Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679).

Essay by szsoomroCollege, UndergraduateA+, March 2004

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Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), was one of the few modern theorists who advocated the need for absolute powers to be assigned to sovereign. Hobbes lived during the time when England was going through a serious political turmoil in the reign of King Charles I. There were many conflicts in which King Charles I asserted his authority, and some members of Parliament responded by claiming that they had the right to make important decisions. This led to violence on many occasions.

These conflicts convinced Hobbes that peace and order could only be guaranteed if each country had a single, all-powerful authority. Thomas Hobbes wrote Leviathan during the so-called English Revolution (1640-1660) a time of great upheaval and disorder.

In The Leviathan (1651), Hobbes described an imaginary "state of nature" in which people live without government. Hobbes said that people living in the state of nature would be at constant war with one another.

"No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."(Hobbes, Leviathan)

In such a state all people would be free to do whatever they wanted to do, but nobody could enjoy this freedom because all people would have the right to trample the freedoms of others. Freedom is freedom only when it is secure and free from intervention. The only way out of this problem is for all citizens to agree to obey a single power that is strong enough to force everyone to follow rules and live in peace. People fearing death in the state of nature agree to abide by laws to preserve their lives. But you need one person in control because divided power leads to conflict & war.

"From this institution of a Commonwealth...