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Hobbes : a biography
Martinich, Aloysius.
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Publication Information:
Cambridge, U.K. ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xvi, 390 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits ; 24 cm
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B1246 .M38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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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The book takes full account of the historical and cultural context in which Hobbes lived, drawing on both published and unpublished sources.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. A. P. Martinich is a Professor of Philosophy and the author or editor of nine books, including The Philosophy of Language (1996), Philosophical Writing (1997), and The Two Gods of Leviathan (Cambridge University Press, 1992).

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The centuries have burnished the reputation of Thomas Hobbes as a political philosopher but have obscured his remarkable attainments in science, literature, mathematics, and theology. Martinich brings back the whole man, multifaceted and controversial. Only an omnivorous intellect could translate Homer, devise geometrical proofs, debate optics, and explicate biblical doctrines, 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. These details reveal the subtle intelligence that won the respect of Ben Jonson and John Dryden, while also exposing the unyielding combativeness that embroiled Hobbes in disputes with Descartes and numerous clerics. Martinich defends Hobbes against the clerics' accusations of atheism. Yet it is not faith but fear that he identifies as the dark, unifying thread running through Hobbes's tempestuous career and his tough-minded political theory. That political theory speaks compellingly to our own grim and anxious age. A careful and readable biography. --Bryce Christensen

Library Journal Review

Hobbes's 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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

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. From the viewpoint of aiming at completeness, there is no competitive biography of Hobbes, with the possible exception of Miriam Reik's The Golden Lands of Thomas Hobbes (CH, Jan'78). Martinich (Univ. of Texas at Austin) is the author of numerous works on Hobbes (CH, May'96 and CH, Mar'97) and in The Two Gods of the Leviathan: Hobbes on Religion and Politics (1992) shows general competence to consider Hobbes's intellectual accomplishments. Though valuable, this book has two limitations. Martinich often adds comments and impressions of Hobbes's thought without argument; this is understandable, granted the biographical structure of his intention, but this reviewer frequently finds disagreement with those comments or considers them dubious. The other difficulty involves choice of material: some important possible influences on Hobbes are not discussed, e.g., Raleigh and Saint Germain (see Robinson Grover's article in Hobbes Studies III:1990) and, as a formative experience, the legal work that Hobbes did for the Cavendish family in relation to their tin mines. Nevertheless, this is an easily accessible, very useful, and worthwhile book. General readers and all student levels. M. A. Bertman SUNY College at Potsdam

Table of Contents

A note on dates
1 Malmesbury and Magdalen Hall, 1588û1608
2 Tutor and companion, 1608û1620
3 Secretary and humanist, 1621û1629
4 Early scientific studies and religious views, 1629û1640
5 The elements of law, natural and politic, 1640
6 A decade of exile, 1641û1651 (I)
7 A decade of exile, 1641û1651 (II)
8 Leviathan and the engagement controversy, 1651û1653
9 Demonstrations and disputations, 1652û1659
10 Baiting the bear, 1660û1669
11 The final years, 1670û1679
A bibliographical essay