New article: Hobbes, Constant, and Berlin on Liberty

Cromartie, Alan (2022): Hobbes, Constant, and Berlin on Liberty, in: History of European Ideas,

Isaiah Berlin’s ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’ regards both Hobbes and Constant as supporting the negative version. Both took a favourable view of the freedom to live as one pleases. But this shared preference arose from radically different overall philosophies. Hobbes’s support for freedom as ‘the silence of the laws’ reflected his view of happiness as preference-satisfaction. Constant’s support for freedom as a sphere of absolute rights was supplemented by support for active citizenship and connected with belief in ‘perfectibility’ that was itself linked to religion. These theories involve altogether different understandings of the image of an ‘area’ preserved from interference. Berlin takes over from Constant an appeal to human nature without the idea of progress that had supported it.

New Book: Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes by Timothy Raylor (Oxford University Press)

Timothy Raylor (2018): Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes (Oxford University Press) (forthcoming)


Thomas Hobbes claimed to have founded the discipline of civil philosophy (political science). The claim did not go uncontested and in recent years the relationship of philosophical reasoning to rhetorical persuasion in Hobbes’s work has become a significant area of discussion, as scholars attempt to align his disparaging remarks about rhetoric with his dazzling practice of it in works like Leviathan. The dominant view is that, having rejected an early commitment to humanism and with it rhetoric when he adopted the ‘scientific’ approach to philosophy in the late 1630s, Hobbes later came to re-embrace it as an essential aid to or part of philosophy. Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes proposes that Hobbes was, from first to last, dubious about the place of rhetoric in civil society, and came to see it as a pernicious presence within philosophy – a position from which he did not retreat. It offers a fresh and expanded picture of Hobbes’s humanism by examining his years as a country house tutor; his teaching and his translation of Thucydides, the influence on him of Bacon, and the range of his early natural historical and philosophical interests. In demonstrating the distinctively Aristotelian character of his understanding of rhetoric, the book also revisits the new approach to philosophy Hobbes adopted at the end of the 1630s, clarifying the nature and scope of his concern about the contamination of philosophy and political life by the procedures of rhetorical argumentation.

Table of contents

1: Noble Tutor
2: Civil History and Style in Thucydides
3: Poetry and Natural History in the Peak
4: Aristotle’s Rhetoric in the Schoolroom
5: Logic, Rhetoric, and Philosophy
6: Discovery, Proof, and Style
7: Rhetoric and Leviathan
Appendix: The Authorship of The Briefe of the Art of Rhetorique
List of Manuscripts

Article: Hobbes on Natural Philosophy as “True Physics” and Mixed Mathematics

Marcus P. Adams, ‘Hobbes on Natural Philosophy as “True Physics” and Mixed Mathematics’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 56 (2016).

Abstract: In this paper, I offer an alternative account of the relationship of Hobbesian geometry to natural philosophy by arguing that mixed mathematics provided Hobbes with a model for thinking about it. In mixed mathematics, one may borrow causal principles from one science and use them in another science without there being a deductive relationship between those two sciences. Natural philosophy for Hobbes is mixed because an explanation may combine observations from experience (the ‘that’) with causal principles from geometry (the ‘why’). My argument shows that Hobbesian natural philosophy relies upon suppositions that bodies plausibly behave according to these borrowed causal principles from geometry, acknowledging that bodies in the world may not actually behave this way. First, I consider Hobbes’s relation to Aristotelian mixed mathematics and to Isaac Barrow’s broadening of mixed mathematics in Mathematical Lectures(1683). I show that for Hobbes maker’s knowledge from geometry provides the ‘why’ in mixed-mathematical explanations. Next, I examine two explanations from De corporePart IV: (1) the explanation of sense in De corpore 25.1-2; and (2) the explanation of the swelling of parts of the body when they become warm in De corpore 27.3. In both explanations, I show Hobbes borrowing and citing geometrical principles and mixing these principles with appeals to experience.