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Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679). Of Man, Being the First Part of Leviathan.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Chapter VIII

Of the Virtues Commonly Called Intellectual, and Their Contrary Defects

VIRTUE generally, in all sorts of subjects, is somewhat that is valued for eminence, and consisteth in comparison. For, if all things were equal in all men, nothing would be prized. And by ‘virtues intellectual’ are always understood such abilities of the mind as men praise, value, and desire should be in themselves, and go commonly under the name of a ‘good wit,’ though the same word ‘wit’ be used also to distinguish one certain ability from the rest.

These ‘virtues’ are of two sorts, ‘natural’ and ‘acquired.’ By natural I mean not that which a man hath from his birth; for that is nothing else but sense, wherein men differ so little one from another and from brute beasts as it is not be reckoned amongst virtues. But I mean that ‘wit’ which is gotten by use only and experience; without method, culture, or instruction. This ‘natural wit’ consisteth principally in two things, ‘celerity of imagining,’ that is, swift succession of one thought to another, and steady direction to some approved end. On the contrary, a slow imagination maketh that defect or fault of the mind which is commonly called ‘dulness,’ ‘stupidity,’ and sometimes by other names that signify slowness of motion or difficulty to be moved.

And this difference of quickness is caused by the difference of men’s passions, that love and dislike, some one thing, some another; and therefore some men’s thoughts run one way, some another; and are held to and observe differently the things that pass through their imagination. And whereas in this succession of men’s thoughts there is nothing to observe in the things they think on, but either in what they be ‘like one another,’ or in what they be ‘unlike,’ or ‘what they serve for,’ or ‘how they serve to such a purpose;’ those that observe their similitudes, in case they be such as are but rarely observed by others, are said to have a ‘good wit,’ by which in this occasion is meant a ‘good fancy.’ But they that observe their differences and dissimilitudes, which is called ‘distinguishing’ and ‘discerning’ and ‘judging’ between thing and thing, in case such discerning be not easy, are said to have a ‘good judgment;’ and, particularly in matter of conversation and business, wherein times, places, and persons, are to be discerned, this virtue is called ‘discretion.’ The former, that is, fancy, without the help of judgment, is not commended as a virtue; but the latter, which is judgment and discretion, is commended for itself, without the help of fancy. Besides the discretion of times, places, and persons, necessary to a good fancy, there is required also an often application of his thoughts to their end, that is to say, to some use to be made of them. This done, he that hath this virtue will be easily fitted with similitudes that will please not only by illustrations of his discourse, and adorning it with new and apt metaphors, but also by the rarity of their invention. But without steadiness and direction to some end a great fancy is one kind of madness; such as they have that, entering into any discourse, are snatched from their purpose by everything that comes in their thought, into so many and so long digressions and parentheses that they utterly lose themselves—which kind of folly I know no particular name for, but the cause of it is sometimes want of experience, whereby that seemeth to a man new and rare which doth not so to others, sometimes pusillanimity, by which that seems great to him which other men think a trifle; and whatsoever is new or great, and therefore thought fit to be told, withdraws a man by degrees from the intended way of his discourse.

In a good poem, whether it be ‘epic’ or ‘dramatic,’ as also in ‘sonnets,’ ‘epigrams,’ and other pieces, both judgment and fancy are required; but the fancy must be more eminent, because they please for the extravagancy, but ought not to displease by indiscretion.

In a good history the judgment must be eminent, because the goodness consisteth in the method, in the truth, and in the choice of the actions that are most profitable to be known. Fancy has no place but only in adorning the style.

In orations of praise, and in invectives, the fancy is predominant, because the design is not truth, but to honour or dishonour, which is done by noble or by vile comparisons. The judgment does but suggest what circumstances make an action laudable or culpable.

In hortatives and pleadings, as truth or disguise serveth best to the design in hand, so is the judgment or the fancy most required.

In demonstration, in counsel, and all rigorous search of truth, judgment does all, except sometimes the understanding have need to be opened by some apt similitude, and then there is so much use of fancy. But for metaphors, they are in this case utterly excluded. For seeing they openly profess deceit: to admit them into counsel or reasoning were manifest folly.

And in any discourse whatsoever, if the defect of discretion be apparent, how extravagant soever the fancy be, the whole discourse will be taken for a sign of want of wit; and so will it never when the discretion is manifest, though the fancy be never so ordinary.

