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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)

Tim Olinski (History, Queen’s University)


Stefan Brown (History): “How did Thomas Hobbes become a Moralist? Hobbism, Mandeville, and Hutcheson in the 1720s.” 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): “From Bruni to Hobbes: The Influence of Thucydides.” 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.


The Early Modern Interdisciplinary Graduate Forum (EMIGF) is a monthly event hosted by the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies (CRRS) at the University of Toronto. EMIGF is a platform for PhD candidates, post-docs, fellows, and recent graduates to deliver papers in an informal setting. Our mandate is to provide junior and emerging scholars with the opportunity to present work in progress, and to facilitate dialogue on current topics in early modern research across the disciplines.

EMIGF hosts seven annual meetings. Each meeting features two speakers who each deliver a paper, and commentary and discussion guided by a moderator to elaborate the points of contact or departure between the two approaches presented. The EMIGF is an interdisciplinary forum. Each meeting brings two speakers from different departments working on similar topics, or on topics that may seem at first dissimilar. The emphasis of discussion is on connections between different fields, topics and research methods and how one perspective may inform or be informed by another.

EMIGF held its inaugural season in 2011-2012, initiated by former CRRS graduate fellow Tim Harrison. Now in its fifth consecutive year, EMIGF meetings are well attended by graduate students, faculty, and fellows from the early modern community at the University of Toronto and beyond. Please consider joining us at the next meeting!

Our monthly meetings are held Thursday afternoons (4:00-5:30 pm), and are located in the Victoria University Common Room of Burwash Hall (89 Charles St. West). To demonstrate its dedication to early modern graduate research in Toronto, the CRRS supplies coffee and snacks for each meeting. Contact organizer, Leslie Wexler with any questions at:


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


Victoria University Common Room (Rear Entrance Burwash Hall)
89 Charles Street West
Toronto, Ontario M5S1K7 Canada
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