Hobbes, Thomas an English philosopher and deist, was born April 5,1588, at Malmesbury, in Wiltshire, and was educated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford. In 1608 he became tutor to lord Hardwick, subsequently earl of Devonshire; and, after their return from traveling, he resided in the family for many years, during which period he translated Thucydides, and made a Latin version of some of lord Bacon's works. In 1628 he went abroad with the son of Sir Gervase Clifton, with whom he remained some time in France. He returned in 1631 to undertake the education of the young earl of Devonshire. In 1634 he went with his new pupil to Paris, where he applied himself much to natural philosophy, and afterwards to Italy, where he formed an acquaintance with Galileo. He returned to England in 1637, and soon after wrote his Elementa Philosophica de Cive (Par. 1642). A second edition was printed in Holland in 1647, under the superintendence of M. Sorbire. In 1640, after the meeting of the Long Parliament, Hobbes withdrew to Paris. Here he became acquainted with Des Cartes and Gassendi. In 1647 Hobbes was appointed mathematical tutor to the Prince of Wales, afterwards Charles II. His treatises entitled Human Nature and Me Corpore Politico were published in London in 1650, and in the following year the Leviathan. Of the last work he caused a copy to be fairly written out on vellum, and presented to Charles II; but the king, having been informed by some divines that it contained principles subversive both of religion and civil government, withdrew his favor from Hobbes, and forbade him his presence. After the publication of the Leviathan Hobbes returned again to England, and published his Letter upon Liberty and Necessity (1654), which led to a long controversy with bishop Bramhall. SEE BRAMHALL. It was about this time, too, that he began a controversy with Dr. Wallis, the mathematical professor at Oxford, which lasted until Hobbes's death. By this last controversy he got no honor. In 1666 his Leviathan and De Cive were censured by Parliament. Shortly after Hobbes was still further alarmed by the introduction of a bill into the House of Commons for the punishment of atheism and profaneness; but this storm blew over. In 1672 Hobbes wrote his own life in Latin verse, being then in his eighty-fifth year, and in 1675 published his translation of the Iliad and Odyssey. This translation is wholly wanting in Homeric fire, bald and vulgar in style and diction; and it must be allowed that the fame of the philosopher is anything but heightened by his efforts as a poet. Hobbes's Dispute with Laney, bishop of Ely, concerning Liberty and Necessity, appeared in 1676; and in 1679 he sent his Behemoth, or a History of the Civil Wars from 1640 to 1660, to a bookseller, with a letter in which he requested him not to publish it until a fitting occasion offered. It appears from this letter that Hobbes, being anxious to publish the book some time before, had with that view shown it to the king, who refused his permission, and for this reason Hobbes would not now allow the bookseller to publish it. It appeared, however, almost immediately after Hobbes's death, which took place by paralysis Dec. 4, 1679.
In philosophy Hobbes was the precursor of the modern materialistic schools of Sensationalism and Positivism. Professing to reject "everything hypothetical (of all qualitatum occultarum), he affected to confine himself to the comprehensible, or, in other words, to the phenomena of motion and sensation. He defines philosophy to be the knowledge, through correct reasoning, of phenomena or appearances from the causes presented by them, or, vice versa, the ascertaining of possible causes by means of known effects. Philosophy embraces as an object every body that admits the representation of production and presents the phenomena of composition and decomposition. Taking the term Body in its widest extent, he divides its meaning into natural and political, and devotes to the consideration of the first his Philosophia Naturalis, comprehending the departments of logic, ontology, metaphysics, physics, etc.; and to that of the second his Philosophia Civilis, or Polity, comprehending morals. All knowledge is derived from the senses; but our sensational representations are nothing more than appearances within us, the effect of external objects operating on the brain, or setting in motion the vital spirits. Thought is calculation (computatio), and implies addition and subtraction. Truth and falsehood consist in the relations of the terms employed. We can become cognizant only of the finite; the infinite cannot be imagined, much less known: the term does not convey any accurate knowledge, but belongs to a Being whom we can know only by means of faith. Consequently, religious doctrines do not come within the compass of philosophical discussion, but are determinable by the laws of religion itself. All, therefore, that Hobbes has left free to the contemplation of philosophy is the knowledge of our natural bodies (somatology), of the mind (psychology), and polity. His whole theory has reference to the external and objective, inasmuch as he derives all our emotions from the movements of the body, and describes the soul itself as something corporeal, though of extreme tenuity." From these principles no moral or religious theory can flow, except that of infidelity. Though none of Hobbes's writings are expressly leveled against Christianity, few authors have really done more to subvert the principles of morality and religion. He makes self-love the fundamental law of nature, and utility its end; morality is nothing but utility, and the soul is not immortal. His writings gave rise to a very voluminous controversy. "The Philosopher of Malmesbury," says Dr. Warburton, "was the terror of the last age, as Tindall and Collins are of this. The press sweat with controversy, and every young churchman militant would try his arms in thundering on Hobbes's steel cap" (Divine Legation, 2, 9, Preface). His principal antagonists were Clarendon, in A brief View of the dangerous and pernicious Errors to Church and State in Mr. Hobbes's Book entitled Leviathan; Cudworth, in his Eternal and immutable Morality; and bishop Cumberland, in his Latin work on the Laws of Nature. Bishop Bramhall's controversy with Hobbes has been noticed above. We may also mention archbishop Tenison's Creed of Mr. Hobbes examined, and Dr. Eachard's Dialogues on Hobbes. Hobbes's whole works have been carefully re-edited by Sir William Molesworth, the Latin under the title Opera Philosophica quae Latine Scripsit W. Hobbes (Lond. 1839-45, 5 vols. 8vo); English Works now first collected (London, 1839, 4 vols. 8vo). See English Cyclopedia; Tennemann, Man. Hist. Philos. § 324; Mackintosh, Ethical
Philosophy, § 4; Mosheim, Ch. Hist. cent. 17 § 22; Hallam, Lit. of Europe, 3, 271; Leland, Deistical Writers, ch. 2; Morell, Modern Philosophy, pt. 1, ch. 1, § 1; Bayle, Genesis Dict. s.v.; Shedd, History of Doctrines, vol. 2; British Quarterly Review, 6:155; Lewis, Hist. of Phil. 2. 226-235; Krug, Handworterbuch d. philos. Wissensch. 2, 441-443; Leckey, Hist. of Rationalism (see Index); Hurst, Hist. of Rationalism, p. 114 sq.; Christian Examiner, 29, 320; Leidner, Philos. p. 270; Cudworth, Intell. Syst. 2; Farrar, Hist. of Free Thought, p. 121 sq.; Dorner, Gesch. d. prot. Theol.; Gass, Gesch. d. protest. Dogmat. 3:39, 322; Waterland, Works (see Index, vol. vi); Watson, Works; Tennemann, Gesch. d. Philos. 10; Sigwart, Gesch. d. Philos. 2 (see Index); Schröckh, Kirchen-Gesch. s. d. Reform. 3; Doderlein, Lit. (see Index); Westm. Review, April, 1867, p..162; Contemp. Review, Feb. 1868, vol. 3; Bibliotheca Sacra, 8, 127.