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


NATURE, the art whereby God hath made and governs 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 beginning whereof is in some principal part within; why may we not say, that all ‘automata’ (engines that move themselves by springs and wheels as doth a watch) have an artificial life? For what is the ‘heart’ but a ‘spring’; and the ‘nerves’ but so many ‘strings’; and the ‘joints’ but so many ‘wheels,’ giving motion to the whole body, such as was intended by the artificer? ‘Art’ goes yet further, imitating that rational and most excellent work of nature, ‘man.’ For by art is created that great ‘Leviathan’ called a ‘Commonwealth’ or ‘State,’ in Latin civitas, which is but an artificial man, though of greater stature and strength than the natural, for whose protection and defence it was intended; and in which the ‘sovereignty’ is an artificial ‘soul,’ as giving life and motion to the whole body; the ‘magistrates’ and other ‘officers’ of judicature and execution, artificial ‘joints’; ‘reward’ and ‘punishment,’ by which fastened to the seat of the sovereignty every joint and member is moved to perform his duty, are the ‘nerves,’ that do the same in the body natural; the ‘wealth’ and ‘riches’ of all the particular members are the ‘strength’; salus populi, the ‘people’s safety,’ its ‘business’; ‘counsellors,’ by whom all things needful for it to know are suggested unto it, are the ‘memory’; ‘equity’ and ‘laws,’ an artificial ‘reason’ and ‘will’; ‘concord,’ ‘health’; ‘sedition,’ ‘sickness’; and ‘civil war,’ ‘death.’ Lastly, the ‘pacts’ and ‘covenants’, by which the parts of this body politic 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 artificial 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 ‘sovereign,’ and what it is that ‘preserveth’ or ‘dissolveth’ it.

Thirdly, what is a ‘Christian commonwealth.’

Lastly, what is the ‘kingdom of darkness.’

Concerning the first, there is a saying much usurped of late that ‘wisdom’ 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 show 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; that is, nosce teipsum, ‘read thyself’: 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 saucy 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,’ ‘fear,’ etc., 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,’ ‘fear,’ ‘hope,’ etc.; not the similitude of the ‘objects’ of the passions, which are the things ‘desired,’ ‘feared,’ ‘hoped,’ etc.: for these the constitution individual, and particular education, do so vary, and they are so easy to be kept from our knowledge, that the characters of man’s heart, blotted and confounded as they are with dissembling, lying, counterfeiting, and erroneous doctrines, are legible only to Him that searcheth hearts. And though by men’s actions we do discover their design 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 decipher 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 only 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 mankind: 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 only to consider if he also find not the same in himself. For this kind of doctrine admitteth no other demonstration.