Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) was an English political philosopher. In his most important work, Leviathan, he presented a pessimistic view of man and the need for a strong central government.
Hobbes asserted that humans begin in a “state of nature.” By this he means that people are by nature equal in that they share relative equality in intelligence, strength, and experience. This equality, though, is not necessarily a good thing since it sets up situations in which struggles between equal but selfish and unprincipled humans takes place. Apart from laws and social regulations, humans will unendingly fight with each other to get what they want. Hobbes called this the “war of every man against every man.” Such a situation leads to a life that is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
Since chaos is the result in a society without laws and regulations, Hobbes argued that a strong central government was necessary for the public good. Hobbes, thus, promoted a social contract theory in which men must make a contract with a sovereign. With this contract the sovereign agrees to make and enforce laws that will keep the peace. The people, on the other hand, give up some of their liberties and agree to obey the laws of the sovereign who himself is not subject to civil law. The people are under obligation to obey the sovereign unless he becomes unable to protect them. Hobbes recognized three forms of government—monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. He believed that monarchy was the most effective form for promoting peace.
As for his views on reality, Hobbes was a materialist. Everything, including humans, is a set of particles moving in accordance with the laws of nature. He was also an empiricist who acknowledged the importance of mathematics. For Hobbes, religion was invented by men because of their ignorance and fears. In addition, he asserted that concepts like good, evil, and justice are solely dependent on what a sovereign declares them to be.