[from] Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan (1651)
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
NATURE hath made men so equal in the faculties of body and mind as that, though there be found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body or of quicker mind than another, yet when all is reckoned together the difference between man and man is not so considerable as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any benefit to which another may not pretend as well as he. For as to the strength of body, the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination or by confederacy with others that are in the same danger with himself.
And as to the faculties of the mind, setting aside the arts grounded
upon words, and especially that skill of proceeding upon general and infallible
rules, called science, which very few have and but in few things, as being
not a native faculty born with us, nor attained, as prudence, while we
look after somewhat else, I find yet a greater equality amongst men than
that of strength. For prudence is but experience, which equal time equally
bestows on all men in those things they equally apply themselves unto.
That which may perhaps make such equality incredible is but a vain conceit
of one's own wisdom, which almost all men think they have in a greater
degree than the vulgar; that is, than all men but themselves, and a few
others, whom by fame, or for concurring with themselves, they approve.
For such is the nature of men that howsoever they may acknowledge many
others to be more witty, or more eloquent or more learned, yet they will
From this equality of ability ariseth equality of hope in the attaining of our ends. And therefore if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies; and in the way to their end (which is principally their own conservation, and sometimes their delectation only) endeavour to destroy or subdue one another. And from hence it comes to pass that where an invader hath no more to fear than another man's single power, if one plant, sow, build, or possess a convenient seat, others may probably be expected to come prepared with forces united to dispossess and deprive him, not only of the fruit of his labour, but also of his life or liberty. And the invader again is in the like danger of another.
And from this diffidence of one another, there is no way for any man to secure himself so reasonable as anticipation; that is, by force, or wiles, to master the persons of all men he can so long till he see no other power great enough to endanger him: and this is no more than his own conservation requireth, and is generally allowed. Also, because there be some that, taking pleasure in contemplating their own power in the acts of conquest, which they pursue farther than their security requires, if others, that otherwise would be glad to be at ease within modest bounds, should not by invasion increase their power, they would not be able, long time, by standing only on their defence, to subsist. And by consequence, such augmentation of dominion over men being necessary to a man's conservation, it ought to be allowed him.
Again, men have no pleasure (but on the contrary a great deal of grief)
in keeping company where there is no power able to overawe them all. For
every man looketh that his companion should value him at the same rate
he sets upon himself, and upon all signs of contempt or undervaluing naturally
endeavours, as far as he dares (which amongst them that have no common
power to keep them in quiet is far enough to make them destroy each other),
to extort a greater value from his contemners, by damage; and from others,
by the example.
Hereby it is manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man. For war consisteth not in battle only, or the act of fighting, but in a tract of time, wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of time is to be considered in the nature of war, as it is in the nature of weather. For as the nature of foul weather lieth not in a shower or two of rain, but in an inclination thereto of many days together: so the nature of war consisteth not in actual fighting, but in the known disposition thereto during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is peace.
Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; 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.
It may seem strange to some man that has not well weighed these things
that Nature should thus dissociate and render men apt to invade and destroy
one another: and he may therefore, not trusting to this inference, made
from the passions, desire perhaps to have the same confirmed by experience.
Let him therefore consider with himself: when taking a journey, he arms
himself and seeks to go well accompanied; when going to sleep, he locks
his doors; when even in his house he locks his chests; and this when he
knows there be laws and public officers, armed, to revenge all injuries
shall be done him; what opinion he has of his fellow subjects, when he
rides armed; of his fellow citizens, when he locks his doors; and of his
children, and servants, when he locks his chests. Does he not there as
much accuse mankind by his actions as I do by my words? But neither of
us accuse man's nature in it. The desires, and other passions of man,
are in themselves no sin. No more are the actions that proceed from those
passions till they know a law that forbids them; which till laws be made
they cannot know, nor can any law be made till they have agreed
It may peradventure be thought there was never such a time nor condition
of war as this; and I believe it was never generally so, over all the
world: but there are many places where they live so now. For the savage
people in many places of America, except the government of small families,
the concord whereof dependeth on natural lust, have no government at all,
and live at this day in that brutish manner, as I said before. Howsoever,
it may be perceived what manner of life there would be, where there were
no common power to fear, by the manner of life which men that have formerly
lived under a peaceful government use to degenerate into a civil war.
To this war of every man against every man, this also is consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice, have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law; where no law, no injustice. Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues. Justice and injustice are none of the faculties neither of the body nor mind. If they were, they might be in a man that were alone in the world, as well as his senses and passions. They are qualities that relate to men in society, not in solitude. It is consequent also to the same condition that there be no propriety, no dominion, no mine and thine distinct; but only that to be every man's that he can get, and for so long as he can keep it. And thus much for the ill condition which man by mere nature is actually placed in; though with a possibility to come out of it, consisting partly in the passions, partly in his reason.
The passions that incline men to peace are: fear of death; desire of
such things as are necessary to commodious living; and a hope by their
industry to obtain them. And reason suggesteth convenient articles of
peace upon which men may be drawn to agreement. These articles are they
which otherwise are called the laws of nature, whereof I shall speak more
particularly in the two following chapters.
