Thomas Hobbes concludes the Preface to his 1677 translations of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey as follows:
Why then did I write it? Because I had nothing else to do. Why publish it? Because I thought it might take off my Adversaries from showing their folly upon my more serious Writings, and set them upon my Verses to shew their wisdom. But why without Annotations? Because I had no hope to do it better than it is already done by Mr. Ogilby.
For such a lively thinker as Hobbes, this is hardly an enthusiastic endorsement of the work to follow. If we take the quips at face value, the implication is that a close examination of the project will not be helpful in understanding Hobbes’ larger project. Perhaps the translation ought to be seen as a frivolous and uninteresting byproduct of a once-great thinker’s boredom and leisure.
The operative question of this paper is whether we should in fact take Hobbes’ quips at face value. In other words, this essay examines what the Homer translations can tell us about Hobbes’ philosophy. I ultimately focus on one theme (the cognitive faculty or intellectual virtue Hobbes calls “fancy”) in one part (the Preface) of his work. Hobbes’ use of “fancy” is consistent with its development within his philosophical system, and his view that epic poetry elevates it sheds light on his materialism. The outline of the paper is simple: first comes a background of Hobbes’ relevant publication history, followed by treatments of fancy in his Homer publication and elsewhere in his philosophical system.
Background to the Work
Hobbes’ Homer translations come near the end of a long and vexed publication career. He died at 91, and was still writing, though by dictation, until the end. His publications include works on optics and mathematics, commentaries on contemporary politics, correspondences with luminaries like Descartes, and systematic political-philosophical treatises. In order to appreciate the significance of Hobbes’ Homer translations, it will be helpful to briefly survey important points in his publication career. Doing so will show that Hobbes’ encounter with Greek texts informed his project throughout. It will also reveal that the Homer translations served as one of his only tenable literary outlets late in life.
Though Hobbes was well liked by many who knew him, by the end of his life he had become one of the most detested intellectuals in Europe—and perhaps in the entire history of philosophy. G. A. J. Rogers, who calls Hobbes “the most maligned philosopher of all time,” puts it well when he says, “One might say that if Hobbes had set out deliberately to offend his fellow countrymen, it is difficult to see how he could have been more successful.” Most of the hatred resulted from the publication of the work for which he is now most famous: Leviathan (English edition published in London in 1651; Latin edition in published in Amsterdam in 1668). Here, Hobbes provides a systematic account of the correct foundations for political sovereignty based on a reductively materialistic conception of human nature. The treatise’s conspicuous materialism, justification of absolute sovereignty, and theological disputes (which take up over half of the work) were read as licenses for relativism, hedonism, atheism, and despotism. For just one example of the manifest relativism that infuriated his contemporaries, consider Hobbes’ definition of “good” and “bad” from the first section of the work:
Whatsoever is the object of any man’s Appetite or Desire; that is it, which he for his part calleth Good: And the object of his Hate, and Aversion, Evill. . . . For these words of Good, Evill, and Contemptible, are ever used with relation to the person that useth them: There being nothing simply and absolutely so.
In addition to startling passages like this, most important of all was Hobbes’ Erastianism—the view according to which the only binding religious law is civil law and independent Episcopal authority is denied.
The themes and structure of the Leviathan had, however, appeared earlier in Hobbes’ political works, and they would continue to appear. In addition to the Leviathan, two other important systematic political-philosophical works are Notes on the Laws (a 1640 widely-circulated manuscript, later published without Hobbes’ permission in 1650 in two parts as Humane Nature and De Corpore Politico) and De Cive (1642, one part of a systematic trilogy including De Corpore in 1655 and De Homine in 1658). One important similarity between all these works is what I will call their foundationalist systematicity: all begin with an account of the nature of human individuals and deduce from that a comprehensive view of human social, moral, and political life. (We can contrast Hobbes’ foundationalist systematicity with, say, the more fragmentary and meandering works of a Rousseau.) Moreover, each of these works is what we can call reductively materialistic: human nature, as the starting point of the system, is explained exhaustively in terms of the matter and the motion of physical bodies and objects. (We can contrast this reductive materialism with, say, the metaphysical dualism of a Descartes.) In each of his major political works, Hobbes begins with a foundational account of human nature and builds upon it as a theory of political sovereignty.
