The English Works of Thomas Hobbes, vol

Thomas Hobbes , 1588–1679, English philosopher, grad. Magdalen College, Oxford, 1608. For many years a tutor in the Cavendish family, Hobbes took great interest in mathematics, physics, and the contemporary rationalism. On journeys to the Continent he established friendly relations with many learned men, including and . In 1640, after his political writings had brought him into disfavor with the parliamentarians, he went to France (where he was tutor to the exiled Prince Charles). His work, however, aroused the antagonism of the English group in France, and his thorough materialism offended the churchmen, so that in 1651 he felt impelled to return to England, where he was able to live peacefully. Among his important works, which appeared in several revisions under different titles (see Sir W. Molesworth's edition of the complete works, 11 vol., 1839–45, and Noel Malcom et al., ed., the Clarendon Edition of the Works of Thomas Hobbes, 1983–), are De Cive (1642), Leviathan (1651), De Corpore Politico (1650), De Homine (1658), and Behemoth (1680).

In the Leviathan, Hobbes developed his political philosophy. He argued from a mechanistic view that life is simply the motions of the organism and that man is by nature a selfishly individualistic animal at constant war with all other men. In a state of nature, men are equal in their self-seeking and live out lives which are "nasty, brutish, and short." Fear of violent death is the principal motive which causes men to create a state by contracting to surrender their natural rights and to submit to the absolute authority of a sovereign. Although the power of the sovereign derived originally from the people—a challenge to the doctrine of the of kings—the sovereign's power is absolute and not subject to the law. Temporal power is also always superior to ecclesiastical power. Though Hobbes favored a monarchy as the most efficient form of sovereignty, his theory could apply equally well to king or parliament. His political philosophy led to investigations by other political theorists, e.g., , , and , who formulated their own radically different theories of the .

See biographies by J. L. Stephen (1934, repr. 1968), C. H. Hinnant (1977), and T. Surrell (1986); studies by T. A. Sprague, Jr. (1973), J. W. N. Watkins (rev. ed. 1973), W. Von Leyden (1982), J. Hampton (1988), and Q. Skinner (1996, 2002, and 2008).

The English Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, Vol. 2 (Classic Reprint)

Admittedly those seeking this kind of broader understanding have until recently faced considerable difficulties. One problem has been the lack of a comprehensive modern edition of Hobbes’s works. Scholars have been obliged to rely on the collected edition produced by Sir William Molesworth as long ago as the 1840s, an edition which includes at least one text not written by Hobbes and omits several others that Hobbes unquestionably wrote. It is good to be able to report that this scandalous situation is at last being rectified. The French publishing house of Vrin has begun to issue a new collected edition under the general editorship of Professor Yves Charles Zarka. These volumes will be translations rather than critical editions, but the texts so far published have been very professionally edited. Meanwhile, the Clarendon edition of the works of Thomas Hobbes is well under way. Publication began in 1983 with Professor Howard Warrender’s two-volume edition of , and Dr. Noel Malcolm has now contributed a further two volumes with his superb edition of Hobbes’s .

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Edition (with Stephen Clucas) of Hobbes's De corpore and related manuscripts (for Clarendon Edition of the Works of Thomas Hobbes). This volume in the Clarendon Edition of the Works of Thomas Hobbes contains A dialogue between a philosopher and a student, of the common laws of England, edited by Alan Cromartie, supplemented by the important fragment on the issue of regal succession, "Questions relative to Hereditary Right", discovered and edited by Quentin Skinner.
The former work is the last of Hobbes's major political writings. As a critique of common law by a great philosopher, it should be essential reading for anybody interested in English political thought or legal theory. Although it was written when Hobbes was at least eighty, it is a lively piece of work that goes beyond a recapitulation of earlier Hobbesian doctrines, not least in applying his central ideas to the details of the English constitution. This edition supplies the extensive annotation on matters of legal and historical detail that is required by non-specialist readers; it also assists students by offering cross-references to other treatises. Cromartie's introduction is an authoritative account of seventeenth-century thinking about the common law and of Hobbes's shifting attitudes towards it. It has often been suspected that the book was motivated by fear of being burned for heresy. Cromartie disentangles the complex evidence (scattered across a number of late works) that documents this fear's development, and shows why the philosopher's acute anxieties eventually led him to write a legal treatise. In clarifying these questions, the edition casts fresh light upon his attitude to law and sovereignty.
The second piece takes the form of a question put to Hobbes about the right of succession under hereditary monarchies, together with Hobbes's response. The question is in the handwriting of the fourth Earl of Devonshire, the son of the third Earl, whom Hobbes had tutored in the 1630s. He asks Hobbes whether an heir can be excluded if he is incapable of protecting his prospective subjects. The question of "exclusion" became the most burning issue in English politics in the course of 1679, when a bill to exclude the future James II was introduced into the House of Commons. Hobbes answers with a robust defence of hereditary right, in the course of which he also makes some important general observations about the concept of a right. The manuscript is also of special interest as it constitutes Hobbes's last word on politics. It was almost certainly written in the summer of 1679, less than six months before Hobbes's death.

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(1642b) 1962 Philosophical Rudiments Concerning Government and Society. Volume 2 of Thomas Hobbes, The English Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmes-bury. Aalen (Germany): Scientia. → First published as Elementorum philosophiae sectio tertia: De cive.

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