Thomas Hobbes

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Thomas Hobbes (5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679), in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury,[1] was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy. His 1651 book Leviathan established the foundation for most of Western political philosophy from the perspective of social contract theory.[2]

Hobbes was a champion of absolutism for the sovereign but he also developed some of the fundamentals of European liberal thought: the right of the individual; the natural equality of all men; the artificial character of the political order (which led to the later distinction between civil society and the state); the view that all legitimate political power must be "representative" and based on the consent of the people; and a liberal interpretation of law which leaves people free to do whatever the law does not explicitly forbid.[3]

Hobbes also contributed to a diverse array of fields, including history, geometry, physics of gases, theology, ethics, general philosophy, and political science. His account of human nature as self-interested cooperation has proved to be an enduring theory in the field of philosophical anthropology. He was one of the key founders of materialism in philosophy.

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Early life and education

Thomas Hobbes was born in Wiltshire, England, on 5 April 1588, some sources say at Malmesbury.[4] Born prematurely when his mother heard of the coming invasion of the Spanish Armada, Hobbes later reported that "my mother gave birth to twins: myself and fear."[5] His childhood is almost a complete blank, and his mother's name is unknown.[6] His father, also named Thomas, was the vicar of Charlton and Westport. Thomas Sr. abandoned his three children to the care of an older brother, Thomas junior's uncle Francis, when he was forced to flee to London after being involved in a fight with a clergyman outside his own church. Hobbes was educated at Westport church from the age of four, passed to the Malmesbury school and then to a private school kept by a young man named Robert Latimer, a graduate of the University of Oxford. Hobbes was a good pupil, and around 1603 he went up to Magdalen Hall, which is most closely related to Hertford College, Oxford.[7][8][9][10] The principal John Wilkinson was a Puritan, and he had some influence on Hobbes.

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