The secret thoughts of a man run over all things, holy, profane, clean, obscene, grave, and light, without shame or blame; which verbal discourse cannot do farther than the judgment shall approve of the time, place, and persons. An anatomist or a physician may speak or write his judgment of unclean things, because it is not to please but profit; but for another man to write his extravagant and pleasant fancies of the same is as if a man, from being tumbled into the dirt, should come and present himself before good company. And it is the want of discretion that makes the difference. Again, in professed remissness of mind, and familiar company, a man may play with the sounds and equivocal significations of words, and that many times with encounters of extraordinary fancy; but in a sermon, or in public, or before persons unknown, or whom we ought to reverence, there is no jingling of words that will not be accounted folly; and the difference is only in the want of discretion. So that, where wit is wanting, it is not fancy that is wanting but discretion. Judgment therefore without fancy is wit, but fancy without judgment, not.

When the thoughts of a man that has a design in hand, running over a multitude of things, observes how they conduce to that design or what design they may conduce unto, if his observations be such as are not easy or usual, this wit of his is called ‘prudence,’ and depends on much experience and memory of the like things and their consequences heretofore. In which there is not much difference of men as there is in their fancies and judgments, because the experience of men equal in age is not much unequal as to the quantity, but lies in different occasions, every one having his private designs. To govern well a family and a kingdom are not different degrees of prudence, but different sorts of business; no more than to draw a picture in little, or as great or greater than the life, are different degrees of art. A plain husbandman is more prudent in affairs of his own house than a privy-councillor in the affairs of another man.

To prudence, if you add the use of unjust or dishonest means, such as usually are prompted to men by fear or want, you have that crooked wisdom which is called ‘craft,’ which is a sign of pusillanimity. For magnanimity is contempt of unjust or dishonest helps. And that which the Latins call versutia, translated into English ‘shifting,’ and is a putting off of a present danger or incommodity by engaging into a greater, as when a man robs one to pay another, is but a short-sighted craft, called versutia, from versura, which signifies taking money at usury for the present payment of interest.

As for ‘acquired wit,’ I mean acquired by method and instruction, there is none but reason, which is grounded on the right use of speech, and produceth the sciences. But of reason and science I have already spoken, in the fifth and sixth chapters.

The causes of this difference of wits are in the passions; and the difference of passions proceedeth partly from the different constitution of the body, and partly from different education. For if the difference proceeded from the temper of the brain and the organs of sense, either exterior or interior, there would be no less difference of men in their sight, hearing, or other senses, than in their fancies and discretions. It proceeds therefore from the passions, which are different not only from the difference of men’s complexions, but also from their difference of customs and education.

The passions that most of all cause the difference of wit are principally the more or less desire of power, of riches, of knowledge, and of honour. All which may be reduced to the first, that is, desire of power. For riches, knowledge, and honour, are but several sorts of power.

And, therefore, a man who has no great passion for any of these things, but is, as men term it, indifferent, though he may be so far a good man as to be free from giving offence, yet he cannot possibly have either a great fancy or much judgment. For the thoughts are to the desires as scouts and spies, to range abroad and find the way of the things desired, all steadiness of the mind’s motion, and all quickness of the same, proceeding from thence; for as to have no desire is to be dead, so to have weak passions is dulness; and to have passions indifferently for everything, ‘giddiness’ and ‘distraction’; and to have stronger and more vehement passions for anything than is ordinarily seen in others is that which men call ‘madness.’

Whereof there be almost as many kinds as of the passions themselves. Sometimes the extraordinary and extravagant passion proceedeth from the evil constitution of the organs of the body, or harm done them; and sometimes the hurt and indisposition of the organs is caused by the vehemence or long continuance of the passion. But in both cases the madness is of one and the same nature.

The passion whose violence, or continuance, maketh madness is either great ‘vain-glory,’ which is commonly called ‘pride’ and ‘self-conceit,’ or great ‘dejection’ of mind.

Pride subjecteth a man to anger, the excess whereof is the madness called ‘rage’ and ‘fury’. And thus it comes to pass that excessive desire of revenge when it becomes habitual, hurteth the organs, and becomes rage; that excessive love, with jealousy, becomes also rage; excessive opinion of a man’s own self, for divine inspiration, for wisdom, learning, form and the like, becomes distraction and giddiness; the same, joined with envy, rage; vehement opinion of the truth of anything contradicted by others, rage.

Dejection subjects a man to causeless fears; which is a madness; commonly called ‘melancholy,’ apparent also in divers manners, as in haunting of solitudes and graves, in superstitious behaviour, and in fearing, some one some another particular thing. In sum, all passions that produce strange and unusual behaviour are called by the general name of madness. But of the several kinds of madness he that would take the pains might enrol a legion. And if the excesses be madness, there is no doubt but the passions themselves, when they tend to evil, are degrees of the same.

