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Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies

Victoria University in the University of Toronto
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Early Modern Interdisciplinary Graduate Forum VI

February 13, 2018 at 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Stefan Brown (History, Queen’s University), “How did Thomas Hobbes become a Moralist? Hobbism, Mandeville, and Hutcheson in the 1720s”

Tim Olinski (History, Queen’s University), “From Bruni to Hobbes: The Influence of Thucydides”


Stefan Brown (History). How did Thomas Hobbes become a moral philosopher? A 1750 collection of Hobbes’s texts was published with the title, The Moral and Political Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury. I contend that it was unlikely that anyone would have considered Hobbes a moral philosopher at the onset of the eighteenth century. Hobbes was an atheist, a materialist, and a denier of freewill; he was fundamentally amoral. This paper is about how that began to change in the 1720s. I will discuss how the reception of Mandeville’s The Fable of the Bees challenged Hobbes’s reputation as the most prominent English atheist. There were certainly those who clung to the old interpretation, but there was a new group of moralists who saw human sociability as natural and inherent, according to them Hobbes and Mandeville were egoists instead of atheists. To them Hobbes was a moralist, a prominent member of the self-love tradition.

Tim Olinski (History). In the spectrum of political thought, Thomas Hobbes and Leonardo Bruni stand out as individuals of significance. Something these two authors share in common is an early exposure to that most realistic of ancient historians, Thucydides, who made the transition from Greek to Latin, thanks to the work of Lorenzo Valla, as early as the fifteenth-century. While somewhat ignored by Medieval and Renaissance scholars, who preferred other classical authors such as Aristotle or Cicero, Thucydides came to have a significant impact on both of these men. As evidenced by Hobbes’ famous Leviathan, and Bruni’s Funeral Oration for Nanni Strozzi, the thoughts and approaches that Thucydides took came to colour their own understanding of government. By examining these two works, this link to Thucydides becomes clear and shows the extent to which their thought fed off this ancient Athenian, both in style and in substance.


February 13, 2018
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm