Thomas Hobbes and the Political Philosophy of Glory

By Gabriella Slomp | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
The Co-ordinates of Man: Time and Space

Introduction

Both Galileo Galilei and William Harvey were greatly admired by Hobbes, 1 who regarded the former as 'the greatest scientist of all time' ( Anti-White, 123). According to Aubrey's account:

when [ Hobbes] was at Florence he contracted friendship with the famous Galileo Galilei, whom he extremely venerated and magnified and not only as he was a prodigious wit, but for his sweetness of nature and manners ( Brief Lives, 161).

Harvey, described by Aubrey as 'an excellent anatomist', was believed by Hobbes to have been 'the only man, perhaps, that ever lived to see his own doctrine established in his life time' ( Brief Lives, 133). Aubrey lists the pleasure of 'learned conversation' with William Harvey among the reasons why Hobbes decided to stay 'much in London till the restoration of his majesty' rather than 'stay in his lord's house in the country' ( Brief Lives, 153).

Both Galileo and Harvey2 had successfully applied the principle of 'motion' to their relative fields of inquiry. The former had explained natural phenomena in terms of the laws of motion and the latter had discovered the circulation of the blood by using the same principle — motion. These discoveries impressed Hobbes greatly and convinced him that it was possible to extend the application of this explanatory concept —motion — from the natural sciences and physiology to the world of human motivations and actions.

In his Verse Life Hobbes highlights the importance of the notion of motion in his philosophy:

Whether on Horse, in Coach, or Ship, still I
Was most Intent on my Philosophy.
One only thing in the World seem'd true to me,
Tho'several ways that Falsified be.
One only True Thing, the Basis of all
Those Things whereby we any Thing do call [...]
The internal parts only Motion contain:

-11-

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