It is quite likely that Hobbes found the inspiration for the foundationalist systematicity that permeates his works in Greek thought—especially in Euclid. When Hobbes recounts the first time he read Euclid, he emphasizes that he was amazed “not so much because of the theorems, as because of the method of reasoning.” It seems that Hobbes was fascinated by the method of deducing complex theorems from clearly stated first principles, and this geometrical model became an important one for his philosophy. The upshot of this insight, besides illustrating Hobbes’ familiarity with certain Greek thinkers, is that it suggests that the Homer translations, which may seem at first like an idle pastime composed late in life, may have some systematic connections with his earlier foundational works.
The works of Homer were not the first Greek translations Hobbes published. In fact, Hobbes’ first printed work was translation of Thucydides (published as Eight Bookes Of the Peloponnesian Warre Written by Thucydides . . . Interpreted with Faith and Diligence Immediately out of the Greeke by Thomas Hobbes, in London in 1629). Noel Malcom has recognized this work as important for understanding Hobbes’ literary activities in two ways. First, it is testament to his ability as a classical scholar; the translation was the first directly into English from the Greek, and it included a detailed map of ancient Greece, which Hobbes created from many ancient sources. Second, the translation forced Hobbes to grapple with conflicting political views. One of the most famous parts of Thucydides is Pericles’ great praise-of-democracy speech, though Hobbes was anti-democratic and pro-royalist. Later in life, in his autobiography (composed in Latin verse in 1672, but not published until 1679), Hobbes explains that he was able to publish Thucydides without feeling a threat to his political views because he thought Thucydides documented the downfall and demise inherent in democracy. To this end, Hobbes calls Thucydides “the most Politique Historiographer that ever writ.” Thucydides’ political insight was to show “how incompetent democracy is.”
Nor was the translation of the complete Iliad and Odyssey Hobbes’ first translation of Homer. In 1673, Hobbes published a translation of one section of the Odyssey as The Travels of Ulysses, As they were Related by Himself in Homer’s Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh & Twelfth Books of his Odysses, to Alcinous, king of Phaeacia. He subsequently published a translation of the complete Odysses in 1675, the complete Iliads in 1676, and a joint edition—published as the “Second Edition”—in 1677 (all in London). The translations were in alternating rhyming pentameters, and the relatively rapid succession of printings suggests that the book was popular and sold well. Perhaps the reason for this was that its convenient size (duodecimo) made the volume appealing and accessible—especially compared to Chapman’s and Ogilby’s extravagant versions.
Even if it was initially commercially successful, Hobbes’ translation soon met with harsh criticism. Alexander Pope’s review is an apt and influential example:
Hobbes has given us a correct explanation of the sense in general, but for particulars and circumstances, he continually lops them, and often omits the most beautiful. As for its being esteemed a close translation, I doubt not many have been led into that error by the shortness of it, which proceeds from his following the original line by line, but from the contractions above mentioned. He sometimes omits whole similes and sentences, and is now and then guilty of mistakes, into which no writer of his learning could have fallen, but rough carelessness. His poetry . . . is too mean for criticism.
Hobbes’ pentameters, with a maximum of ten-syllables per line, offered a compressed version of the poem, which in the original dactylic hexameter had at least twelve syllables per line and usually closer to seventeen. Consequently, Hobbes was forced to omit much of what strikes many as most characteristic of Homer’s verse—such as the use of descriptive and pictorial character epithets. Perhaps it is because the final product was “too mean for criticism” that the longest single work of one of the world’s greatest philosophers (according to Leibniz, “no other writer . . . has philosophized as precisely, as clearly, and as elegantly” save Descartes) has been ignored.
