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IT was well known to all students of philosophy and history in Oxford, and to many others, that
W. G. Pogson Smith had been for many years engaged in preparing for an exhaustive
treatment of the place of Hobbes in the history of European thought, and that he had
accumulated a great mass of materials towards this. These materials fill many notebooks, and
are so carefully arranged and indexed that it is clear that with a few more months he would
have been able to produce a work worthy of a very high place in philosophical literature.
Unhappily the work that he could have done himself cannot be done by any one else unless he
has given something like the same time and brings to the collection something like the same
extensive and intimate knowledge of the philosophy of the period as Pogson Smith possessed.
It is hoped indeed that, by the permission of his representatives, this great mass of material
will be deposited in the Bodleian Library and made available for scholars, and that thus the
task which he had undertaken may some time be carried out.
Among his papers has been found an essay which presents a very interesting and suggestive
treatment of the position of Hobbes. The essay is undated, and it is quite uncertain for what
audience it was prepared. It is this essay which is here published as an introduction to the
. It is printed with only the necessary verification of references, and one or two
corrections of detail. It is always difficult to judge how far it is right to print work which the
author himself has not revised, but we feel that, while something must inevitably be lost, the
essay has so much real value that, even as it stands, it should be published. Something may
even be gained for the reader in the fresh and unconstrained character of the paper. The
pursuit of the ideal of a perfect and rounded criticism, which all serious scholars aim at, has
sometimes the unfortunate result of depriving a man's work of some spontaneity. In Oxford at
any rate, and it is probably the case everywhere, many a scholar says his best things and
expresses his most penetrating judgements in the least formal manner. Those who were Mr.
Pogson Smith's friends or pupils will find here much of the man himself—something of his
quick insight, of his unconventional directness, of his broad but solid learning; something also
of his profound feeling for truth, of his scorn of the pretentious, of his keen but kindly humour.
PAGE 48. In the Margin, for
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[These errata have been corrected in the text of this reprint.]
THE PHILOSOPHY OF HOBBES
WHEREIN does the greatness of Hobbes consist? It is a question I often put to myself, as I lay
him down. It was a question which exercised his contemporaries—friends or foes—and drove
them to their wits' end to answer. If I were asked to name the highest and purest philosopher
of the seventeenth century I should single out Spinoza without a moment's hesitation. But
Spinoza was not of the world; and if a man will be perverse enough to bind the Spirit of Christ
in the fetters of Euclid, how shall he find readers? If I were asked to select the true founders of
modern science I should bracket Galileo, Descartes, and Newton, and resolutely oppose
Hobbes's claim to be of the company. If his studies in Vesalius prepared him to extend his
approbation to Harvey's demonstration of the circulation of the blood, his animosity to Oxford
and her professors would never allow him seriously to consider the claims of a science
advanced by Dr. Wallis; the sight of a page of algebraic symbols never elicited any feeling but
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