On this day in 1588 – Thomas Hobbes was born

Thomas Hobbes was born on 5th April 1588 in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. It was rumoured he was born early due to the incoming Spanish Armada.

Hobbes studied at Oxford and it took him nearly five years to complete his degree but upon graduating he was quickly recommended to become the tutor of William Cavendish. Hobbes and Cavendish became firm companions and in 1610 travelled Europe together; here he saw the scholars and philosophers at work. His companion and employer died in 1628 and Hobbes found himself unemployed but quickly gained another tutor position for Gervase Clifton. This short lived role only lasted two years as he was reemployed by the Cavendish family for the son of his former master.

During this period of time tutoring the youngest Cavendish Hobbes also expanded his own knowledge of philosophy and after 1636 he was a regular debater in Paris philosophic groups and he began considering himself as a philosopher as well as a scholar.

Hobbes began working and studying areas from physical momentum to bodily motions involved in sensation, knowledge and passions.

Hobbes returned to England in 1637, after the end of the Tudor reign. Within the next three years Hobbes wrote a paper called The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic. This was never officially published a copy did make its way to the public 10 years later and it was clear that the document showed hints of the political crisis that was to come.

When civil war broke out in England Hobbes was already in self imposed exile in Paris where he continued his philosophical studies. In 1647 Hobbes became the maths tutor to Prince Charles, whilst he was also in exile.

Hobbes also published work under the title Leviathan which set out a doctrine for the foundation of states and legitimate governments. This was written during the civil war era. After the civil war and England returned to a monarchy a bill was passed against atheism, which Hobbes had been accused of in the past. Due to his connection as former tutor to the new King Charles II he was somewhat protected. A committee believed that Hobbes’ Leviathan showed atheist tendencies, this led to Hobbes burning some of his more compromising books for fear of being labelled a heretic. With the bill passed Hobbes was unable to publish any more of his work in England he could not even respond to his critics. Hobbes continued publishing his work abroad and gained a great reputation.

Hobbes died on 4th December 1679 and was buried in St. John the Baptist Church in Ault Hucknall, Derbyshire.

Thomas Hobbes

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