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Time Line 1651
Social Science History on Hobbes, Filmer and Locke

Introduction and Contents


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

By Thomas Hobbes, Published April 1651

Chapter 9: Of the Several Subjects of Knowledge

(¶) Paragraph numbers added to assist referencing

(¶ 9.1) There are of knowledge two kinds, whereof one is knowledge of fact; the other, knowledge of the consequence of one affirmation to another. The former is nothing else but sense and memory, and is absolute knowledge; as when we see a fact doing, or remember it done; and this is the knowledge required in a witness. The latter is called science, and is conditional; as when we know that: if the figure shown be a circle, then any straight line through the center shall divide it into two equal parts. And this is the knowledge required in a philosopher; that is to say, of him that pretends to reasoning.

(¶ 9.2) The register of knowledge of fact is called history, whereof there be two sorts: one called natural history; which is the history of such facts, or effects of Nature, as have no dependence on man's will; such as are the histories of metals, plants, animals, regions, and the like. The other is civil history, which is the history of the voluntary actions of men in Commonwealths.

(¶ 9.3) The registers of science are such books as contain the demonstrations of consequences of one affirmation to another; and are commonly called books of philosophy; whereof the sorts are many, according to the diversity of the matter; and may be divided in such manner as I have divided them in the following table.

Science, that is, knowledge of consequences; which is called also Philosophy


Consequences from accidents of politic bodies; which is called politics, and civil philosophy

1. Of consequences from the institution of commonwealths, to the rights, and duties of the body politic, or sovereign

2. Of consequences from the same, to the duty and right of the subjects

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