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Title: Thomas Hobbes and the reception of early-modern Epicureanism
Author: Friedle, Simon
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis is a study of Epicurean motifs (Epicurea) within the philosophical system of Thomas Hobbes in general; it examines all aspects of Hobbesian philosophy, viz. first philosophy, physics, anthropology, ethics, and politics within the context of the revival of early-modem Epicureanism and atomism in England as well as Europe. Thereby, it not only attempts to set Hobbes's understanding of Epicureanism in the general context of its reception in the seventeenth century but also to explore the specific Epicurean elements within Hobbes's philosophy. As a consequence, this thesis argues that the genesis of certain Hobbesian ideas must be considered against the background of Hobbes' s encounter with the late Renaissance and humanist Epicurean tradition as well as suggesting that Hobbes' s ideas in anthropology and ethics, but consequently also in his politics, reflect Epicurean motifs to a greater degree as has yet been acknowledged. Chapter One is concerned with establishing the Epicurean background. It primarily focuses on English Epicureanism and the emergence of atomism in England but also considers the continental European influences. The following four chapters are then devoted to exploring the Epicurea in Hobbes's philosophy. Chapter Two discusses Hobbes's concept of philosophy as anti-metaphysics, and it highlights how his understanding of prima philosophia as physica genera/is enabled Hobbes to interpret themes that had classically been related to metaphysics such as the genesis of religion, the conception of theology, and the mortality of the soul according to Epicurean modes of explanation. Chapter Three, then, examines what role ancient and early-modem atomism and Epicureanism played in the genesis of Hobbes's ontology and his ensuing doctrine of sense-perception. Thereby, it shows how Hobbes developed a materialist account of body and sensation independently from Gassendi. The last two chapters centre on morality and politics. They demonstrate how Hobbes's ethical and political doctrine reflects certain Epicurea which are indebted to the Renaissance and humanist discourse of Epicureanism. While Chapter Four analyses the concept of pleasure and pain within Hobbes's theory of action, Chapter Five considers how Hobbes embraced key concepts of Epicureanism such as a´┐Żbellicose state of nature and conventional justice as the basis of his political philosophy. Although this thesis cannot and does not attempt to rewrite the history of the genesis of Hobbesian philosophy, the analysis of Hobbes's Epicurea enables us to deepen our understanding of the genesis of his philosophical system and highlights Hobbes' s position as an eminent exponent of the Epicurean tradition in the seventeenth century.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Epicureans (Greek philosophy)