Thomas Hobbes was one of the most influential people in history. His political ideas and observations, which were considered to be extraordinary during his time, helped him gain several supporters and become well-known among his peers. They endangered his life at one point but, as time passed, they came to inspire famous philosophers like Immanuel Kant, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau and even became the foundation of Western governments and political thought.
No one would have expected Thomas Hobbes to become one of the leading political philosophers in history. His father, a disgraced vicar, left him, his siblings, and his mother to escape the scandal he was involved in. Fortunately, Hobbes’s uncle took care of the family and saw to it that the children got an education. Hobbes was a good pupil, and he went on to become a tutor to children of lords, earls, and marquesses. Through his connections, he had the chance to interact with royals and other people of power, observe the influence of wealth and power, and understand government structures.
With his knowledge and experience, Hobbes was able to come up with his interesting ideas as well as several bodies of work. These include:
The Translation Of The History Of The Peloponnesian War
Hobbes worked on this translation when he was in his 40s, while he was tutoring young royals. During this time, his attention was focused on the study of classic Latin and Greek works. His efforts on the “History of the Peloponnesian War”, which was written by Athenian historian Thucydides, resulted to the first translation of this historical account from Greek to English.
The Elements Of Law, Natural, And Politic
This work is unique because Hobbes didn’t mean for it to become a book. Rather, he wrote it as a treatise to defend King Charles I during the time when the monarch and the Parliament were arguing over power. His piece grabbed the attention of royalists, who often quoted him during debates, and soon Hobbes became linked with them. His treatise was widely circulated and eventually was recognized as the first book that outlined his political philosophy.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out well for Hobbes despite the success of his book. The conflict between the king and the Parliament eventually resulted into the English Civil Wars, with the latter overpowering the monarchy. Since Hobbes was believed to be a royalist, he had to leave England and escape to Paris to protect his life.
The Elements Of Philosophy Trilogy
Hobbes’s trilogy is composed of “De Cive” (Concerning the Citizen), “De Corpore” (Concerning Body) and “De Homine” (Concerning Man). These books are seen as Hobbes’s attempt to organize political, psychological, and natural science concepts and arrange them into a hierarchy that describes not just the nature of men but also of the universe. In these works, Hobbes talks about morality and politics as well as scientific and mathematical principles, incorporating the ideas of famous scientists like Johannes Kepler and Galileo.
Hobbes first wrote “De Cive” in 1642 when he was living in France, though he meant for the book to be the last in the series. In this book, he outlined his political and philosophical ideas, which were influenced by the civil unrest that was taking place in England during the time. More than ten years passed before he was able to write and publish the remaining two books. “De Corpore” came out in 1655, while “De Homine” was published three years later.
This is the most well-known book by Hobbes, and people almost always remember him for it even though he had written several other books. Written in 1651 and divided into four chapters, “Leviathan” expands on the concepts that Hobbes had introduced in the “De Cive”. It later became one of the most important books on Western government and politics, along with “The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli, “The Social Contract” by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and “Second Treatise of Government” by John Locke.
Leviathan is a Jewish term that refers to a sea monster, and Hobbes uses this imagery to refer to a government that will protect people from their own selfish desires and ways and keep chaos at bay. He also points out that, left to their own devices and without a strong system in place to govern them, people will ultimately end up declaring war against everyone because it’s in their nature.
The things listed above are some of Hobbes’ most popular works, but it’s important to note that he also had lesser known projects. While he worked as a tutor, he became interested in mathematics (particularly geometry), and he later branched into learning about optics. His knowledge and interest led him to read Rene Descartes works (namely “Optics”, “Discourse”, and “Meditations on First Philosophy”) and write reviews wherein he outlined his disagreement with Descartes’s theory. When Descartes read Hobbes’ comments, he sent a response, and this paved the way to communication between the two. Eventually, Hobbes’ opinions became a part of “Meditations on First Philosophy”; they were included in the “Objections” appendix of the book.
Hobbes’s other works included translations of “The Odyssey” and “The Iliad”, which he published when he returned to England in the 1670s. Aside from these translations, Hobbes also created an autobiography in his later years, and he made it unique by writing it in Latin verse. Historians often note how curious it was for Hobbes to produce these projects — which seemed to be a huge leap from his successful political and philosophical books — but it’s not really surprising since classic Greek and Latin works had always been his first love, so to speak.
Hobbes had several other works, but he was not allowed to publish them when he returned to England. These works (like “Behemoth, or The Epitome of The Civil Wars OF England” and “A Dialogue between a Philosopher and a Student of the Common Laws of England”) were made public only after he passed away.
These are just some of the achievements of Thomas Hobbes. Through his work, he was able to lay the groundwork for the government systems that many people enjoy today.