©2000 NewFoundations

The Educational Theory of Thomas Hobbes

Analyst: Amy Kauffman



I. Theory of Value

Morals surpass all else (A:1).

Education is crucial to prevent the reproduction of improperly conceived interests, interests of the sort that disrupt social order (A:159).

People are powerfully moved by moral interests. Proper conception of these interests is essential to the maintenence of civil order (A:159).

Pursuing a process of socialization, or of moral education, encourages properly conceived interests form (A:159).

... cause and effect (H:53).

... empirical sciences (H:53).

... mathematical abstractions (H:53).

II. Theory of Knowledge

Knowledge is power (D:145). The only way to know is by definition (1:33). No man can know by discourse (D:145). The knowledge by which most men lived is knowledge gained from experience (1:33) Experience is nothing more than remembering past actions and what consequences followed them (1:33). Contributed to rational knowledge (E:220)
1. geometry amended principles and solved problems that baffled everyone else.

2. physics (optics) first to discover the causes of sense perceptions.

III. Theory of Human Nature

Every man will dread and distrust each other (1:42).

All that is, is material (A:3).

The contents of the world could in principle be comprehensively described making reference only to bodies and their motions (A:3). Saw the human struggle for security and peace as a human struggle (A:3).

Human beings are naturally sociable, as well as self-centered, with a desire for power after power which ceases only in death (A:160).
Crime is largely caused by false teachers (A:160).
The fear of death explains the need for social order and not anarchy (1:4).

The behavior of men can be explained by the science of mechanics and the geometrical deduction (G:171).

IV. Theory of Learning
The purpose of learning history of the past is to make the knowledge of the successes and failures of the past available for our present and future action (A:1). - Education makes for social order (A:2). -

Education is socialization (A:251). -Analysis can disclose universal things (C:57). - People learn by: problem-solving (H:53) analysis (H:53).

the arts are learned by debating in the university (C:140).

V. Theory of Transmission

- Education involves not only the presentation of ideas,

but also their inculcation (A:162).

- Educate people in their moral and civil duty. Instill in them a disposition to do what they ought to do (A:162).
- Curriculum should contain moral teachings (A:166).
- Demonstration is Hobbe's term for a syllogistic arrangement of truths, and also for the activity of communicating in syllogisms. This act is more commonly known as teaching (C:43).

- Successful teachers proceed from most low and humble principles; and so on (C:44).

- In the method of teaching, not the method of discovery or intervention, the syllogisms are useful (C:44).

- Public Ministers have the authority to teach or to enable others to teach the people their duty to the Sovereign Power, and instruct them in the knowledge of what is right and wrong (E:167).

- Common-peoples are like clean paper, fit to receive whatsoever by Public Authority shall be imprinted in them (E:233).

VI. Theory of Society

- A society has no substantial reality of its own (F:111).

- The relations and actions of particular individuals are responsible for society's attributes (F:111).

- The ills of a society on the edge of civil war might be cured if men could grasp a rationale of society as clear and as forcefully convincing as a geometer's proof (G: 171 ) .

An all-inclusive theory could be constructed which would start with the simple movements described in the postulates of geometry and culminate in generalizations the movements of men towards and away from each others in political life (G:171).

The state of nature was a state of war, which could be ended only if men agreed to give their liberty into the hands of a sovereign (G:171). All social disorder is the result of bad education (A:160).

VII. Theory of Opportunity

Children should, after education is complete, acknowledge the benefit of their education, by external signs of honor (E:235). Common-peoples learn from those of Sovereign Power (E:233).

VIII. Theory of Consensus

People are capable of forming, and acting on transcendent interests (A:1). Transcendent interests caused civil wars. Any permanent solution to war would need to address the disruption generated by such conflicts of transcendent interests (A:1).

The solution is to reduce people's conceptions and interests by a process of education that continually generates consensus (A:2). Education can cause consensus or destroy consensus (A:2).

Work Cited

A: Lloyd, S.A. (1992) Ideals as Interests in Hobbe's Leviathan: The Power of Mind Over Matter. New York: Cambridge University Press, (1-320).

B: Hobbes, T. (1930) Selections. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, (1-5).

C: Sorell, T. (1986) The Arguments of the Philosophers:

Hobbes. New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, (42-44).

D: Laird, J. (1968) Hobbes. New York: Russell & Russell, (145).

E: Hobbes, T. (1991) Leviathan. New York: Cambridge University Press, (167-406).

F: Clabaugh, G.K., & Rozycki, E.G. (1990) Understanding Schools. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, (111).

G: Collier's Encyclopedia (1993) New York: P.F. Collier, Inc. V12. (170-172).

H : Ross, Schneider, & Waldman. (1974) Thomas Hobbes In His Time. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. (52).

I: Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (30-43)