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HOBBES, THOMAS (b. Malmesbury, England, 5
April 1588; d. Hardwick, Derbyshire, England, 4 December
1679), political philosophy, moral philosophy,
Hobbes. He grossly underestimated its scope and was
suspicious of all attempts to “arithmetize” geometry.
He thought of algebra as a minor branch of arithmetic;
Wallis' “scab of symbols” simply disfigured the
page, “as if a hen had been scraping there.”16 Nor
he appreciate the significance of Wallis' contributions,
published in Arithmetica infinitorum (1655), toward
the development of the differential calculus, although
Hobbes's speculations in optics of an earlier stage in
his life seemed to be leading him in the direction Wallis
In fact, Hobbes, in his sixties when he began his
dispute with Wallis, was out of touch with the generation
of rising young scientists and mathematicians.
He was not opposed to experimentalism on principle,
but he had no natural sympathy for it and considered
that most of the experiments performed by fellows
and correspondents of the Royal Society were either
ill-conceived and poorly executed, or else they
reached conclusions long ago arrived at by Hobbes
through the use of his unaided reason. In this spirit
he wrote “Dialogus physicus, sive de natura aeris”
(1616), a brief but barbed attack on Robert Boyle's
experiments on the vacuum pump, to which Boyle
replied calmly, though forcefully, in Examen of Mr.
Hobbes, His Dialogus (1662) and Dissertation on Vacuum
Against Mr. Hobbes (1674). Not surprisingly,
Hobbes was excluded from membership in the Royal
Society, a fact which he resented, although he publicly
declared that he was lucky to be out of it.
Hobbes's last years were thus clouded with controversy,
but they were not without their simple pleasures
and rewards. He lived comfortably on the
Cavendish estates in Chatsworth and Hardwick Hall
and, more frequently, in the duke of Devonshire's
house on the Strand in London. He enjoyed long
walks; he played tennis until he was seventy-five; and
he had an abiding love of music, listening to it whenever
he could and playing on his own bass viol. Capable
as he was of holding his own in public controversy,
and sparkling with wit in table talk, he was
always gentle with people of lower rank or inferior
education. He was a bachelor, but according to
Aubrey he was not a “woman-hater”; and it is possible
that he had a natural daughter whom he cherished.
In his eighties, mostly to amuse himself, Hobbes
published translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey.
And when he was ninety he published Decameron
physiologicum, a set of dialogues on physical
principles containing also a last salvo fired off
against Wallis. He died of a stroke at the age of
1. John Aubrey, Brief Lives, A. Clark, ed. (Oxford, 1898), I,
2. Hobbes, Life ... Written by Himself (London, 1680), p. 3.
3. Margaret Cavendish, Philosophical and Physical Opinions
(London, 1663), p. 463; Jean Jacquot, “Sir Charles Cavendish
and His Learned Friends,” in Annals of Science,8
4. S. Arthur Strong, A Catalogue of Letters and Documents at
Welbeck (London, 1903), p. vii.
5. G. R. De Beer, “Some Letters of Hobbes,” in Notes and
Records. Royal Society of London,7 (1950), 205.
6. Hobbes, Latin Works, Molesworth, ed., V, 303.
7. Ibid., pp. 221-222.
8. See, on this point, Alan E. Shapiro, “Rays and Waves,”
dissertation, Yale University, 1970. Dr. Shapiro has made
a full study of Hobbes's optics.
9. Hobbes, Latin Works, V, 228.
10. Hobbes, “Tractatus opticus,” British Museum, Harleian MS.
6796, ch. 2, sec. 1.
11. The two other optical MSS are “A Minute or First Draught
of the Optiques,” British Museum, Harleian MS 3360; and
a second Latin treatise also called “Tractatus opticus,” British
Museum, Harleian MS 6796.
12. See Samuel I. Mintz, The Hunting of Leviathan (Cambridge,
13. Bishop John Vesey, “The Life of Primate Bramhall,” in
Bramhall, Works (Dublin, 1677).
14. Samuel I. Mintz, “Hobbes on the Law of Heresy; A New
Manuscript,” in Journal of the History of Ideas,29
409-414; “Hobbes's Knowledge of the Law,” ibid.,31 (1970),
15. A. De Morgan, A Budget of Paradoxes (London, 1915), p.
16. Hobbes, “Six Lessons to the Professors of the
in Works, VII, 316.
I. ORIGINAL WORKS.
Hobbes's works include De cive
(Paris, 1642); De corpore politico, or the Elements of Law
(London, 1650); Leviathan (London, 1651); De corpore
(London, 1655); Problemata physica (London, 1662); Lux
mathematica (London, 1672); Decameron physiologicum
(London, 1678); and Behemoth (London, 1679). The
standard ed. of Hobbes's works is by William Molesworth,
16 vols. (London, 1839-1845), but it has inaccuracies and
omissions. A comprehensive modern ed., to be published
at Oxford, is being prepared by Howard Warrender. The
standard bibliography of Hobbes's works is by Hugh
Macdonald (London, 1952). Important modern eds. of
Leviathan are by Michael Oakeshott (Oxford, 1946) and
by C. B. Macpherson (Baltimore, 1968). A modern translation
particularly valuable for its full annotations and attention
to textual problems is François Tricaud, Leviathan:
Traité de la matière, de la forme et du pouvoir de la
ecclésiastique et civile (Paris, 1971).
II. SECONDARY LITERATURE.
of Hobbes are John Aubrey, Brief Lives, A. Clark, ed.
(Oxford, 1898); and Richard Blackbourne, in Vitae Hobbianae
auctarium (London, 1681). The most important nineteenth-and
early twentieth-century studies of Hobbes, in