Hobbes: A Biography

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Overview

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) is now recognized as one of the fathers of modern philosophy and political theory. In his own time he was as famous for his work in physics, geometry, and religion. He associated with some of the greatest writers, scientists, and politicians of his age including Ben Jonson, Galileo, and King Charles II. A. P. Martinich has written the most complete and accessible biography of Hobbes available. The book takes full account of the historical and cultural context in which Hobbes lived, drawing on both published and unpublished sources. It will be a great resource for philosophers, political theorists, and historians of ideas. The clear, crisp prose style will also ensure that the book appeals to general readers with an interest in the history of philosophy, the rise of modern science, and the English Civil War.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Hobbes' position as one of the founders and leading theorists of modern political philosophy has been established for some time. His connections with leading thinkers of his day, as well as his investigations in such fields as mathematics, physics, and religion, have placed him in the forefront of modern philosophy. Martinich's biography, one of the most accessible and thoroughly researched of recent years, delves into the motivations behind Hobbes's ideas, the events and people that influenced him, and the significance of his ideas for contemporary thought. At the same time, it shows him to have been a far wider-ranging thinker than may previously have been realized. Martinich's writing style is clear, and his exposition of Hobbes's thought is well within the reach of most readers, even those who do not have an extensive grounding in political theory or philosophy. Written by a Hobbes expert (e.g., A Hobbes Dictionary, Blackwell, 1995), this biography should serve most libraries well and should certainly be a part of any political theory or political philosophy collection.--Terry C. Skeats, Bishop's Univ. Lib., Lennoxville, Quebec
Kirkus Reviews
A scholar's biography, this book will become a standard work for students of Hobbes (1588–1679). Martinich (Philosophy/Univ. of Texas, Austin) offers a mixture of personal and intellectual biography situating Hobbes in historical context as well as examining his philosophy. The presentation is chronological, with brief analytical detours to explore texts; Leviathan receives attention, of course, but also Hobbes's lesser-known and especially his earlier writings. Disagreements among scholars are noted throughout regarding not only interpretation of Hobbes's thought, but also details of his life. Basic facts—e.g., Hobbes's whereabouts at particular points in time or his relations with friends and other intellectuals of the day—cannot always be established unambiguously, and Martinich identifies these cases and defends his opinion. The result is a catalogue of current thinking on Hobbes's life, a valuable tool for historians as well as philosophers. This intellectual tour de force may not appeal to a popular audience, but it is leavened with occasional glimpses of a dry wit. For example, after describing Hobbes's monotonous report on a tour of the continent with the young William Cavendish, Martinich notes that William's father "was fortunate that Hobbes could not take photographic slides to be shown in the living room." We also see Hobbes's personality in these pages, and apparently he is as cranky and self-impressed as you would expect from his writings. His inability to gain admission into the Royal Society, for example, stemmed not only from scientific disagreements, but also the perception by some members that he would be a "bore." While "a witty and engagingconversationalist" on occasion, his belief in absolute sovereignty was matched by a belief in the absolute truth of his own philosophy, a quality few could find endearing. Yet there is an intriguing unconventionality to the man: anyone whose daily routine includes singing to himself because he believes it contributes to good health can't be all bad. A detailed and substantial work. (16 b&w photos) .
From the Publisher
"Martinich brings back the whole man, multifaceted and controversial....and only Martinich's exceptional acuity as a biographer enables him to follow Hobbes through all his varied pursuits, uncovering long-forgotten details in every episode....A careful and readable biography." Bryce Christensen, Booklist

"...the best all-around biography of Thomas Hobbes available." David Johnston, Columbia University

"...must reading for any person interested in intellectual history. This is a brilliantly written, witty, accurate and absorbing account of the turbulent period in which Hobbes lived and wrote. It deals with such subjects as the rise of modern science, religious discord, the rejection of political absolutism, and civil war. Its scope is extraordinary...I recommend it enthusiastically." Avrom Stroll, University of California, San Diego

"Martinich's writing style is clear, and his exposition of Hobbes's thought is well within the reach of most readers....Written by a Hobbes expert...this biography should serve most libraries well and should certainly be a part of any political theory or political philosophy collection." Library Journal

"A scholar's biography, this book will become a standard work for students of Hobbes (1588-1679)." Kirkus Reviews

"Martinich superbly develops Hobbes' relationship with the intellectual, religious, and political milieu of Stuart England." Boston Book Review

"...Intellectual tour de force...." Kirkus Reviews

"Martinich's book is interesting mostly for the light it throws on Hobbes's religious beliefs. Martinich's study of Hobbes provides a timely reminder of this pressing and relevant truth." William Christian, Toronto Globe & Mail

"In an easy-to-read style, Martinich's biography of Thomas Hobbes, the great English philosopher of the 17th century, captures the flow of Hobbes's life and intellectual accomplishment in those interesting times....this is an easily accessible, very useful, and worthwhile book." Choice

"...written in a lucid style...enlivened with many anecdotes and humorous asides....straightforwardly organized....well produced....to reach a wide audience." Albion

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521495837
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 390
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface; Introduction; A note on dates; Chronology; 1. Malmesbury and Magdalen Hall, 1588-1608; 2. Tutor and companion, 1608-1620; 3. Secretary and humanist, 1621-1629; 4. Early scientific studies and religious views, 1629-1640; 5. The elements of law, natural and politic, 1640; 6. A decade of exile, 1641-1651 (I); 7. A decade of exile, 1641-1651 (II); 8. Leviathan and the engagement controversy, 1651-1653; 9. Demonstrations and disputations, 1652-1659; 10. Baiting the bear, 1660-1669; 11. The final years, 1670-1679; A bibliographical essay; Abbreviations; Notes; Index.

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