Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679). Of Man, Being the First Part of Leviathan.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Chapter VII

Of the Ends, or Resolutions of Discourse

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.

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 is called the ‘judgment’ 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.’

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.

And therefore, when the discourse is put into speech, and begins with the definitions of words, and proceeds by connection 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.’ 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. When two or more men know of one and the same fact, they are said to be ‘conscious,’ of it one to another; 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 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.

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’—‘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 [Greek] 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 [Greek]; and that this singularity of the ecclesiastic use of the word hath raised many disputes about the right object of the Christian faith.

But by ‘believing in,’ as it is in the creed, is meant, not trust in the person, but confession and acknowledgment 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.

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 Cæsar, I do not think the ghost of Alexander or Cæsar 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.