For example, though the effect of folly in them that are possessed of an opinion of being inspired be not visible always in one man by any very extravagant action that proceedeth from such passion, yet, when many of them conspire together, the rage of the whole multitude is visible enough. For what argument of madness can there be greater than to clamour, strike, and throw stones at out best friends? Yet this is somewhat less than such a multitude will do. For they will clamour, fight against, and destroy, those by whom all their lifetime before they have been protected and secured from injury. And if this be madness in the multitude, it is the same in every particular man. For, as in the midst of the sea though a man perceive no sound of that part of the water next him, yet he is well assured that part contributes as much to the roaring of the sea as any other part of the same quantity, so also, though we perceive no great unquietness in one or two men, yet we may be well assured that their singular passions are parts of the seditious roaring of a troubled nation. And if there were nothing else that bewrayed their madness, yet that very arrogating such inspiration to themselves is argument enough. If some man in Bedlam should entertain you with sober discourse, and you desire in taking leave, to know what he were, that you might another time requite his civility, and he should tell you he were God the Father, I think you need expect no extravagant action or argument of his madness.

This opinion of inspiration, called commonly private spirit, begins very often from some lucky finding of an error generally held by others; and not knowing, or not remembering, by what conduct of reason they came to so singular a truth (as they think it, though it be many times an untruth they light on) they presently admire themselves, as being in the special grace of God Almighty, who hath revealed the same to them supernaturally by His Spirit.

Again, that madness is nothing else but too much appearing passion may be gathered out of the effects of wine, which are the same with those of the evil disposition of the organs. For the variety of behaviour in men that have drunk too much is the same with that of madmen: some of them raging, others loving, others laughing, all extravagantly, but according to their several domineering passions; for the effect of the wine does but remove dissimulation and take from them the sight of the deformity of their passions. For I believe the most sober men, when they walk alone without care and employment of the mind, would be unwilling the vanity and extravagance of their thoughts at that time should be publicly seen; which is a confession that passions unguided are for the most part mere madness.

The opinions of the world, both in ancient and later ages, concerning the cause of madness have been two. Some deriving them from the passions; some from demons, or spirits, either good or bad, which they thought might enter into a man, possess him, and move his organs in such strange and uncouth manner as madmen use to do. The former sort, therefore, called such men madmen; but the latter called them sometimes ‘demoniacs,’ that is, possessed with spirits; sometimes energumeni, that is, agitated or moved with spirits; and now in Italy they are called not only pazzi, madmen but, also spiritati, men possessed.

There was once a great conflux of people in Abdera, a city of the Greeks, at the acting of the tragedy of Andromeda upon an extreme hot day; whereupon a great many of the spectators falling into fevers had this accident from the heat and from the tragedy together, that they did nothing but pronounce iambics, with the names of Perseus and Andromeda; which, together with the fever, was cured by the coming on of winter; and this madness was thought to proceed from the passion imprinted by the tragedy. Likewise there reigned a fit of madness in another Grecian city, which seized only the young maidens, and caused many of them to hang themselves. This was by most then thought an act of the devil. But one that suspected that contempt of life in them might proceed from some passion of the mind, and supposing that they did not contemn also their honour, gave counsel to the magistrates to strip such as so hanged themselves, and let them hang out naked. This, the story says, cured that madness. But, on the other side, the same Grecians did often ascribe madness to the operation of Eumenides, or Furies; and sometimes of Ceres, Phœbus, and other gods; so much did men attribute to phantasms as to think them aërial living bodies, and generally to call them spirits. And as the Romans in this held the same opinion with the Greeks, so also did the Jews, for they called madmen prophets, or, according as they thought the spirits good or bad, demoniacs; and some of them called both prophets and demoniacs madmen; and some called the same man both demoniac and madman. But for the Gentiles it is no wonder, because diseases and health, vices and virtues, and many natural accidents, were with them termed and worshipped as demons. So that a man was to understand by demon as well sometimes an ague as a devil. But for the Jews to have such opinion is somewhat strange. For neither Moses nor Abraham pretended to prophesy by possession of a spirit; but from the voice of God, or by a vision or dream; nor is there anything in his law, moral or ceremonial, by which they were taught there was any such enthusiasm or any possession. When God is said (Numb. xi. 25) to take from the spirit that was in Moses, and give to the seventy elders, the Spirit of God (taking it for the substance of God) is not divided. The Scriptures by the Spirit of God in man mean a man’s spirit, inclined to godliness. And where it is said (Exod. xxviii. 3) ‘whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom to make garments for Aaron’ is not meant a spirit put into them that can make garments, but the wisdom of their own spirits in that kind of work. In the like sense, the spirit of man, when it produceth unclean actions, is ordinarily called an unclean spirit, and so other spirits, though not always, yet as often as the virtue or vice so styled is extraordinary and eminent. Neither did the other prophets of the Old Testament pretend enthusiasm, or that God spake in them, but to them, by voice, vision, or dream; and the ‘burthen of the Lord’ was not possession, but command. How then could the Jews fall into this opinion of possession? I can imagine no reason but that which is common to all men, namely the want of curiosity to search natural causes, and their placing felicity in the acquisition of the gross pleasures of the senses and the things that most immediately conduce thereto. For they that see any strange and unusual ability or defect in a man’s mind, unless they see withal from what cause it may probably proceed, can hardly think it natural; and, if not natural, they must needs think it supernatural; and then what can it be but that either God or the devil is in him? And hence it came to pass, when our Saviour (Mark iii, 21) was compassed about with the multitude, those of the house doubted He was mad, and went out to hold Him; but the Scribes said He had Beelzebub, and that was it by which He cast out devils; as if the greater madman had awed the lesser; and that (John x, 20) some said ‘He hath a devil, and is mad,’ whereas others holding Him for a prophet said ‘these are not the words of one that hath a devil.’ So in the Old Testament he that came to anoint Jehu (2 Kings ix, 11) was a prophet; but some of the company asked Jehu ‘what came that madman for’? So that in sum it is manifest that whosoever behaved himself in extraordinary manner was thought by the Jews to be possessed either with a good or evil spirit, except by the Sadducees, who erred so far on the other hand as not to believe there were at all any spirits, which is very near to direct atheism; and thereby perhaps the more provoked others to term such men demoniacs rather than madmen.

