parts causeth Anger, and raiseth up in the brain the Imagination of
an Enemy. In the same manner; as naturall kindness, when we are awake causeth desire; and
desire makes heat in certain other parts of the body; so also, too much heat in those parts,
while wee sleep, raiseth in the brain an imagination of some kindness shewn. In summe, our
Dreams are the reverse of our waking Imaginations; The motion when we are awake,
beginning at one end; and when we Dream, at another.
Apparitions or Visions.
The most difficult discerning of a mans Dream, from his waking thoughts, is then, when by
some accident we observe not that we have slept: which is easie to happen to a man full of
fearfull thoughts; and whose conscience is much troubled; and that sleepeth, without the
circumstances, of going to bed, or putting off his clothes, as one that noddeth in a chayre. For
he that taketh pains, and industriously layes himself to sleep, in case any uncouth and
exorbitant fancy come unto him, cannot easily think it other than a Dream. We read of Marcus
Brutus, (one that had his life given him by Julius Cœsar, and was also his favorite, and notwithstanding murthered him,) how at Philippi, the night before he gave battell to Augustus Cæsar, hee saw a fearfull apparition, which is commonly related by Historians as a Vision: but considering the circumstances, one may easily judge to have been but a short Dream. For
sitting in his tent, pensive and troubled with the horrour of his rash act, it was not hard for
him, slumbering in the cold, to dream of that which most affrighted him; which feare, as by
degrees it made him wake; so also it must needs make the Apparition by degrees to vanish:
And having no assurance that he slept, he could have no cause to think it a Dream, or any
thing but a Vision. And this is no very rare Accident: for even they that be perfectly awake, if
they be timorous, and supperstitious, possessed with fearfull tales, and alone in the dark, are
subject to the like fancies; and believe they see spirits and dead mens Ghosts walking in
Church-yards; whereas it is either their Fancy onely, or els the knavery of such persons, as
make use of such superstitious feare, to passe disguised in the night, to places they would not
be known to haunt.
From this ignorance of how to distinguish Dreams, and other strong Fancies, from Vision and
Sense, did arise the greatest part of the Religion of the Gentiles in time past, that worshipped
Satyres, Fawnes, Nymphs, and the like; and now adayes the opinion that rude people have of
Fayries, Ghosts, and Goblins; and of the power of Witches. For as for Witches, I think not that
their witchcraft is any reall power; but yet that they are justly punished, for the false beliefe
they have, that they can do such mischiefe, joyned with their purpose to do it if they can: their
trade being neerer to a new Religion, than to a Craft or Science. And for Fayries, and walking
Ghosts, the opinion of them has I think been on purpose, either taught, or not confuted, to
keep in credit the use of Exorcisme, of Crosses, of holy Water, and other such inventions of
Ghostly men. Neverthelesse, there is no doubt, but God can make unnaturall Apparitions: But
that he does it so often, as men need to feare such things, more than they feare the stay, or
change, of the course of Nature, which he also can stay, and change, is no point of Christian
faith. But evill men under 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 further, than right reason makes that which they say, appear credible. If this
superstitious fear of Spirits were taken away, and with it, Prognostiques from Dreams, false
Prophecies, and many other things depending thereon, by which, crafty ambitious persons
abuse the simple people, men would be much more fitted than they are for civill Obedience.
And this ought to be the work of the Schooles: but they rather nourish such doctrine. For (not
knowing what Imagination, or the Senses are), what they receive, they teach: some saying,
that Imaginations rise of themselves, and have no cause: Others that they rise most commonly
from the Will; and that Good thoughts are blown (inspired) into a man, by God; and Evill
thoughts by the Divell: or that Good thoughts are powred (infused) into a man, by God, and
Evill ones by the Divell. Some say the Senses receive the Species of things, and deliver them
to the Common-sense; and the Common Sense delivers them over to the Fancy, and the Fancy
to the Memory, and the Memory to the Judgement, like handing of things from one to another,
with many words making nothing understood.
The Imagination that is raysed in man (or any other creature indued with the faculty of
imagining) by words, or other voluntary signes, is that we generally call Understanding; and is common to Man and Beast. For a dogge by custome will understand the call, or the rating of
his Master; and so will many other Beasts. That Understanding which is peculiar to man, is the
Understanding not onely his will; but his conceptions and thoughts, by the sequell and
contexture of the names of things into Affirmations, Negations, and other formes of Speech:
And of this kinde of Understanding I shall speak hereafter.
