Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) was an English philosopher whose most influential work, Leviathan, was a treatise of political philosophy written against the backdrop of England’s tumultuous civil war. Hobbes’s erudition was far-ranging, and he wrote extensively (including in the Leviathan) about metaphysical matters, church-state relations, and the physical sciences, but it is as a political philosopher that he is best known. He is generally credited as the progenitor of modern social contract theory, and his conceptions of human nature and the legitimacy of state power, even at the expense of increased public surveillance and decreased civil liberties, have had an enormous impact on subsequent thinkers in philosophy, law, and political science. This entry describes the path Hobbes took in becoming an influential English philosopher, which was ...

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