Early Enlightenment Thinking    Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)

From Leviathan (1660)

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.


Hobbes' Argument:

Hobbes deduces that people are naturally selfish and wicked and therefore cannot be trusted.

Therefore the primitive or "natural" state of humanity was violent and brutal.

Therefore a strong, authoritarian government (ie. monarchy) is a necessary good to control them and keep the peace.

Why This Is Important:

First, note the absence of religion or scripture in this passage and Hobbes' analysis; instead, Hobbes uses reason or to deduce the nature of history and he will similarly use secular reason to deduce the political solution.  This is a hallmark of Enlightenment thinking, especially in contrast to the church dominated middle ages.

On the other hand, note that his assumptions are also based on the Judeo-Christian concept of "original sin": that we were booted from the garden because we are an inherently naughty species, so we need authority -- God and priests and kings etc. -- to keep us in line.

Second, note his call for restraint, order and learning.  Hobbes wants more "civilization." Again, this is a hallmark of the Enlightenment, especially in contrast to later Romantic thinking. 

Rousseau's most important works were written to refute -- and completely invert -- Hobbes' assertion that "natural" man's life was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."  This is clearest in Rousseau's Social Contract, but it also serves as the underpinning of all Roussean philosophy.

Note, like Locke fleeing to the Netherlands, Hobbes flees to France during English Civil war; his influential philosophy can be seen as rooted in his own historical experience.