Of the Consequence or TRAYNE of Imaginations.
BY Consequence, or TRAYNE of Thoughts, I understand that succession of one Thought to
another, which is called (to distinguish it from Discourse in words) Mentall Discourse.
When a man thinketh on any thing whatsoever, His next Thought after, is not altogether so
casuall as it seems to be. Not every Thought to every Thought succeeds indifferently. But as
wee have no Imagination, whereof we have not formerly had Sense, in whole, or in parts; so
we have no Transition from one Imagination to another, whereof we never had the like before
in our Senses. The reason whereof is this. All Fancies are Motions within us, reliques of those
made in the Sense: And those motions that immediately succeeded one another in the sense,
continue also together after Sense: In so much as the former comming again to take place,
and be prædominant, the later followeth, by coherence of the matter moved, in such manner,
as water upon a plain Table is drawn which way any one part of it is guided by the finger. But
because in sense, to one and the same thing perceived, sometimes one thing, sometimes
another succeedeth, it comes to passe in time, that in the Imagining of any thing, there is no
certainty what we shall Imagine next; Onely this is certain, it shall be something that
succeeded the same before, at one time or another.
Trayne of Thoughts unguided.
This Trayne of Thoughts, or Mentall Discourse, is of two sorts. The first is Unguided, without
Designe, and inconstant; Wherein there is no Passionate Thought, to govern and direct those
that follow, to it self, as the end and scope of some desire, or other passion: In which case the
thoughts are said to wander, and seem impertinent one to another, as in a Dream. Such are
Commonly the thoughts of men, that are not onely without company, but also without care of
any thing; though even then their Thoughts are as busie as at other times, but without
harmony; as the sound which a Lute out of tune would yeeld to any man; or in tune, to one
that could not play. And yet in this wild ranging of the mind, a man may oft-times perceive the
way of it, and the dependance of one thought upon another. For in a Discourse of our present
civill warre, what could seem more impertinent, than to ask (as one did) what was the value of
a Roman Penny? Yet the Cohærence to me was manifest enough. For the Thought of the warre,
introduced the Thought of the delivering up the King to his Enemies; The Thought of that,
brought in the Thought of the delivering up of Christ; and that again the Thought of the 30
pence, which was the price of that treason: and thence easily followed that malicious question;
and all this in a moment of time; for Thought is quick.
Trayne of Thoughts regulated.
The second is more constant; as being regulated by some desire, and designe. For the
impression made by such things as wee desire, or feare, is strong, and permanent, or, (if it
cease for a time,) of quick return: so strong it is sometimes, as to hinder and break our sleep.
From Desire, ariseth the Thought of some means we have seen produce the like of that which
we ayme at; and from the thought of that, the thought of means to that mean; and so
continually, till we come to some beginning within our own power. And because the End, by
the greatnesse of the impression, comes often to mind, in case our thoughts begin to wander,
they are quickly again reduced into the way: which observed by one of the seven wise men,
made him give men this præcept, which is now worne out, Respice finem; this is to say, in all your actions, look often upon what you would have, as the thing that directs all your thoughts
in the way to attain it.
The Trayn of regulated Thoughts is of two kinds; One, when of an effect imagined, wee seek
the causes, or means that produce it: and this is common to Man and Beast. The other is,
when imagining any thing whatsoever, wee seek all the possible effects, that can by it be
produced; that is to say, we imagine what we can do with it, when wee have it. Of which I
have not at any time seen any signe, but in man onely; for this is a curiosity hardly incident to
the nature of any living creature that has no other Passion but sensuall, such as are hunger,
thirst, lust, and anger. In summe, the Discourse of the Mind, when it is governed by designe, is
nothing but Seeking, or the faculty of Invention, which the Latines call Sagacitas, and Solertia; a hunting out of the causes, of some effect, present or past; or of the effects, of some present
or past cause. Sometimes a man seeks what he hath lost; and from that place, and time,
wherein hee misses it, his mind runs back, from place to place, and time to time, to find
where, and when he had it; that is to say, to find some certain, and limited time and place, in
which to begin a method of seeking. Again, from thence, his thoughts run over the same
places and times, to find what action, or other occasion might make him lose it. This we call
Remembrance, or Calling to mind: the Latines call it Reminiscentia, as it were a Re-conning of our former actions.
