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Hobbes (The Routledge Philosophers) Paperback – 25 Apr 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; New Ed edition (25 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415283280
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415283281
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 1.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,167,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'In short, this is a fine and authoritative study by an acknowledged master of his subject. No serious student of Hobbes or early modern philosophy should ignore this book.' - Paul Kelly, London School of Economics

'This is an excellent book, well-suited to the Routledge Philosophers series. It is clearly and accessibly written, comprehensive, up-to-date on current scholarship, well-organised and often humorous. I think undergraduates will find the book both readable and enjoyable. Teachers will find it very helpful.' - S.A. Lloyd, University of Southern California

About the Author

A.P.Martinich is Professor of philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin. He is the author of A Hobbes Dictionary (Blackwell, 1995), Hobbes: A Biography (CUP, 2000) and the editor of Philosophy of Language (OUP, 2000).


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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Avant-Garde Politician: Leaders for a New Epoch

This biography well presents the fascinating combination in the mind of Thomas Hobbes, typical of his period of transition (he lived from 1588 to 1679), of an obsolete philosophy of science and old-fashioned support of absolute monarchy with amazing insights and creative thinking.Thus, Hobbes suffered from what the author calls "symbol anxiety" (p. 283) resulting in misunderstanding of mathematics; and rejected the emphasis on experimentation as a basis for scientific knowledge. But "Hobbes' notion of reason as mere calculation was offensive to almost all. Nonetheless, it is the one that guides research in cognitive sciences. His view of reason is one of his best claims to historical distinction" (p. 124). And he rightly rejected the classical view "that there is...'a summum bonum,' one object that is the goal for all human beings and that, when achieved, marks the end of striving" (p. 135).

What is in the opinion of the author, rightly so, "Hobbes' single greatest argument," which Martinich fittingly calls The Great Ignorance and Fear Argument, was that a few people are evil, but because we do not know how to distinguish them from the good, `there is a necessity of suspecting, heeding, anticipating, subjugating, self-defending, ever incident to the most honest and fairest conditioned" (p. 206).

There is much in history to support "Hobbes' jaundiced view of human nature" (p.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9b7ca894) out of 5 stars 4 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b22951c) out of 5 stars As Close to the Standard Edition As It Gets 28 Feb. 2003
By Parker Benchley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
One, if not the first, in a series of biographies of European philosophers by Cambridge University Press, this volume more than holds its own and is bound to becomne the standard text on the life of Thomas Hobbes.
Deftly written and extremely well researched, this is a volume not only for the scholar of English philosophy or history, but for the well-read layman as well. Martinich presents his subject chronologically, as any good biography should, with brief stopovers for analysis of each Hobbes text both philosophically and within the historical context against which it was written. Martinich is most unusual in that he does not take his own words as the last ones on the subject; there are pages on his disagreements with other writers on interpretations of both the life and thought of Hobbes, which makes this volume both unusual and valuable to any understanding of its subject.
Pricey, but strongly recommended, especially if one has any of the other volumes in the Cambridge series. If possible, wait for the paperback . . . but not too long, for there is much about Hobbes one will miss.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9b2305e8) out of 5 stars THE DEFINITIVE BIOGRAPHY OF HOBBES 11 Nov. 2009
By Steven H Propp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A.P. Martinich is an analytic philosopher who has an emphasis on the history of political thought, and he is the author of this great biography.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was an English philosopher, most remembered today for his seminal work of political philosophy, Leviathan: With Selected Variants from the Latin Edition of 1668. Hobbes served as a secretary to Francis Bacon for some time, and Martinich notes, "Not even his friends liked Bacon."

Martinich observes that "Although he would sharpen the argumentation and improve the presentation in later works, Hobbes adhered for the rest of his life to the basic positions presented in his first political treatise." (The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic: To Which Are Subjoined Selected Extracts from Unprinted Mss. of Thomas Hobbes). Martinich later adds that "All or almost all of the central points of Leviathan had been made by Hobbes in early books and manuscripts."

Martinich's own comments are always pertinent: e.g., "His doctrine was Calvinism without original sin." "Hobbes never lost an adolescent delight of shocking the intellectual establishment."

Hobbes was the founder of biblical criticism, and "Hobbes was the first person to argue in print that Moses was not the author of most of the Pentateuch." About Hobbes' attempt to reconcile science and religion, Martinich notes, "He failed, but I do not know of anyone who has succeeded."

This is the finest study of Hobbes' life we are ever likely to see.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By toronto - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a very competent biography of Hobbes, laced with the author's sardonic (and often very funny) asides and comments. We could probably do without some of the comments, as they are occasionally self indulgent, but they do liven up some dry times in the exposition. They also chime somewhat with Hobbes' notorious cantankerousness. For contemporary philosophers,among the most important ideas are those stemming from the ruthlessness with which Hobbes pursued the relationship between states of nature, states of law, and the nature of sovereignty (much of this has been taken up in recent discussions of terrorism by Agamben and others; but of course goes back all the way to Grotius, Rousseau, etc.). The contemporary reader needs to keep substituting some other kind of sovereign power for the actual Charles I, Charles II, etc. (the Stuarts were not a great advertisement for the theory of the absolute sovereign). There is also a nice summary of Hobbes' theory of mathematics (about the status of arithmetic versus geometry) which I never quite grasped before, and which has interesting echoes in Wittgenstein's Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics.

I didn't know until I read this biography that Hobbes believed in the existence of angels, and other interesting tidbits.

I particularly liked the anecdote that Hobbes pointed to a gravestone and remarked that that "was the True Philosopher's Stone".
HASH(0x9b2291d4) out of 5 stars GOOD BACKGROUND FOR CONSIDERING A “GLOBAL LEVIATHAN 6 Mar. 2015
By Yehezkel Dror - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Avant-Garde Politician: Leaders for a New Epoch

This biography well presents the fascinating combination in the mind of Thomas Hobbes, typical of his period of transition (he lived from 1588 to 1679), of an obsolete philosophy of science and old-fashioned support of absolute monarchy with amazing insights and creative thinking.Thus, Hobbes suffered from what the author calls “symbol anxiety” (p. 283) resulting in misunderstanding of mathematics; and rejected the emphasis on experimentation as a basis for scientific knowledge. But ”Hobbes’ notion of reason as mere calculation was offensive to almost all. Nonetheless, it is the one that guides research in cognitive sciences. His view of reason is one of his best claims to historical distinction” (p. 124). And he rightly rejected the classical view “that there is…’a summum bonum,’ one object that is the goal for all human beings and that, when achieved, marks the end of striving” (p. 135).

What is in the opinion of the author, rightly so, “Hobbes’ single greatest argument,” which Martinich fittingly calls The Great Ignorance and Fear Argument, was that a few people are evil, but because we do not know how to distinguish them from the good, ‘there is a necessity of suspecting, heeding, anticipating, subjugating, self-defending, ever incident to the most honest and fairest conditioned” (p. 206).

There is much in history to support “Hobbes’ jaundiced view of human nature” (p. 179), leading to a revised version of his main theses on the need for strong governance: In my view (as presented in my recent book) a circumscibed Global Leviathan is essential for preventing self-destruction of the human species with the dangerous tools provided by science and technology.

This biography has some problems. Thus, nearly nothing is said on Hobbes’ private life; insights into his mind are scarce; the views of Nietzsche are mispresented (p. 351); and Hobbes’ quarrels are discussed at greater length than they deserve. But, all in all, it provides a comprehensive and well written overview of the development of the thinking of Hobbes within his changing cultural and political settings.

Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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