Leviathan Glossary

acquired wit

Intelligence acquired through instruction, not necessarily through experience.


When power is used to force men to submit to a sovereign.


A force that drives us toward some desired end.


A commonwealth in which a select few natural bodies have the power of the sovereign.

artificial person

A person represented through another person.


A force that drives us away from some undesired end.

civil law

Civil law "is to every Subject, those Rules, which the Common-wealth hath Commanded him, by Word, Writing, or other sufficient Sign of the Will, to make use of, for the Distinction of Right, and Wrong; that is to say, of what is contrary to the Rule." In other words, one is bound by civil laws not because one is a subject of any particular commonwealth, but of a commonwealth in general.


Follows from the sovereign. Must be obeyed, or the right to peace is forfeit.


An artificial man, representing the natural men who form a covenant, with the power to enforce the terms of the covenant.


The way that men renounce the right of nature in return for ensured peace through society. A contract is a pledge to respect the life and property of others; in return, they respect your life and property.


Advice, given by ministers to the sovereign, which the sovereign is in no way bound to follow.


A specific type of contract, specifying binding those who enter into it to a future obligation.


With pain, the fundamental human aversion. Fear of pain and death motivates us to form societies.


A commonwealth in which the sovereign consists of all the natural bodies of its members.


The realm over which the sovereign rules. Can be paternal - i.e. established by the natural growth of the subjects - or despotical - i.e. increased through aggresive conquest of other dominions.


The object of "any man's aversions."


The accumulation of memories.


The aversion that drives men to form societies.

first fundamental law of nature

That because we are naturally in a constant state of war, we should seek peace.


The object of "any man's appetites."

guided thought

Thought that is means-ends directed. You can either think of ends which require means, or think of means that may bring about ends.

human nature

A state, contrasted with society, in which human beings strive for power in constant competition with other human beings. It is a state of unchecked selfishness and limited resources. Life in this state of nature, as Hobbes says, is "brutish, nasty and short."


Also referred to as "decaying sense." Imagination is our ability to retain the experience of our senses. For instance, just because we are not touching a hot stove, we can still remember, or imagine, the painful experience of heat. Though the sense is not as immediate - hence "decaying" - it is still available to us.


When people voluntarily grant their power to a sovereign out of fear and reason.

instrumental power

The power to gain more power, through riches, influence, etc.


To obey a covenant is justice; to break a covenant is injustice. This only applies if a central power exists which could enforce the covenant.

laws of nature

The terms of peace by which men join together to escape the state of nature. Motivated by reason.


An artificial person in which all the power of a society inheres. Formed through a covenant.


The absence of opposition to acting on one's desires. The state of nature is a state of freedom, in the sense that one can act on whatever desires one has, but also a state of opposition, because fear of pain and death impedes one's actions. Similarly, a society constrains people, in that people can no longer take one anothers' lives and things, but also frees people, in that they no longer need to fear for their own lives and property.


The retention of past sense.


A commonwealth in which the sovereign is one natural person.


Motion, for Hobbes, defines all of existence. The external world is nothing but a series of motions - objects (including, in the state of nature, people) chaotically interacting with each other. We make sense of this motion through our sensory organs.

natural person


natural power

One's mental and physical abilities.

natural wit

Gained through experience (not innate), natural wit consists of our ability to organize means toward ends.


Improper use of words. Does not, like science, follow from systematic definitions and logical causality.


An emotion resulting from exposure to appetite or aversion. E.g. anger, happiness, confusion, contentment.


"Man's present means to gain some future good." Power, like everything in Hobbes, is selfishly motivated. It is the fundamental human appetite.

private ministers

The Leviathan's private advisors. Their advice is best kept secret, as it is thus less likely to deceive the sovereign.

public ministers

Representative of the soverign who attend to specific concerns of the commonwealth.


"Reckoning (that is, Adding and Subtracting) of the Consequences of generall names agreed upon." We arrive at reason socially, through the use of language. Reason can only be verified individually as following a coherent logic.

right of nature

Our right, as power-seeking beings, to do anything we can to preserve our lives.


"Conditional knowledge, or knowledge of the consequences of words." Science uses set definitions and logical causality to arrive at conclusions. The opposite of opinion.

second fundamental law of nature

That we should lay down this absolute right of nature "and be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself." In other words, we should restrain ourselves from pursuing ends by any means necessary, insofar as other people agree to do the same.


The starting-point for all human knowledge. We first interact with objects in the world by sensing them. Thus, objective truth is unavailable to human beings; all truth must be filtered through an individual's senses.


The means by which man marginalizes his fear of pain and death.


The artificial man created through a covenant who possesses the power to enforce the peace of society.


The tool through which our internal thoughts are expressed to the external world.


A group of individuals organized according to a common interest.

third fundamental law of nature

"That men perform their Covenant made; without which, covenants are in vain, and but Empty words; and the Right of all men to all things remaining, wee are still in the condition of Warre." In other words, it is in our interest to obey our covenants, since the rewards for doing so (peace) outweighs the risk of breaking them (war).


"Truth consisteth in the right ordering of names in our affirmations." In other words, truth occurs when we combine words in a coherent way. Truth is thus a social entity, following from the use of agreed-upon language; it can only exist where humans agree on the terms upon which it is offered, i.e., where humans share language.

unguided thought

Seemingly random thought, as in a dream, which nevertheless, when explored, reveals a logic. For instance, if you associate getting a haircut with meatloaf, you may find on delving into this association that you were hungry for meatloaf while waiting to get a haircut.

vital motion

Involuntary movements of the body, such as the heartbeat.

voluntary motion

Voluntary movements of the body, such as speech or walking. These are always directed toward some end.


The amount that would be given to a man for the use of his powers.