By liberty is understood, according to the proper signification of the word, the absence of external impediments; which impediments may oft take away part of a man's power to do what he would, but cannot hinder him from using the power left him according as his judgement and reason shall dictate to him.
A law of nature, lex naturalis, is a precept, or general rule, found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do that which is destructive of his life, or taketh away the means of preserving the same, and to omit that by which he thinketh it may be best preserved. For though they that speak of this subject use to confound jus and lex, right and law, yet they ought to be distinguished, because right consisteth in liberty to do, or to forbear; whereas law determineth and bindeth to one of them: so that law and right differ as much as obligation and liberty, which in one and the same matter are inconsistent.
And because the condition of man (as hath been declared in the precedent chapter) is a condition of war of every one against every one, in which case every one is governed by his own reason, and there is nothing he can make use of that may not be a help unto him in preserving his life against his enemies; it followeth that in such a condition every man has a right to every thing, even to one another's body. And therefore, as long as this natural right of every man to every thing endureth, there can be no security to any man, how strong or wise soever he be, of living out the time which nature ordinarily alloweth men to live. And consequently it is a precept, or general rule of reason: that every man ought to endeavour peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek and use all helps and advantages of war. The first branch of which rule containeth the first and fundamental law of nature, which is: to seek peace and follow it. The second, the sum of the right of nature, which is: by all means we can to defend ourselves.
From this fundamental law of nature, by which men are commanded to endeavour peace, is derived this second law: that a man be willing, when others are so too, as far forth as for peace and defence of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men as he would allow other men against himself. For as long as every man holdeth this right, of doing anything he liketh; so long are all men in the condition of war. But if other men will not lay down their right, as well as he, then there is no reason for anyone to divest himself of his: for that were to expose himself to prey, which no man is bound to, rather than to dispose himself to peace. This is that law of the gospel: Whatsoever you require that others should do to you, that do ye to them. And that law of all men, quod tibi fieri non vis, alteri ne feceris.
To lay down a man's right to anything is to divest himself of the liberty of hindering another of the benefit of his own right to the same. For he that renounceth or passeth away his right giveth not to any other man a right which he had not before, because there is nothing to which every man had not right by nature, but only standeth out of his way that he may enjoy his own original right without hindrance from him, not without hindrance from another. So that the effect which redoundeth to one man by another man's defect of right is but so much diminution of impediments to the use of his own right original.
Right is laid aside, either by simply renouncing it, or by transferring it to another. By simply renouncing, when he cares not to whom the benefit thereof redoundeth. By transferring, when he intendeth the benefit thereof to some certain person or persons. And when a man hath in either manner abandoned or granted away his right, then is he said to be obliged, or bound, not to hinder those to whom such right is granted, or abandoned, from the benefit of it: and that he ought, and it is duty, not to make void that voluntary act of his own: and that such hindrance is injustice, and injury, as being sine jure; the right being before renounced or transferred. So that injury or injustice, in the controversies of the world, is somewhat like to that which in the disputations of scholars is called absurdity. For as it is there called an absurdity to contradict what one maintained in the beginning; so in the world it is called injustice, and injury voluntarily to undo that which from the beginning he had voluntarily done. The way by which a man either simply renounceth or transferreth his right is a declaration, or signification, by some voluntary and sufficient sign, or signs, that he doth so renounce or transfer, or hath so renounced or transferred the same, to him that accepteth it. And these signs are either words only, or actions only; or, as it happeneth most often, both words and actions. And the same are the bonds, by which men are bound and obliged: bonds that have their strength, not from their own nature (for nothing is more easily broken than a man's word), but from fear of some evil consequence upon the rupture.
Whensoever a man transferreth his right, or renounceth it, it is either
in consideration of some right reciprocally transferred to himself, or
for some other good he hopeth for thereby. For it is a voluntary act:
and of the voluntary acts of every man, the object is some good to himself.
And therefore there be some rights which no man can be understood by any
words, or other signs, to have abandoned or transferred. As first a man
cannot lay down the right of resisting them that assault him by force
to take away his life, because he cannot be understood to aim thereby
at any good to himself. The same may be said of wounds, and chains, and
imprisonment, both because there is no benefit consequent to such patience,
as there is to the patience of suffering another to be wounded or imprisoned,
as also because a man cannot tell when he seeth men proceed against him
by violence whether they intend his death or not. And lastly the motive
and end for which this renouncing and transferring of right is introduced
is nothing else but the security of a man's person, in his life, and in
the means of so preserving life as not to be weary of it. And therefore
if a man by words, or other signs, seem to despoil himself of the end
for which those signs were intended, he is not to be understood as if
he meant it, or that it was his will, but that he was ignorant of how
such words and actions were to be interpreted.
Again, one of the contractors may deliver the thing contracted for on his part, and leave the other to perform his part at some determinate time after, and in the meantime be trusted; and then the contract on his part is called pact, or covenant: or both parts may contract now to perform hereafter, in which cases he that is to perform in time to come, being trusted, his performance is called keeping of promise, or faith, and the failing of performance, if it be voluntary, violation of faith.
