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Citizen Hobbes

Noel Malcolm, 18 October 1984

De Cive: The Latin Version 
by Thomas Hobbes, edited by Howard Warrender.
Oxford, 336 pp., £35, March 1984, 0 19 824385 5
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De Cive: The English Version 
by Thomas Hobbes, edited by Howard Warrender.
Oxford, 300 pp., £35, March 1984, 0 19 824623 4
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... Hobbes studies are booming. The production of books and articles on Hobbes and everything (Hobbes and Laughter; Hobbes and the American Constitution; Hobbes and Vico, or Dryden, or Hegel ...
The Correspondence of Thomas HobbesVols I-II 
edited by Thomas Hobbes and Noel Malcolm.
Oxford, 592 pp., £60, September 1994, 0 19 824065 1
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... Although Thomas Hobbes lived to be 91, and was one of the most famous philosophers of his day, there are only 211 surviving letters to or from him. This compares with 3656 to or from Locke, some twenty thousand to or from Leibniz. For the last three decades of his life Hobbes suffered from Parkinson’s disease, but he always had the assistance of a secretary, and he seems to have replied to letters whenever he received them ...

A Mistrust of Thunder and Lightning

Jeremy Waldron: Hobbes, 20 January 2000

Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes 
by Quentin Skinner.
Cambridge, 477 pp., £15.95, July 1997, 0 521 59645 9
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... from a speech by Pericles in an English translation of The History of the Peloponnesian War that Thomas Hobbes published in 1629. The sentiment expressed is one that haunted him throughout his intellectual endeavours. Hobbes regarded himself as one of the first philosophers to engage in genuine political science, by ...

That Satirical Way of Nipping

Fara Dabhoiwala: Learning to Laugh, 16 December 2021

Uncivil Mirth: Ridicule in Enlightenment Britain 
by Ross Carroll.
Princeton, 255 pp., £28, April 2021, 978 0 691 18255 1
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... contempt to laugh at a person, than to do him any real injury’. As the Elizabethan humanist Thomas Wilson wrote, ‘the occasion of laughter and the mean that maketh us merry … is the fondness, the filthiness, the deformity, and all such evil behaviour as we see to be in other[s].’ In The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), Robert Burton made the same ...


Richard Tuck, 19 February 1987

Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle and the Experimental Life 
by Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer.
Princeton, 475 pp., £40, February 1986, 0 691 08393 2
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... saint or founding shaman of the experimental method, and his most profound and systematic opponent Thomas Hobbes: a controversy which began in 1661 with the publication of Hobbes’s Dialogus physicus de natura aeris and which continued in a variety of forms into the 1670s. Leviathan and the Air-Pump is the result of ...

Modernity’s Bodyguard

Phil Withington: Hobbes, 3 January 2013

by Thomas Hobbes, edited by Noel Malcolm.
Oxford, 1832 pp., £195, May 2012, 978 0 19 960262 9
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... early modern period?’ Without hesitation the legal and political historians reply, in unison: ‘Hobbes.’ Eyes turn to the literary historian, who has a reputation for irascibility, expecting the conversation to kick off. After a considerable pause he says: ‘I’m afraid that on this occasion I can only agree.’ ...

I have written as I rode

Adam Smyth: ‘Brief Lives’, 8 October 2015

‘Brief Lives’ with ‘An Apparatus for the Lives of Our English Mathematical Writers’ 
by John Aubrey, edited by Kate Bennett.
Oxford, 1968 pp., £250, March 2015, 978 0 19 968953 8
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John Aubrey: My Own Life 
by Ruth Scurr.
Chatto, 518 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 0 7011 7907 6
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... has been moved between two dogs for the first time. Before the Society, Mr King and Mr Thomas Coxe successfully performed the experiment on a small bulldog and a spaniel.’ He fled debtors; was bankrupt from 1671; had to shift households and sell many of his books. He travelled to Paris with his friend George Ent, where he suffered ‘a terrible ...