Sometimes a man knows a place determinate, within the compasse whereof he is to seek; and
then his thoughts run over all the parts thereof, in the same manner, as one would sweep a
room, to find a jewell; or as a Spaniel ranges the field, till he find a sent; or as a man should
run over the Alphabet, to start a rime.
Sometime a man desires to know the event of an action; and then he thinketh of some like
action past, and the events thereof one after another; supposing like events will follow like
actions. As he that foresees what wil become of a Criminal, re-cons what he has seen follow on
the like Crime before; having this order of thoughts, The Crime, the Officer, the Prison, the
Judge, and the Gallowes. Which kind of thoughts is called Foresight, and Prudence, or Providence; and sometimes Wisdome; though such conjecture, through the difficulty of observing all circumstances, be very fallacious. But this is certain; by how much one man has
more experience of things past, than another; by so much also he is more Prudent, and his
expectations the seldomer faile him. The Present onely has a being in Nature; things Past have a being in the Memory onely, but things to come have no being at all; the Future being but a fiction of the mind, applying the sequels of actions Past, to the actions that are Present; which
with most certainty is done by him that has most Experience; but not with certainty enough.
And though it be called Prudence, when the Event answereth our Expectation; yet in its own
nature, it is but Presumption. For the foresight of things to come, which is Providence, belongs
onely to him by whose will they are to come. From him onely, and supernaturally, proceeds
Prophecy. The best Prophet naturally is the best guesser; and the best guesser, he that is most
versed and studied in the matters he guesses at: for he hath most Signes to guesse by.
A Signe, is the Event Antecedent, of the Consequent; and contrarily, the Consequent of the
Antecedent, when the like Consequences have been observed, before: And the oftner they
have been observed, the lesse uncertain is the Signe. And therefore he that has most
experience in any kind of businesse, has most Signes, whereby to guesse at the Future time;
and consequently is the most prudent: And so much more prudent than he that is new in that
kind of business, as not to be equalled by any advantage of naturall and extemporary wit:
though perhaps many young men think the contrary.
Neverthelesse it is not Prudence that distinguisheth man from beast. There be beasts, that at a
year old observe more, and pursue that which is for their good, more prudently, than a child
can do at ten.
Conjecture of the time past.
As Prudence is a Præsumtion of the Future, contracted from the Experience of time Past: So there is a Præsumtion of things Past taken from other things (not future but) past also. For he
that hath seen by what courses and degrees, a flourishing State hath first come into civil
warre, and then to ruine; upon the sight of the ruines of any other State, will guesse, the like
warre, and the like courses have been there also. But this conjecture, has the same incertainty
almost with the conjecture of the Future; both being grounded onely upon Experience.
There is no other act of mans mind, that I can remember, naturally planted in him, so, as to
need no other thing, to the exercise of it, but to be born a man, and live with the use of his
five Senses. Those other Faculties, of which I shall speak by and by, and which seem proper to
man onely, are acquired, and encreased by study and industry; and of most men learned by
instruction, and discipline; and proceed all from the invention of Words, and Speech. For
besides Sense, and Thoughts, and the Trayne of thoughts, the mind of man has no other
motion; though by the help of Speech, and Method, the same Facultyes may be improved to
such a height, as to distinguish men from all other living Creatures.
Whatsoever we imagine, is Finite. Therefore there is no Idea, or conception of any thing we call Infinite. No man can have in his mind an Image of infinite magnitude; nor conceive infinite
swiftness, infinite time, or infinite force, or infinite power. When we say any thing is infinite,
we signifie onely, that we are not able to conceive the ends, and bounds of the thing named;
having no Conception of the thing, but of our own inability. And therefore the Name of God is used, not to make us conceive him; (for he is Incomprehensible; and his greatnesse, and
power are unconceivable;) but that we may honour him. Also because whatsoever (as I said
before,) we conceive, has been perceived first by sense, either all at once, or by parts; a man
can have no thought, representing any thing, not subject to sense. No man therefore can
conceive any thing, but he must conceive it in some place; and indued with some determinate