Hobbes and His Critics

Hobbes and His Critics

Hobbes and His Critics

Hobbes and His Critics

Excerpt

As the pioneer of a utilitarian concept of government based upon a philosophy of radical scepticism, Hobbes is universally accorded a prominent place in the history of political thought. His fame is not merely academic: he is well known among all who are interested in political ideas. While the names of his opponents are forgotten, he still retains a prestige which would gratify though it would not surprise him.

Yet in spite of the considerable volume of Hobbesian studies, no systematic account has hitherto been taken of the political criticisms his work evoked from his contemporaries. Clarendon's attack on him is fairly well known, if little read, the Reverend George Lawson's abilities as a forerunner of John Locke are beginning to be recognized, and the spirited onslaughts of Bishop Seth Ward and of Bishop Bramhall are familiar to students of the mid-seventeenth century; but Dr. Eachard's knock-about dialogues and the indictment of the able barrister, John Whitehall, have fallen into undeserved neglect. This obscurity is shared by the pamphlet of Dr. Lucy, that rather dim Bishop of St. David's, and by the work of the academic virtuoso, Alexander Rosse, whose memory survives mainly through a Byronic rhyme in Hudibras. These writers, with their striking metaphors and epigrammatic style, also provide a cross section of contemporary opinion. Some of them contributed directly to the development of the Whig political tradition of which Locke was to become the most famous exponent, and which was to exercise so deep an influence . . .

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