Hobbes

I’ve been without decent internet in the past few days. So England lost the football, but they won the cricket again, to take a 3-0 lead in a five match series against Australia.

I’ve also been reading lots of Hobbes. This is partly because most of the books I’m reading in libraries (Althusius, Knichen, etc.) are not for loan, and I own most of Hobbes’s books, but I had to get to Hobbes sooner or later. I taught Leviathan for many years at Brunel and Warwick, so this must be something like the seventh or eighth time I’ve read some parts of this. But there is some fascinating material in the bits I’d looked at less often. I seem to remember that often the reading assignments would begin with chapter 13, “Of the Naturall Condition of Mankind as concerning their Felicity and Misery”, and then stretch as far as chapter 31. But the opening chapters of the first part, ‘Of Man’, and parts three and four ‘Of a Christian Common-wealth’ and ‘Of the Kingdom of Darknesse’ are much less read and discussed. Reading those other parts seems to suggest how much Hobbes is indebted to much earlier debates about the relation between religious and secular power, the temporal/spiritual distinction, and so on. Hobbes is often looked at as the beginning of debates, but he is equally the culmination of other ones. I think the same could be said of Machiavelli: The Prince is, after all, one of the last examples of the fairly common Medieval genre of advice book for princes. Hobbes has some pretty damning things to say about the Catholic church, and it needs to be remembered that Hobbes wrote Leviathan while in France, and the situation there and on the continent generally shaped the arguments as much as the English Civil War back home. The contrast between Hobbes’s and Descartes’s conceptions of geometry comes through too. And chapter 45 has an interesting discussion of daemonology, something on which Jean Bodin also wrote.

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