It is important to note that by the time Hobbes published his Homer translations, he was virtually banned from publishing his political and philosophical works in England. As Eric Nelson explains, the reason for his virtual ban was the 1662 Licensing Act, which stated that books on religion, natural philosophy, or anything in the curriculum of arts and sciences had to be pre-approved for publication. All of Hobbes’ attempts to publish philosophical and political works in England were denied license during this period. In 1668, his Latin works were published in Amsterdam, but it is likely that Hobbes came to see even foreign publication as dangerous. Nelson points out that the English laws were repeatedly reevaluated in response to Hobbes; for example, in 1669, a fellow of Corpus Christi College at Cambridge was expelled and forced to recant for being a “Hobbsist.” It is at the end of this long fallow publication period, in the face of the censorship against his explicitly political and philosophical writings, that Hobbes published his translations of Homer.
The Homer translations provide an excellent opportunity to understand the workings of Hobbes in his last years. Since he was virtually banned from publishing his philosophical and religious writings during this time, his Homer volume provides a unique chance to evaluate his thought. Several scholars have recently argued that Hobbes tried to craft his translations with the end of political and philosophical persuasion in mind. (One might imagine a Straussian or esotericist reading of the work). A notorious example of Hobbes’ philosophical views in the work is his translation of “Priam’s bastard son” as “A lawful Son where Nature is the Law.” In addition to the main text, however, the Homer translations were published with a preface by Hobbes—“A Large Preface Concerning the Virtues of an Heroic Poem”—and this section is a natural place to look to understand how the translations might relate to Hobbes’ larger philosophical system. The Preface allowed Hobbes to address the audience in his own voice and with his own explicit views, instead of as a mouthpiece for Homer. Hobbes was able to reach an extremely wide readership, with his popular translations serving as a vehicle. The concept of “fancy” in the Preface is a particularly helpful focus, because it highlights the continuity between this work and Hobbes’ earlier writings.
The Preface contains a serial exposition of different virtues of a heroic poem: first, discretion, by which Hobbes means each part conducing to an overall design; second, “perspicuity and facility” of construction, so as to demonstrate the natural ability of the poet above contrived labor; third, contrivance, by which Hobbes means the narration of the characters in the work (as opposed to the poet who composes it); fourth, the elevation of fancy over and above any other intellectual virtue; fifth, the justice and impartiality of the poet; sixth the “perfection and curiosity of descriptions” in images; and seventh, the amplitude and variety—by which Hobbes means that the poem must be written on an epic scale. This serial exposition is followed by analyses and comparisons of the different virtues in Homer, Virgil, and Lucan, with each surpassing the others in certain virtues.
The fourth virtue—the elevation of fancy—provides an illuminating lens for understanding what the philosophical implications and connections of Hobbes’ Homer translations may be. The reasons for this are manifold. First, fancy and the other cognitive faculties mentioned find well-defined places within his materialist psychology. One important question, then, is what light can be shed on Hobbes’ materialism by recognizing that he thought it could explain the importance of classical poetry. Second, psychology lies at the root of Hobbes’ philosophical system. By focusing on the foundation, we can gain a better insight into how the different parts of Hobbes’ system relate.
Here is what Hobbes says of fancy in his Preface:
Men more generally affect and admire Fancie than they do either Judgment, or Reason, or Memory, or any other intellectual Vertue, and for the pleasantness of it, give to it alone the name of Wit, accounting Reason and Judgment but for a dull entertainment.
Hobbes contrasts fancy with other intellectual virtues, saying that it is generally more esteemed. Heroic poetry is said to elevate fancy in particular, over and above the other virtues. Hobbes further says that the elevation depends upon the proper discretion of the poet, and by discretion, he means that “every part of the Poem be conducing, and in good order placed to the End and Designe of the Poet” to promote the delight of the reader. One example of the elevation of fancy is the effective use of metaphor. Lucan is later said to be the greatest and most admirable exemplar of the virtue of elevating fancy.
