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HOBBES, Thomas



FROM that law of nature by which we are obliged to transfer to another such rights as, being retained, hinder the peace of mankind, there follows a third; which is this: that men perform their covenants made ; without which covenants are in vain, and but empty words; and the right of all men to all things remaining, we are still in the condition of war.

And in this law of nature consists the fountain and original of justice. For where no covenant has preceded, there has no right been transferred, and every man has right to everything and consequently, no action can be unjust . But when a covenant is made, then to break it is unjust and the definition of INJUSTICE is no other than the not performance of covenant . And whatsoever is not unjust is just .

But because covenants of mutual trust, where there is a fear of not perform been said in the former chapter), are invalid, though the original of justice be the making of covenants, yet injustice actually there can be none till the cause of such fear be taken away; which, while men are in the natural condition of war, cannot be done. Therefore before the names of just and unjust can have place, there must be some coercive power to compel men equally to the performance of their covenants, by the terror of some punishment greater than the benefit they expect by the breach of their covenant, and to make good that propriety which by mutual contract men acquire in recompense of the universal right they abandon: and such power there is none before the erection of a Commonwealth. And this is also to be gathered out of the ordinary definition of justice in the Schools: for they say that justice is the constant will of giving to every man his own. And therefore where there is no own, that is, no propriety, there is no injustice; and where there is no coercive power erected, that is, where there is no Commonwealth, there is no propriety, all men having right to all things: therefore where there is no Commonwealth, there nothing is unjust. So that the nature of justice consisteth in keeping of valid covenants, but the validity of covenants begins not but with the constitution of a civil power sufficient to compel men to keep them: and then it is also that propriety begins….

BOOK I, chapter X

The Power of a Man, (to take it Universally,) is his present means, to obtain some future apparent Good. And is either Original, or Instrumental.

Natural Power is the eminence of the Faculties of Body, or Mind: as extraordinary Strength, Form, Prudence, Arts, Eloquence, Liberality, Nobility. Instrumental are those Powers, which acquired by these, or by fortune, are means and Instruments to acquire more: as Riches, Reputation, Friends, and the secret working of God, which men call Good Luck. For the nature of Power, is in this point, like to Fame, increasing as it proceeds; or like the motion of heavy bodies, which the further they go, make still the more hast.

The Greatest of human Powers is that which is compounded of the Powers of most men, united by consent, in one person, Natural, or Civil, that has the use of all their Powers depending on his will; such as is the Power of a Common-Wealth: Or depending on the wills of each particular; such as is the Power of a Faction, or of divers factions leagued. Therefore to have servants, is Power; To have friends, is Power: for they are strengths united.

Also Riches joined with liberality, is Power; because it procures friends, and servants: Without liberality, not so; because in this case they defend not; but expose men to Envy, as a Prey.

Reputation of power, is Power; because it draws with it the adherence of those that need protection.

So is Reputation of love of a man’s Country, (called popularity,) for the same Reason.

Also, what quality soever makes a man beloved, or feared of many; or the reputation of such quality, is Power; because it is a means to have the assistance, and service of many.

Good success is Power; because it makes reputation of Wisdom, or good fortune; which makes men either fear him, or rely on him.

Affability of men already in power, in increase of Power; because it gains love.

Reputation of Prudence in the conduct of Peace or War, is Power; because to prudent men, we commit the government of ourselves, more willingly than to others.

Nobility is Power, not in all places, but only in those Commonwealths, where it has Privileges: for in such privileges consists their Power.

Eloquence is Power; because it is seeming Prudence.

Form is Power; because being a promise of Good, it recommends men to the favour of women and strangers.

The Sciences are small Power; because not eminent; and therefore, not acknowledged in any man; nor are at all, but in a few; and in them, but of a few things. For Science is of that nature, as none can understand it to be, but such as in a good measure have attained it.

Arts of public use, as Fortification, making of Engines, and other Instruments of War; because they confer to Defence, and Victory, are Power: and though the true Mother of them, be Science, namely the Mathematics; yet, because they are brought into the light, by the hand of the Artificer, they be esteemed (the Midwife passing with the vulgar for the Mother), as his issue.

The Value, or Worth of a man, is as of all other things, his Price; that is to say, so much as would be given for the use of his Power: And therefore is not absolute; but a thing dependent on the need and judgment of another.


Nature has made men so equal in the faculties of body and mind that, though there be found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body or of quicker mind than another, yet when all is taken together, the difference between man and man is not so considerable as that one man can claim to himself any benefit which another may not claim as well. For as to the strength of body, the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination or by alliance with others that are in the same danger with himself.

And as to the faculties of the mind … I find yet a greater equality amongst men than that of strength. …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 any vulgar person… But this proves that men are in that point equal, rather than unequal. For there is not ordinarily a greater sign of the equal distribution of anything than that every man is contented with his share.

From this equality of ability arises 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 goal they endeavor to destroy or subdue one 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 until he sees no other power great enough to endanger him. And this is no more than his own preservation requires, and is generally allowed.… As a consequence, such augmentation of dominion over men being necessary to a man's preservation, it ought to be allowed him.

Again, men have no pleasure in keeping company where there is no power able to overawe them all. For every man expects that his companion should value him at the same rate he sets upon himself, and upon all signs of contempt or undervaluing he naturally endeavors, as far as he dares to damage those who show him contempt.

So in the nature of man, we find three principal causes of quarrel. First, competition; secondly, diffidence; thirdly, glory.

The first makes men invade for gain; the second, for safety; and the third, for reputation. The first use violence to make themselves masters of other men's persons, wives, children, and cattle; the second, to defend them; the third, for trifles, as a word, a smile, a different opinion, and any other sign of undervalue, either direct in their persons or by reflection in their kindred, their friends, their nation, their profession, or their name.