On Aetna’s Top

Howard Erskine-Hill, 4 September 1980

The Poetry of Abraham Cowley 
by David Trotter.
Macmillan, 162 pp., £10, September 1979, 0 333 24167 3
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... of a 17th-century dissociation of sensibility, here given a more specific formulation in Hobbes’s distinction between locutionary and propositional truth. The second is a Romantic concept of revolution as creative upheaval. The third is a more recent notion of the exhaustion of discourses, which connects perhaps indirectly with some contemporary ...

Un Dret Egal

David A. Bell: Political Sentiment, 15 November 2007

Inventing Human Rights: A History 
by Lynn Hunt.
Norton, 272 pp., £15.99, April 2007, 978 0 393 06095 9
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... Rights, began as far back as the Greeks. Such historians generally devote considerable space to Thomas Hobbes, who had much to say about ‘natural rights’, and carefully follow the labyrinthine debates among Grotius, Pufendorf, Locke and Wolff on the same and related subjects, before even reaching the late 18th century. Hunt has little to say on any ...

Pocock’s Positions

Blair Worden, 4 November 1993

Political Discourse in Early Modern Britain 
edited by Nicholas Phillipson and Quentin Skinner.
Cambridge, 444 pp., £35, March 1993, 9780521392426
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... impressed by Harrington’s acknowledgment of his debt to that profound enemy of republicanism, Thomas Hobbes, and to have noticed the purposes which, for all their obvious disagreements, Hobbes and Harrington shared. Hobbes is the subject of two strong essays. Quentin Skinner ...

A Bear Armed with a Gun

David Runciman: The Widening Atlantic, 3 April 2003

Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order 
by Robert Kagan.
Atlantic, 104 pp., £10, March 2003, 1 84354 177 7
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... Thomas Hobbes, in one of the best known and most abused phrases in the English language, described the life of man in a state of nature as ‘solitary, poore, nasty, brutish and short’. Less famous, but almost as notorious, is Hobbes’s contention that the relations between the states that human beings create in order to escape the misery of their natural condition are subject to nothing but the laws that produced that misery in the first place ...

Separation Anxiety

David Hollinger: God and Politics, 24 January 2008

The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics and the Modern West 
by Mark Lilla.
Knopf, 334 pp., $26, September 2007, 978 1 4000 4367 5
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... Lilla calls the Great Separation: the sharp distinction between politics and God proclaimed by Thomas Hobbes in the 17th century but rarely implemented as vigorously and decisively as Lilla would like. Deeply affected by the religious wars of early modern Europe, Hobbes wanted to ratchet down the stakes of political ...

Guantanamo Bay

Martin Puchner: A state of exception, 16 December 2004

... in the 1920s by the political and legal scholar Carl Schmitt. Having written on dictatorship, Thomas Hobbes, and political Romanticism, Schmitt turned his attention to the newly established liberal democracy of the Weimar Republic. He disliked the regime, and in particular he disliked the constitution, though he did not want to see it abandoned ...


Conrad Russell, 4 October 1984

The Experience of Defeat: Milton and Some Contemporaries 
by Christopher Hill.
Faber, 342 pp., £12.50, July 1984, 0 571 13237 5
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... but this does not justify giving him a position more crucial than that occupied, for example, by Thomas Hobbes. Among the inclusions and exclusions in this volume, there is no particularly clear principle, but some are more questionable than others. One of the more surprising inclusions is Andrew Marvell. To classify him as one who suffered ‘the ...

Rat-Catchers, Dog-Butchers

Jessie Childs: England under Siege, 6 January 2022

Devil-Land: England under Siege, 1588-1688 
by Clare Jackson.
Allen Lane, 682 pp., £35, September 2021, 978 0 241 28581 7
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... ThomasHobbes used to tell people that the Spanish Armada was the reason he had been born prematurely. ‘My mother gave birth to twins,’ he said, ‘myself and fear.’ He never shook off the sense of dread. More than half a century later, having fled England for France, he wrote Leviathan, predicated on the view that fear is the chief driver of man ...

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