This is nearly all Hobbes has to say about fancy in his Preface. What’s more, his claim that elevation of fancy depends on the discretion of the poet is fairly uninformative; the reason for this is that he says that all the virtues of a heroic poem are “comprehended all in this one word Discretion.” If discretion is said to underlie all virtues of a heroic poem, it is not clear what emphasizing that it underlies the elevation of fancy contributes. Hobbes also does not say much about the other terms mentioned in connection to fancy—memory, reasoning, and judgment. Fortunately, these terms appear elsewhere in his work.
As noted before, Hobbes was a foundationalist systematic thinker, and the foundation for his system was a materialist psychology. For instance, his great work Leviathan is written in four parts, each building on the last. The first, “Of Man” is the materialist and psychological starting point. The second (and most famous in this history of philosophy) is “Of Commonwealth” and treats the problem of political sovereignty. The final two, “Of a Christian Commonwealth” and “Of the Kingdom of Darkness” (which were perhaps what brought Hobbes most of the derision he received during his lifetime), treat religious and theological problems that follow from his account of political authority.
At the root of his system is his materialist psychology, which establishes his complete understanding of human nature and grounds his claims about political sovereignty. Key aims of this psychology are explaining the difference between immediate sense perception and other cognitive faculties (memory, reasoning, etc.) and the difference between voluntary and involuntary actions. For Hobbes, all cognitive faculties begin in sensation, which consists in external objects causing sense receptors to move (he calls nerves “strings”) which cause our mental faculties, both brain and heart, to move (he calls the brain and heart “springs”). Sensation is explained as a quick and direct movement in the brain and heart, and all cognitive faculties besides sensation are explained as derivative, resultant movements. Of these, fancy is important because it serves as a blanket term for many derivative cognitive faculties. (He equates fancy [which he traces back to the Greek phantasia] with imagination [a synonym which he traces to the Latin imaginatio]). Fancy is the generic term for cognition that is separate from sensation, and it includes memory, dreaming, and understanding. Fancy is also important because it is the source of voluntary action: “Fancy is sometimes equated with imagination and is then merely fading sensation and the first motion in the chain that begins a voluntary motion such as walking or talking.” Hobbes contrasts fancy with reason (ratio), which is said to be a faculty of calculation in the sense of addition and subtraction. The Preface compares fancy to judgment (judicium), and in the “Review and Conclusion” at the end of the Leviathan, Hobbes says that a person can possess both fancy and judgment together if he acquires the ability through education.
On the whole, Hobbes defines all the words he uses in his Preface in the Leviathan—fancy, memory, judgment, and reasoning. The problem, however, is that these terms do not align well with his usage in the Preface to his Homer translations. In the Preface, fancy seems to be one intellectual virtue—one opposed to, say, memory. But in the Leviathan, it is a broad category that has many permutations, among which are included memory, dreaming, and understanding.
Fortunately, Hobbes provides different definitions and taxonomies for these cognitive faculties in later works. For example, in the later De Corpore, Hobbes writes of fancy as if it were one cognitive faculty among many. So fancy is no longer, say, the same faculty as memory. Rather, fancy consists in the ability to recognize similarities in conspicuously dissimilar things. He contrasts this with judgment, which is the ability to see things that are conspicuously similar. Here, he says that the same person cannot possess both (thus departing with his view at the end of the Leviathan). The picture of the cognitive faculties in the Preface relates more clearly and naturally to Hobbes’ later psychological picture; in both works, fancy is one faculty among many, not the genus of which most other faculties are species. The upshot of this is that it seems—at least with respect to fancy—that Hobbes must have consistently developed his view over time. So he can speak of fancy in contrast to memory in his Preface only because he has distinguished the two and abandoned the close connection he posited in the Leviathan.
