Hobbes, Hont and commercial society

In 2009 Istvan Hont delivered the Carlyle Lectures at Oxford on Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Adam Smith. These were (posthumously) published earlier this summer as Politics in Commercial Society: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Adam Smith, ed. Béla Kapossy and Michael Sonenscher (Harvard University Press, 2015). They make for an intriguing and sometimes a quite frustrating read, not least because they contain many bold and provocative claims, often with only minimal evidence adduced in their support. While the book is principally about Rousseau and Smith, Hobbes plays a crucial part in Hont’s genealogy of the concept of commercial society in the opening chapter, which might be of interest to visitors of this site. I also suspect that most discussions of the book will (rightly) focus on Hont’s interpretations of Rousseau and Smith, but his analysis of Hobbes also merits consideration.

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Hobbes is funnier than Shaftesbury …

Hobbes is funnier than Shaftesbury … or so thought Adam Smith, at least. In his Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, Smith provides a scathing attack on the style of Anthony Ashley-Cooper, the Third Earl of Shaftesbury. His judgement on Shaftesbury strikes me as spot on:

In his Treatise where he ridicules Mr Hobbs there is not one passage which would make us laugh. Mr Hobbs book would make us laugh but his ridicule would never affect us. (Glasgow Edition of Smith, vol. 4, p. 60)

Noel Malcolm’s edition of Leviathan: a review of the reviews

Reviews reviewed:

Deborah Baumgold, English Historical Review vol. 128 issue 535, 2013

Adrian Blau, Journal of Early Modern Studies vol. 2 no. 2, 2013

Jeffrey Collins, Modern Intellectual History vol. 12 no. 1, 2015

Rachel Foxley, The Review of English Studies vol. 65 issue 271, 2014

John Gray, The New Statesman, September 2012

Kinch Hoekstra, Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 76 no. 2, 2015

Sarah Mortimer and David Scott, Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 76 no. 2, 2015

William Poole, The Library, vol. 14. no. 4, 2013

David Runciman, Times Literary Supplement, February 2013

Patricia Springborg, British Journal for the History of Philosophy vol. 22 no. 2, 2014

Blair Worden, Literary Review, December 2012

with responses to some of the reviews by Noel Malcolm, Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 76 no. 2, 2015

 

Noel Malcolm’s magnificent edition of Leviathan features a one-volume introduction and two volumes of Leviathan, with the 1651 English and 1668 Latin versions printed side-by-side. All reviewers agree that this edition is a superb achievement. David Runciman praises ‘Malcolm’s extraordinary scholarly range and precision’ – scholarship ‘of the highest level’, writes Rachel Foxley, leading Deborah Baumgold to coin a new adjective: ‘Malcolmian’.  This edition is an ‘immense improvement on the nineteenth-century Molesworth collections’, she adds. Blair Worden describes Malcolm’s edition as ‘a glory … that sets quite new standards of editorial scholarship’. John Gray calls it ‘an astonishing achievement of the highest scholarship’. Patricia Springborg ‘cannot imagine that this edition will ever be technically surpassed’, although she does suggest that the 2003 Schuhmann and Rogers edition of Leviathan has more merits than Malcolm implies.

What sets Malcolm’s edition apart is the ‘meticulous detective work’ described by Jeffrey Collins. Malcolm is Read more