chapter  9
15 Pages

Hobbes’ Reputation in Anglo-American Philosophy


Hobbes was both famous and notorious during his lifetime, and he has several reputations today, not only in professional philosophy but beyond. During his lifetime, he seems to have been highly regarded on the Continent as a social thinker, a working natural scientist, even as a mathematician; in England, on the other hand, he was excluded from the Royal Society, abused by Wallis for his mathematical inadequacies and treated as untrustworthy for his political theory by people on both sides in the Civil War. How he was regarded mattered enormously to Hobbes, and he tried when attacked to defend his reputation as an intellectual, as a participant in English political life and as a Protestant believer. His reputation is the subject of at least one of his works, Considerations on the Reputation, Loyalty, Manners and Religion, of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury (1662), and his attempts to defend and promote his good name are visible in his autobiographical verse and in some Epistles Dedicatory to his works, notably that of De Corpore. Hobbes’ reputation among his contemporaries is a big subject, but I am going to steer clear of it. I shall concentrate instead on his standing in recent and current philosophy in the English-speaking world.