But a greater insight can be gleaned from Hobbes’ treatment of fancy than this developmentalist terminological one. We can recall that Hobbes’ psychology was reductively materialistic: cognition literally was movement in the body’s organs. When we keep this in mind, it may seem striking that Hobbes would write of the virtues of a heroic poem as elevating the capacities of the mind; fine poetry is not often associated with reductive materialism. More often, such materialism is associated with crude hedonism. As Rogers notes, in his own day, one reason Hobbes drew so much contempt was that his moral theory—based exclusively on his materialistic psychology—was seen as licensing or even promoting vice against the tradition of British morals and moralists. But if we can take Hobbes’ discussion of the virtues of a poem seriously in the Preface, it shows how misguided these criticisms may be. Hobbes’ materialism was consistent with—and indeed foundational for—the sophisticated intellectual virtues conferred by reading Homeric poetry. In this sense, we can see Hobbes as one important figure in the tradition of British moral philosophy who uses a reductivist foundation to explain what are seen as the finer, higher pleasures. In this debate within British moral philosophy, Hobbes may be able to side with John Stuart Mill, with his dissatisfied Socrates and satisfied pig, over and above Jeremy Bentham and his pushpin and poetry.
Examining Hobbes’ use of “fancy” in his Preface suggests a strong connection between his Homer translations and his earlier body of work. Many scholars note that he engaged with Greek thought at the beginning of his publication career, and to some extent throughout it; but it is important to recall that he returned to it at the end. When his explicit philosophical and political works were banned, his Homer translations were a natural place for him to turn. The translations allowed Hobbes to reach a wide audience with his Preface.
Seen in this light, Hobbes’ sarcastic quips about why he composed the translations (“Because I had nothing else to do,” “Because I had no hope to do it better”) read less like an apology and more like a challenge to the reader—a challenge to see why he composed the translation and how it relates to his earlier work. And when we take Hobbes up on this challenge we discover that the connections to his earlier works are prevalent from the outset of the Preface.
“Fancy” in particular enables us to see the systematic connections between his last (but neglected) work and his earlier (and widely famous) publications. The materialism inherent at the outset pervades till the end. What is curious is that Hobbes’ remarks about the elevation of intellectual virtues in his Preface make him seem like many other aristocratic English gentlemen of his time.
Keywords: George Chapman, Jeremy Bentham, University of Cambridge, censorship, University of Chicago, Christianity, René Descartes, England, London, epic similes, Euclid, epic genre, Greece, Greek, historiography, Thomas Hobbes, interpretation, Latin, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Licensing act of 1661, Lucan, Noel Malcolm, metaphor, John Stuart Mill, Eric Nelson, Amsterdam, John Ogilby, orthography (spelling), prefatory material, Pericles, Plato, Alexander Pope, G.A.J. Rogers, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Socrates, Thucydides, Virgil
“The Autobiographies of Thomas Hobbes.” Mind 48, no. 191 (1939): 403–5.
Ball, Jerry L. “The Despised Version: Hobbes’s Translation of Homer” Restoration 20, no. 1 (1996): 1–17.
Davis, Paul. “Thomas Hobbes’s Translations of Homer: Epic and Anticlericalism in Late Seventeenth-Century England.” The Seventeenth Century 12, no. 2 (1997): 231–55.
Hobbes, Thomas, trans. Eight Bookes Of the Peloponnesian Warre Written by Thucydides . . . Interpreted with Faith and Diligence Immediately out of the by Thomas Hobbes. London: 1629.
—, trans. Homer’s Iliads in English by Th. Hobbes, to which may be added Homer’s Odysses, Englished by the same Author. London: Printed for Will Crook, 1676.
—, trans. Homer’s Odysses. Translated by Tho. Hobbes of Malmsbury. With a large Preface concerning the Vertues of an Heroick Poem. Written by the Translator. London: Printed for Will Crook, 1675.
