Peter follows up my last Leibniz post with a different question. I was talking about how Descartes came just before Leibniz, and how Hobbes, Locke, Spinoza, Pufendorf, Newton were his contemporaries. Peter asks
Here’s a perhaps naive question, but isn’t it generally the case that there are really quite few political philosophy classes that include this period for anything other than the English? Certainly, as a political theory student, it was as if the continent didn’t exist—which is perhaps the most enduring Continental/Anglo-American split.
I think that’s right – for the seventeenth century. By the eighteenth century you begin to have some – Rousseau and Kant, maybe Montesquieu - and by the nineteenth Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche. But the seventeenth century does seem to be the Hobbes and Locke show. Maybe Filmer. But my sense is that it’s not just continental thinkers that are neglected, but what’s going on outside the Anglo world. Hobbes is taught in the context of the English civil war, for example, but he wrote Leviathan in France, and so the Thirty Years War also provides a crucial context, perhaps also the Fronde.