Thomas Hobbes on controversy. A quote worth contemplating. Series 3.3.

“And as in arithmetic, unpracticed men must, and professors themselves may often err and cast up false, so also in any other subject of reasoning, the ablest, most attentive, and most practised men may deceive themselves and infer false conclusions, not but that reason itself is always right reason, as well as arithmetic is a certain and infallible art. But no one man’s reason, or the reason of any one number of men makes the certainty, no more than an account is therefore well cast up, because a great many men have unanimously approved it. And therefore, as when there is a controversy in an account, the parties must by their own accord set up for right reason the reason of some arbitrator or judge, to whose sentence they will both stand, or their controversy must come to blows or be undecided, for want of a right reason constituted by Nature, so it is in all debates of what kind so ever. And when men that think themselves wiser than all others clamour and demand right reason for judge; yet seek no more but that things should be determined by no other man’s reason but their own, it is as intolerable in the society of men, as it is to play after trump is turned, to use for trump on every occasion, that suit whereof they have most in their hand. For they do nothing else, that will have every of their passions, as it comes to bear sway in them, to be taken for right reason, and that in their own controversies, bewraying [revealing] their want of right reason by the claim they lay to it.” (Hobbes, 28) Part : 1, Chapter 5; Paragraph 3 (Right reason where.)

Thomas Hobbes. J.C.A. Gaskin, Ed. Leviathan. (1651) Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford University Press: New York. Reissue 2008.

*Compare with A Walter Lippmann (1922) quote worth contemplating. Timely.

** Compare with John Stuart Mill, On Liberty. A quote worth contemplating.

***Compare with Hobbes’ Humility Check

And as to the faculties of mind, … I find yet a greater equality amongst men, than that of strength…That which may perhaps make such equality incredible, is but a vain conceit of one’s own wisdom, which almost all men think they have in a greater degree, than the vulgar; that is, than all men but themselves, and few others, whom by fame, or for concurring with themselves, they approve. For such is the nature of men, that howsoever they acknowledge many others to be more witty, or more eloquent, or more learned; yet they will hardly believe there be so many as wise as themselves; for they see their own wit at hand, and other men’s at a distance.” (Hobbes, 82. Oxford.)  Part 1, Chapter 13, Paragraph 2. Men by Nature Equal.

**** The works of Hobbes, Lippmann, and Mill are broadly available and the writings of each is accessible (i.e. understandable) to general readership. Each work is easy to find via your search engine.

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3 replies


  1. John Stuart Mill, On Liberty. A quote worth contemplating. Series 3.2. –
  2. Hobbes’ Humility Check –
  3. Thought of the day. 6. –

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