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The Matter, Form and Power of a Commonwealth
Ecclesiastical and Civil

By Thomas Hobbes, Published April 1651

Chapter 7: Of the Ends or Resolutions of Discourse

(¶) Paragraph numbers added to assist referencing

(¶ 7.1) Of all discourse governed by desire of knowledge, there is at last an end, either by attaining or by giving over. And in the chain of discourse, wheresoever it be interrupted, there is an end for that time.

(¶ 7.2) If the discourse be merely mental, it consisteth of thoughts that the thing will be, and will not be; or that it has been, and has not been, alternately. So that wheresoever you break off the chain of a man's discourse, you leave him in a presumption of it will be, or, it will not be; or it has been, or, has not been. All which is opinion. And that which is alternate appetite, in deliberating concerning good and evil, the same is alternate opinion in the enquiry of the truth of past and future. And as the last appetite in deliberation is called the will, so the last opinion in search of the truth of past and future [Margin: Judgement or Sentence final] is called the JUDGEMENT, or resolute and final sentence of him that discourseth. And as the whole chain of appetites alternate in the question of good or bad is called deliberation; so the whole chain of opinions alternate in the question of true or false is called DOUBT. [Margin: Doubt]

(¶ 7.3) No discourse whatsoever can end in absolute knowledge of fact, past or to come. For, as for the knowledge of fact, it is originally sense, and ever after memory. And for the knowledge of consequence, which I have said before is called science, it is not absolute, but conditional. No man can know by discourse that this, or that, is, has been, or will be; which is to know absolutely: but only that if this be, that is; if this has been, that has been; if this shall be, that shall be; which is to know conditionally: and that not the consequence of one thing to another, but of one name of a thing to another name of the same thing.

(¶ 7.4) And therefore, when the discourse is put into speech, and begins with the definitions of words, and proceeds by connexion of the same into general affirmations, and of these again into syllogisms, the end or last sum is called the conclusion; and the thought of the mind by it signified is that conditional knowledge, or knowledge of the consequence of words, which is commonly called SCIENCE. [Margin: Science] But if the first ground of such discourse be not definitions, or if the definitions be not rightly joined together into syllogisms, then the end or conclusion is again OPINION, namely of the truth of somewhat said, though sometimes in absurd and senseless words, without possibility of being understood. [Margin: Opinion] When two or more men know of one and the same fact, they are said to be CONSCIOUS of it one to another; [Margin: Conscience] which is as much as to know it together. And because such are fittest witnesses of the facts of one another, or of a third, it was and ever will be reputed a very evil act for any man to speak against his conscience; or to corrupt or force another so to do: insomuch that the plea of conscience has been always hearkened unto very diligently in all times. Afterwards, men made use of the same word metaphorically for the knowledge of their own secret facts and secret thoughts; and therefore it is rhetorically said that the conscience is a thousand witnesses. And last of all, men, vehemently in love with their own new opinions, though never so absurd, and obstinately bent to maintain them, gave those their opinions also that reverenced name of conscience, as if they would have it seem unlawful to change or speak against them; and so pretend to know they are true, when they know at most but that they think so.

(¶ 7.5) When a man's discourse beginneth not at definitions, it beginneth either at some other contemplation of his own, and then it is still called opinion, or it beginneth at some saying of another, of whose ability to know the truth, and of whose honesty in not deceiving, he doubteth not; and then the discourse is not so much concerning the thing, as the person; and the resolution is called BELIEF, and FAITH: [Margin: Belief Faith] faith, in the man; belief, both of the man, and of the truth of what he says. So that in belief are two opinions; one of the saying of the man, the other of his virtue. To have faith in, or trust to, or believe a man, signify the same thing; namely, an opinion of the veracity of the man: but to believe what is said signifieth only an opinion of the truth of the saying. But we are to observe that this phrase, I believe in; as also the Latin, credo in; and the Greek, piseno eis, are never used but in the writings of divines. Instead of them, in other writings are put: I believe him; I trust him; I have faith in him; I rely on him; and in Latin, credo illi; fido illi; and in Greek, piseno anto; and that this singularity of the ecclesiastic use of the word hath raised many disputes about the right object of the Christian faith.

(¶ 7.6) But by believing in, as it is in the Creed, is meant, not trust in the person, but confession and acknowledgement of the doctrine. For not only Christians, but all manner of men do so believe in God as to hold all for truth they hear Him say, whether they understand it or not, which is all the faith and trust can possibly be had in any person whatsoever; but they do not all believe the doctrine of the Creed.

(¶ 7.7) From whence we may infer that when we believe any saying, whatsoever it be, to be true, from arguments taken, not from the thing itself, or from the principles of natural reason, but from the authority and good opinion we have of him that hath said it; then is the speaker, or person we believe in, or trust in, and whose word we take, the object of our faith; and the honour done in believing is done to him only. And consequently, when we believe that the Scriptures are the word of God, having no immediate revelation from God Himself, our belief, faith, and trust is in the Church; whose word we take, and acquiesce therein. And they that believe that which a prophet relates unto them in the name of God take the word of the prophet, do honour to him, and in him trust and believe, touching the truth of what he relateth, whether he be a true or a false prophet. And so it is also with all other history. For if I should not believe all that is written by historians of the glorious acts of Alexander or Caesar, I do not think the ghost of Alexander or Caesar had any just cause to be offended, or anybody else but the historian. If Livy say the gods made once a cow speak, and we believe it not, we distrust not God therein, but Livy. So that it is evident that whatsoever we believe, upon no other reason than what is drawn from authority of men only, and their writings, whether they be sent from God or not, is faith in men only.

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Margin notes

Judgement or Sentence final





Belief Faith