Aspects of Hobbes

Aspects of Hobbes

Aspects of Hobbes

Aspects of Hobbes

Synopsis

Noel Malcolm, one of the world's leading experts on Thomas Hobbes, presents a set of extended essays on a wide variety of aspects of the life and work of this giant of early modern thought. Malcolm offers a succinct introduction to Hobbes's life and thought, as a foundation for his discussionof such topics as his political philosophy, his theory of international relations, the development of his mechanistic world-view, and his subversive Biblical criticism. Several of the essays pay special attention to the European dimensions of Hobbes's life, his sources and his influence; the longestsurveys the entire European reception of his work from the 1640s to the 1750s. All the essays are based on a deep knowledge of primary sources, and many present striking new discoveries about Hobbes's life, his manuscripts, and the printing history of his works. Aspects of Hobbes will be essentialreading not only for Hobbes specialists, but also for all those interested in seventeenth-century intellectual history more generally, both British and European.

Excerpt

This book gathers together fourteen essays. Seven have previously been published as articles in journals or chapters of collective volumes, and seven—most of them much longer than the previously published items—are printed here for the first time. All of them relate more or less directly to the life and works of Thomas Hobbes, but some extend into other areas of subject-matter too, such as Virginian history, Comenianism, Spinoza, or the development of biblical criticism. (In just one case, that of the essay on Pierre de Cardonnel, the Hobbesian element in the essay plays a secondary role; I hope readers may share my feeling that the story of de Cardonnel himself is of sufficient interest to justify the attention given to it here.) Some of the studies are biographical, and some are bibliographical or textual; this is partly a reflection of the fact that several of these essays are 'parerga', preparatory or supplementary labours carried out while working on two larger projects—a biography of Hobbes, and a critical edition of Leviathan.

With the exception of the two introductory essays (on Hobbes's life and his political theory), this book does not try to provide any sort of general survey of Hobbes's life and works; the topics handled here are ones that happen to have caught my interest during many years of research on Hobbes, and on which I have thought I had something new to say. But I hope that the variety of subjects dealt with here will at least give a sense of the range of Hobbes's own interests and activities, from epistemology, optics and scientific method to biblical interpretation and international relations theory. While the flow of new books and articles on Hobbes grows larger year by year, the vast majority of them concentrate on just a small range of topics (in his political philosophy) and on an even smaller range of texts. His political theory is not, I hope, neglected in this book; but I also hope that these essays will help readers to see Hobbes not as an isolated political philosopher, but as someone connected in all sorts of different ways with the cultural and intellectual life of his age.

With the exception of the two introductory pieces, the essays in this book are arranged in a rather approximate chronological order of subject-matter. However, each essay is a self-contained piece of work: no cumulative knowledge is presumed in the reader, and the items may therefore be read in any order. (Those who do not already have some specialist knowledge of Hobbes may prefer, nevertheless, to read the two introductory essays first.) No changes have been made to the texts of the previously printed items, apart from typographical corrections and the standardizing of the references to sources. On a few points—the dating or attribution of some manuscripts, for example—I have revised my opinions since those items were first published. But I have felt that it would be unfair to readers, who may wish to refer

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