The Who2 Blog

Happy Birthday, Thomas Hobbes

Today is the birthday of English philosopher and royal pal Thomas Hobbes. He’ll be celebrating 423 years today, all but the first 91 of those in HELL.

At least, that’s what his critics figured, back in the 16th century (I made a mistake here… I meant to say 17th century — but I’m leaving it as is just to irritate people). Not that Thomas Hobbes called himself an atheist or anything crazy like that. No, after he harangued you through four rounds of pints about how the universe is one big machine, and how all matter is motion and blah blah blah… he’d always back down when asked about God.

“Uh,” Hobbes would say, “ask the king, I am but a mere scientist.” Hobbes wouldn’t restrict that to the king, either, it turns out. He was okay with having a dictator be the final authority. It didn’t matter who the dictator was or what he did, as long as he (he) maintained some sort of order. Hobbes fled England for France when the royals were duking it out with each other, but he was happy to come home after Oliver Cromwell took over and formed a dictatorship.

And after Cromwell’s head was piked in public (and his son shoved aside), Hobbes was even happier to have the monarchy restored in 1660 and see Charles II take the throne. Hobbes, you see, had been a mathematics tutor to young Charles.

Thomas Hobbes lived to be 91 years old. He used to say “Fear and I were born twins,” referring to his premature birth because his mother was in a panic over a rumor that the Spanish Armada was approaching. He also described a dog-eat-dog world where “covenants without the sword are but words, and of no strength to secure a man at all,” famously declaring that our natural state is “continual fear, and the danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

And Sleepy and Doc and Grumpy.

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