—, trans. The Iliads and Odysses of Homer, Translated out of Greek into English, by Th. Hobbes Of Malmsbury: With a large Preface concerning the Vertues of an Heroick Poem; written by the Translator. 2nd ed. London: Printed for Will Crook, 1677.
—. “Preface to the Reader: Concering the Vertues of an Heroique Poem.” In vol. 1, Translations of Homer, translated by Thomas Hobbes, edited by Eric Nelson, xcii–xcix. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2012.
—, trans. The Travels of Ulysses, As they were Related by Himself in Homer’s Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh & Twelfth Books of his Odysses, to Alcinous, king of Phaeacia. London: Printed for Will Crook, 1673.
Malcom, Noel. “A Summary Biography of Hobbes.” In The Cambridge Companion to Hobbes, edited by Tom Sorell, 13–44. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Malcom, Noel, Quentin Skinner, and Keith Thomas, eds. The Clarendon Edition of the Works of Thomas Hobbes. 27 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005–.
Martinich, A. P., ed. A Hobbes Dictionary. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1995.
—. “Hobbes’s Translations of Homer and Anticlericalism.” The Seventeenth Century 16, no. 1 (2001): 147–57.
Molesworth, William. “Advertisement.” In The History of the Grecian War Written by Thucydides, translated by Thomas Hobbes, edited by William Molesworth, vol. 8, The English Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury. London: John Bohn, 1843), i–ii.
—, ed. The English Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury. 11 vols. London: John Bohn, 1839–45.
Most, Glenn W. and Alice Schreyer. Homer in Print: A Catalogue of the Bibliothea Homerica Langiana at the University of Chicago Library. Chicago: University of Chicago Library, 2013.
Nelson, Eric. General introduction to vol. 1, Translations of Homer, translated by Thomas Hobbes, edited by Eric Nelson. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2008.
Riddehough, G. B. “Thomas Hobbes’ Translations of Homer.” Phoenix 12, no. 2 (1958): 58–62.
Rogers, G. A. J. “Hobbes and His Contemporaries.” In The Cambridge Companion to Hobbes’s “Leviathan,” edited by Patricia Springborg, 413–40. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.</p<
Sowerby, Robin. “Thomas Hobbes’s Translation of Thucydides.” Translation and Literature 7, no. 2 (1998): 147–69.
Young, Philip H. The Printed Homer: A 3000 Year Publishing and Translation History of the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey.” Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 1997.
- Hobbes, “Preface to the Reader: Concerning the Vertues of An Heroique Poem,” in Translations of Homer, trans. Thomas Hobbes, ed. Eric Nelson, vol. 1 (Oxford: Claredon Press, 2012), xcix. All general references to Hobbes’ works will be to Noel Malcom, Quentin Skinner, and Keith Thomas, eds. The Clarendon Edition of the Works of Thomas Hobbes, 27 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005–). For all citations, the orthography and punctuation are based on that of the text cited. ↵
- G. A. J. Rogers, “Hobbes and His Contemporaries,” in The Cambridge Companion to Hobbes’s “Leviathan,” ed. Patricia Springborg (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 413. ↵
- Ibid., 425. ↵
- Hobbes, Leviathan, vol. 2, 80. ↵
- Cited in Noel Malcom, “A Summary Biography of Hobbes” in The Cambridge Companion to Hobbes, ed. Tom Sorell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 21. ↵
- “Through [reading Euclidean Geometry] he came to an understanding of the notions of proof, demonstration and certainty that dominate every facet of his philosophy.” Rogers, “Hobbes and His Contemporaries,” 414. ↵
- For details on Hobbes’ Thucydides, see Robin Sowerby, “Hobbes’s Translation of Thucydides,” Translation and Literature 7, no. 2 (1998): 147–69. ↵
- See Malcom, “Summary Biography of Hobbes,” 20. ↵