When the transferring of right is not mutual, but one of the parties transferreth in hope to gain thereby friendship or service from another, or from his friends; or in hope to gain the reputation of charity, or magnanimity; or to deliver his mind from the pain of compassion; or in hope of reward in heaven; this is not contract, but gift, free gift, grace: which words signify one and the same thing.
Signs of contract are either express or by inference. Express are words spoken with understanding of what they signify: and such words are either of the time present or past; as, I give, I grant, I have given, I have granted, I will that this be yours: or of the future; as, I will give, I will grant, which words of the future are called promise.
Signs by inference are sometimes the consequence of words; sometimes
the consequence of silence; sometimes the consequence of actions; sometimes
the consequence of forbearing an action: and generally a
Words alone, if they be of the time to come, and contain a bare promise,
are an insufficient sign of a free gift and therefore not obligatory.
For if they be of the time to come, as, tomorrow I will give, they are
a sign I have not given yet, and consequently that my right is not transferred,
but remaineth till I transfer it by some
He that performeth first in the case of a contract is said to merit
that which he is to receive by the performance of the other, and he hath
it as due. Also when a prize is propounded to many, which is to be given
to him only that winneth, or money is thrown amongst many to be enjoyed
by them that catch it; though this be a free gift, yet so to win, or so
to catch, is to merit, and to have it as due. For the right is transferred
in the propounding of the prize, and in throwing down the money, though
it be not determined to whom, but by the event of the contention. But
there is between these two sorts of merit this difference, that in contract
I merit by virtue of my own power and the contractor's need, but in this
case of free gift I am enabled to merit only by the benignity of the giver:
in contract I merit at the contractor's hand that he should depart with
his right; in this case of gift, I merit not that the giver should part
with his right, but that when he has parted with it, it should be mine
rather than another's. And this I think to be the meaning of that distinction
of the Schools between meritum congrui and meritum condigni. For God Almighty,
having promised paradise to those men, hoodwinked with carnal desires,
that can walk through this world
The cause of fear, which maketh such a covenant invalid, must be always
something arising after the covenant made, as some new fact or other sign
of the will not to perform, else it cannot make the
He that transferreth any right transferreth the means of enjoying it,
as far as lieth in his power. As he that selleth land is understood to
transfer the herbage and whatsoever grows upon it; nor can he that sells
a mill turn away the stream that drives it. And they that give to a man
the right of government in sovereignty are
To make covenants with brute beasts is impossible, because not understanding our speech, they understand not, nor accept of any translation of right, nor can translate any right to another: and without mutual acceptation, there is no covenant.
To make covenant with God is impossible but by mediation of such as
God speaketh to, either by revelation supernatural or by His lieutenants
that govern under Him and in His name: for otherwise we
The matter or subject of a covenant is always something that falleth under deliberation, for to covenant is an act of the will; that is to say, an act, and the last act, of deliberation; and is therefore always understood to be something to come, and which judged possible for him that covenanteth to perform.
And therefore, to promise that which is known to be impossible is no covenant. But if that prove impossible afterwards, which before was thought possible, the covenant is valid and bindeth, though not to the thing itself, yet to the value; or, if that also be impossible, to the unfeigned endeavour of performing as much as is possible, for to more no man can be obliged.
Men are freed of their covenants two ways; by performing, or by being
forgiven. For performance is the natural end of obligation, and forgiveness
the restitution of liberty, as being a retransferring of that right in
which the obligation consisted. Covenants entered into by fear, in the
condition of mere nature, are
A covenant not to defend myself from force, by force, is always void. For (as I have shown before) no man can transfer or lay down his right to save himself from death, wounds, and imprisonment, the avoiding whereof is the only end of laying down any right; and therefore the promise of not resisting force, in no covenant transferreth any right, nor is obliging. For though a man may covenant thus, unless I do so, or so, kill me; he cannot covenant thus, unless I do so, or so, I will not resist you when you come to kill me. For man by nature chooseth the lesser evil, which is danger of death in resisting, rather than the greater, which is certain and present death in not resisting. And this is granted to be true by all men, in that they lead criminals to execution, and prison, with armed men, notwithstanding that such criminals have consented to the law by which they are condemned.
A covenant to accuse oneself, without assurance of pardon, is likewise
invalid. For in the condition of nature where every man is judge, there
is no place for accusation: and in the civil state the accusation is followed
with punishment, which, being force, a man is not obliged not to resist.
The same is also true of the accusation of those by whose condemnation
a man falls into misery; as of a father, wife, or benefactor. For the
testimony of such an accuser, if it be not willingly given, is presumed
to be corrupted by nature,
The force of words being (as I have formerly noted) too weak to hold
men to the performance of their covenants, there are in man's nature but
two imaginable helps to strengthen it. And those are either a fear
It appears also that the oath adds nothing to the obligation. For a
covenant, if lawful, binds in the sight of God, without the oath, as much
as with it; if unlawful, bindeth not at all, though it be confirmed with