2. Influences on Hobbes:

Like any thinker, Hobbes was influenced by contemporary situation in England and intellectual cross currents of his time. In particular:

1. Civil war in England convinced him of brutish nature of human beings that can be only tackled by a strong and stable government. He favored monarchy because he believed that the state of war can be transformed into a civilized life only through it.

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2. He was influenced by Plato and Hobbes in his idea of social contract that is acknow­ledged in all quarters.

3. His concept of sovereignty was borrowed from Bodin. But, he developed it further with improvement.

4. ‘ Galileo’s mechanics influenced Hobbes to accept the mechanical nature of world.

5. He applied the study of geometry to the realm of politics under the influence of Euclid.

6. He was influenced by Machiavelli in his views on human nature.


Leviathan, De Corpse and Deceived

3. Methodology of Hobbes:

Hobbesian method was the geometrical method, the only scientific method in his opinion. It is a deductive method where conclusions are derived from assumptions or already established truths.

Hobbes believed in the mechanical nature of the world. To him, everything in the universe, even man and political institutions is a movement of particles. “Whatever phenomenon takes place in the world is the result of motion of particles”. It underlined following ideas.

1. There is nothing such a spirit or soul but everything is the resultant of motion of particles.

2. Materialist methodology rejected medieval apprehensions with the state and emphasized that it was a step forward. For it free men from endless struggles.

3. The individual remains the pivot round which his methodology revolves. In this way became the forerunners of middle class liberalism.

However, following criticisms are leveled against him.

1. Prof. Jones pointed out “Hobbes utterly failed to deduce either his psychological theory or his sociological theory from the laws of motion as he proposed to do”.

2. His deductive method cannot hold well in all cases. Political life is full of contingencies and complexities.

4. Hobbes on Human Nature:

Rightly said “all political philosophers have begun the study of state with the study of man”, but this is truer of Hobbes. In his scheme of thing, it is the individual around which the whole edifice of his thinking revolves.

Hobbes’s concept of human nature is closely intertwined with his mechanistic outlook. For him, motion of particles creates sensation in human mind. Sensations give rise to perception, imagination, memory, prudence and reason.

For Hobbes, reason is artificial creation of human mind. But, emotion and passion are natural and inborn attribute of human mind.

Further, he holds that emotion can be good or bad. The movement of mind which accompanies good is called pleasure and the movement of mind which accompanies bad or evil or aversion is called pain.

In his own words “the end of every man is continued success in obtaining those things which he desires”; in life there exists a perpetual and restless desire of power because it helps in getting pleasure and avoiding pain.

Since all men desire more or less the same thing and are roughly equal in strength and cunning, there is bound to be what, he calls “war of every man against every man”. Thus, man is essentially selfish, altruistic, non-rational, impulsive and self-centered. Such a nature is transformed while entering into contract and forming a state.

5. Criticism:

However, there have been serious objections leveled against his views on human nature.

1. His view of equal mental and physical strengths of all individual is contrary to experience.

2. His political psychology deduced from mechanics is ambiguous.

3. Prof. Vaughan points at a dilemma in Hobbesian human nature. He holds that in the state of nature individual are nasty, brutish and self-centered but become rational after contract. He questions how could there be an overnight transformation of human nature.