But why then does our Saviour proceed in the curing of them, as if they were possessed, and not as if they were mad? To which I can give no other kind of answer but that which is given to those that urge the Scripture in like manner against the opinion of the motion of the earth. The Scripture was written to show unto men the kingdom of God, and to prepare their minds to become his obedient subjects, leaving the world, and the philosophy thereof to the disputation of men, for the exercising of their natural reason. Whether the earth’s or sun’s motion make the day and night, or whether the exorbitant action of men proceed form passion or from the devil, so we worship him not, it is all one, as to our obedience and subjection to God Almighty; which is the thing for which the Scripture was written. As for that our Saviour speaketh to the disease as to a person, it is the usual phrase of all that cure by words only, as Christ did and enchanters pretend to do, whether they speak to a devil or not. For is not Christ also said (Matt. viii, 26) to have rebuked the winds? Is not He said also (Luke iv, 39) to rebuke a fever? Yet this does not argue that a fever is a devil. And whereas many of the devils are said to confess Christ, it is not necessary to interpret those places otherwise than that those madmen confessed Him. And whereas our Saviour (Matt. xii, 43) speaketh of an unclean spirit, that having gone out of a man wandereth through dry places, seeking rest and finding none, and returning into the same man with seven other spirits worse than himself, it is manifestly a parable alluding to a man that after a little endeavour to quit his lusts is vanquished by the strength of them, and becomes seven times worse than he was. So that I see nothing at all in the Scripture that requireth a belief that demoniacs were any other thing but madmen.

There is yet another fault in the discourses of some men, which may also be numbered amongst the sorts of madness, namely that abuse of words, whereof I have spoken before in the fifth chapter, by the name of absurdity. And that is when men speak such words as, put together, have in them no signification at all, but are fallen upon by some, through misunderstanding of the words they have received and repeat by rote, by others from intention to deceive by obscurity. And this is incident to none but those that converse in questions of matters incomprehensible, as the schoolmen, or in questions of abstruse philosophy. The common sort of men seldom speak insignificantly, and are therefore by those other egregious persons counted idiots. But, to be assured their words are without anything correspondent to them in the mind, there would need some examples, which if any man require, let him take a schoolman in his hands and see if he can translate any one chapter concerning any difficult point, as the Trinity, the Deity, the nature of Christ, transubstantiation, free-will, etc., into any of the modern tongues, so as to make the same intelligible, or into any tolerable Latin, such as they were acquainted withal, that lived when the Latin tongue was vulgar. What is the meaning of these words: ‘The first cause does not necessarily inflow anything into the second, by force of the essential subordination of the second causes, by which it may help it to work?’ They are the translation of the title of the sixth chapter of Suarez, first book, Of the Concourse, Motion, and Help of God. When men write whole volumes of such stuff, are they not mad, or intend to make others so? And particularly in the question of transubstantiation, where, after certain words spoken, they that say the whiteness, roundness, magnitude, quality, corruptibility, all which are incorporeal, etc., go out of the wafer into the body of our blessed Saviour, do they not make those ‘nesses,’ ‘tudes,’ and ‘ties’ to be so many spirits possessing his body? For by spirits they mean always things that, being incorporeal, are nevertheless movable from one place to another. So that this kind of absurdity may rightly be numbered amongst the many sorts of madness, and all the time that guided by clear thoughts of their worldly lust they forbear disputing or writing thus, but lucid intervals. And thus much of the virtues and defects intellectual.