Till Sovereigns Be Philosophers

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan XXXI:

“And thus far concerning the constitution, nature, and right of sovereigns, and concerning the duty of subjects, derived from the principles of natural reason. And now, considering how different this doctrine is from the practice of the greatest part of the world, especially of these western parts that have received their moral learning from Rome and Athens, and how much depth of moral philosophy is required in them that have the administration of the sovereign power, I am at the point of believing this my labour as useless as the Commonwealth of Plato: for he also is of opinion that it is impossible for the disorders of state, and change of governments by civil war, ever to be taken away till sovereigns be philosophers. But when I consider again that the science of natural justice is the only science necessary for sovereigns and their principal ministers, and that they need not be charged with the sciences mathematical, as by Plato they are, further than by good laws to encourage men to the study of them; and that neither Plato nor any other philosopher hitherto hath put into order, and sufficiently or probably proved all the theorems of moral doctrine, that men may learn thereby both how to govern and how to obey, I recover some hope that one time or other this writing of mine may fall into the hands of a sovereign who will consider it himself (for it is short, and I think clear) without the help of any interested or envious interpreter; and by the exercise of entire sovereignty, in protecting the public teaching of it, convert this truth of speculation into the utility of practice.”

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