- The map, it should be stressed, is testament to Hobbes’ ability for his time; it was later omitted from the Molesworth edition on the grounds that it had been rendered obsolete. See William Molesworth, “Advertisement,” in The History of the Grecian War Written by Thucydides, trans. Thomas Hobbes, ed. William Molesworth (London: John Bohn, 1843), ii. ↵
- Cited in Sowerby, “Hobbes’s Translation of Thucydides,” 147. ↵
- See Malcom, “Summary Biography of Hobbes,” 20. For details on Hobbes’ autobiography, see “The Autobiographies of Thomas Hobbes,” Mind 48, no. 191 (1939): 403–5. ↵
- See Glenn W. Most and Alice Schreyer, eds., Homer in Print: A Catalogue of the Bibliotheca Homerica Langiana at the University of Chicago Library (Chicago: University of Chicago Library, 2013), 102–103; Philip H. Young, The Printed Homer: A 3000 Year Publishing and Translation History of the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey” (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1997), 106–108. ↵
- Cited in G. B. Riddehough, “Thomas Hobbes’ Translations of Homer,” Phoenix 12, no. 2 (1958): 58. ↵
- Cited in Malcom, “Summary Biography of Hobbes,” 37. ↵
- See Eric Nelson, general introduction to Translations of Homer, by Thomas Hobbes, ed. Eric Nelson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2008), xix–xx. ↵
- Ibid., xx. ↵
- For specifically political readings, see Nelson, Translations of Homer, xii–lxxxi; and Paul Davis, “Thomas Hobbes’s Translations of Homer: Epic and Anticlericalism in Late Seventeenth-Century England,” The Seventeenth Century 12, no. 2 (1997): 231–55. For the contrary view and a response, see A. P. Martinich, “Hobbes’s Translations of Homer and Anticlericalism,” The Seventeenth Century 16, no. 1 (2001): 147–57. ↵
- Hobbes, Translations of Homer, vol. 1, The Iliad, 68, line 465. See also Riddehough, “Hobbes’ Translations of Homer,” 60. ↵
- A puzzling note: Hobbes says in the Preface that contrivance—the narrative ability of the characters in the work—is a feature of poetry, not historiography (and presumably he has in mind here ancient Greek and Roman historiography, such as the Thucydides he translated some time earlier). Yet he says that justice and impartiality are features of both historiography and poetry. He clearly has comparisons in mind. What is odd, however, is that ancient Greek history, and especially the Thucydides with which he worked so closely, contained numerous famous speeches and stories told by characters in the work—noticeably Pericles’ great speech. As noted above, Pericles’ great speech was an homage to democracy, a rule which Hobbes opposed. Maybe his deemphasizing the role of characters’ speeches and stories in history is a means to distance himself from the praises to democracy contained in Thucydides. ↵
- Hobbes, “Preface to the Reader: Conerning the Vertues of An Heroique Poem,” xciv. ↵
- Ibid., xcii. ↵
- Ibid., xciv. ↵
- Ibid., xcvi. ↵
- Ibid., xcii. ↵
- Hobbes, Leviathan, vol. 2, 16. ↵
- Ibid., 26. ↵
- Ibid., 26–38. ↵
- As Rogers notes, it is important to recognize that in Hobbes’ psychology cognitive processes are identical to physical ones, not merely caused by them. This view puts Hobbes at odds with Descartes, who concedes that mental processes are (or can be) caused by physical events, but denies that the two are identical. “Hobbes and His Contemporaries,” 416. ↵
- This may lead us to consider reason (ratio) as somewhat analogous to to logistikon (“the calculating part of the soul”) in the psychology of Plato’s Republic. See A. P. Martinich, ed., A Hobbes Dictionary (Blackwell Publishing, 2005), s.v. “reason (ratio).” ↵
- Hobbes, Leviathan, vol. 3, 1132–34. ↵
- Martinich, Hobbes Dictionary, s.v. “fancy and judgment (phantasia et judicium).” ↵
- On this identity relation, see Rogers, “Hobbes and His Contemporaries,” 416. ↵
- Ibid., 425. ↵