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Hobbes: A Very Short Introduction

4.4 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0192802552
ISBN-10: 0192802550
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"Review from previous edition "lucid introduction to the first great English political philosopher."--The Times


About the Author


Richard Tuck is Professor of Government at Harvard University. He is the author of Natural Rights Theories (1979) and Philosophy and Government 1572-1651 (1993), and has produced editions of Hobbes's Leviathan and (with Michael Silverthorne) De Cive.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (August 29, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192802550
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192802552
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.4 x 4.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #308,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
When I read British philosophy as an undergraduate, I skimmed over Hobbes and focused primarily on Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. It was not until recently that I realized the importance of Hobbes's political thought. Therefore, I decided to read Hobbes's "Leviathan." Having previously discovered the outstanding little books in the "Past Masters" series published by the Oxford University Press, I first looked to see if the series included a title on Hobbes, and I found Tuck's book, which I read before reading "Leviathan." Tuck's "Hobbes" provided me with a good foundation for reading "Leviathan," and Tuck greatly increased my appreciation for Hobbes. Tuck is particularly careful to describe not only Hobbes's political philosophy; he also provides an introduction to Hobbes's thought regarding religion, science, ethics, and philosophical method. By gaining an overall picture of Hobbes's thought, I came to appreciate Tuck's claim that "Hobbes created English-language philosophy." I recommend this book to anyone approaching Hobbes for the first time.
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Format: Paperback
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was an extremely important English philosopher, best known for his political philosophy, especially as found in the work "Leviathan".

Richard Tuck's overview of Hobbes does an adequate job of summarizing the views of this important philosopher; however, the book at times feels a little bit too detail-oriented, often at the expense of forming a more clear picture of Hobbes's philosophy as a whole. One particularly confusing discussion involves Hobbes's ideas about the difference between a "natural right" and a "natural law".

The three main sections of the book focus on Hobbes's life, Hobbes's work, and later interpretations of Hobbes. Perhaps this last section is the most fascinating; we find, for example, Hobbes political theory in modern times being analyzed within the idiom of "game theory".

Tuck is clearly an expert and knows what he's talking about, but his book might be pitched just a bit over the head of a true beginner to the study of Hobbes or philosophy in general.

All in all this is a decent work - but it occasionally becomes over-academic at the expense of clarity... and in a work of this sort, clarity is a priceless asset.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author starts by telling us "Hobbes created English-language philosophy". Really? What of Francis Bacon, to whom Hobbes once acted as amanuensis? Poor Bacon does get a brief, grudging mention later on. The description in the blurb of Hobbes as "the first great English political philosopher" is probably more accurate. Certainly he is important, in a broad Western context. He was central to the transition from medieval to modern thought, and was a strong influence on Rousseau and others. Tuck is an expert guide (despite his inexplicable slighting of Bacon) and his style is very readable. This introduction covers Hobbes's life, works and intellectual legacy. Reliable and informative, it is highly recommended as an introduction to, and summary of, Hobbes's ideas, but to better appreciate the context, you might want to read (dare I say it?) Bacon's Essays first.
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Format: Paperback
At their best, the VSI series is arguably the greatest series of introductory volumes on different thinkers and subjects currently being published. Part of it is that many of the volumes are republications of volumes in earlier series by Oxford, the Past Masters and Present Masters series.
Tuck's volume on Hobbes is one of those republications. One can easily see why the VSI series editors felt no need to seek out a new publication on Hobbes. Tuck's book is outstanding in content and organization. That organization is very simple. A chapter on Hobbes life and his relationship with his contemporaries and with some earlier thinkers highlights Hobbes relationship to Montaigne, Machiavelli, Descartes and Grotius.
The second chapter on Hobbes' theories is a masterpiece of compression. In 55 well-written pages, Tuck ties together the whole of Hobbes' writings into a coherent argument.
The third chapter is a history of reaction to Hobbes by other thinkers. I like this chapter unlike one of the reviewers below. Tuck guides us through the reaction of Hume, Kant, the Utilitarians, Toennis, Leo Strauss, C.B. Macpherson, Cassirer, Oakeshott, Quentin Skinner and some lesser lights.
As always with the VSI series there is a guide to further reading, a good index, their outstanding format and reasonable price. There may be better books on Hobbes. One of the reviewers below mentions a book by Johann Sommerville. Unfortunately it sells on Amazon for over $50. So my recommendation is read Tuck, read Leviathan and then seek out Sommerville in a library. That's my plan.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This entire series of 'Very Short Introductions' is a small miracle in itself. Each volume clearly and succinctly written, understandable, entertaining, covers in jewel-colored patterns: would that I could collect the whole lot of them! I think you cannot be disappointed by any one of the books offered in this expanding project.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a short, concise, and well written overview of Hobbes and his major works. The author also includes a brief discussion of how Hobbes works may have (possibly) been tinged by the English Civil War. I read the kindle version in about three hours, and I feel I definately understand Hobes (the man) better after reading this brief study.
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