Hooker, Hobbes, and Others. An unsigned review of The Social and Political Ideas of Some Great Thinkers of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, ed. F. J. C. Hearnshaw
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848 ] Hooker, Hobbes, and Others1 An unsigned review of The Social and Political Ideas of Some Great Thinkers of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. A Series of Lectures Delivered at King’s College, University of London, during the Session 1925-26. Ed. F. J. C. Hearnshaw London: Harrap, 1926. Pp. 219.2 Times Literary Supplement, 1932 (11 Nov 1926) 789 Any series of lectures, however carefully revised for publication, is liable to produce an effect of informality and diffuseness; and a series of lectures by different authorities is liable to produce an effect of incoherence as well. This book is not free from either of these faults. It consists of eight lectures, by eight scholars of note, on eight important figures of the age: Bodin, Hooker, Suarez, James I, Grotius, Hobbes, Harrington and Spinoza.3 The lectures, one believes, must have been decidedly interesting, and must have fulfilled the purpose of such lectures, which is to stimulate interest in a very important period of historical inquiry; printed, they appear less connected, though they are very skilfully bound together by the editor’s introductory lecture, which covers the whole period with great ability. The lecturers who had the fortune to deal with the less known “thinkers” are naturally those who appear to the greatest advantage; for it is difficult to say very much that is new about Hooker or Hobbes or Spinoza in a lecture necessarily introductory in its nature. Dr. Norman Sykes’s lecture on Hooker is however an admirable piece of appreciation, and as with almost all of the other lectures, one wishes that the author might develop it into a separate treatise;4 and one of his statements about Hooker especially is worth pondering: Upon a general reading of the Ecclesiastical Polity perhaps the most striking characteristic which impresses itself upon the student is the author’s gift of historical thinking. Few have had a finer sense of the value of historical tradition than Hooker. To him the unity and continuity of history was neither a phrase nor a fallacy, but a practical truth as well as an inspiration. [85] [ 849 Hooker, Hobbes, and Others Mr. Woodward’s “Hobbes” is also good, though we think that in preparing it for publication he might have dwelt at greater length upon the effects of seventeenth-century science upon Hobbes, and his communications with men of science in their formation of his attitudes and prejudices.5 The Master of Balliol, considering the political and social ideas of Spinoza, has the most difficult subject, and comes off least well; some parts of the lecture appear hastily written, and such a statement as “(Spinoza) has been recognised more and more as the most religious of philosophers” is too absolute to have much meaning [206].6 And while Spinoza was certainly, as Dr. Lindsay says, “a great and good man,” it is perhaps permissible to suggest that the word “saint” might be reserved for more precise applications [205]. But the volume was worth printing for several reasons. It has become more and more manifest of late that the seventeenth century is a period of capital importance and that there are a number of companion works to Sainte Beuve’s Port-Royal to be written. We need only instance the revival of interest, especially in France, in Descartes, and from a new point of view; and any reader of Professor Whitehead’s Science and the Modern World will see how things are moving.7 The names of Bodin, Suarez and Grotius are of great importance, but to most amateur students of the period they are no more than names; one of the merits of this series of lectures is to elicit their importance, not only for the jurist, but for the general student of the epoch. Harrington, too, was a happy inclusion. One regrets many omissions , but the editor disarms us by calling attention himself to some of these omissions. As was said above, however, the introductory lecture on the period is itself of considerable value, and dexterously knits together the rest as well as possible. The state of Europe during the wars of religion, the situation in thedifferentcountries,andthepeculiarpositionofEnglandarewellexposed in very few words. It is interesting to note those “developments and changes” which, from Dr. Hearnshaw’s point of view are the most signal. They are six: the increase of the power and pretensions of kings; secondly, the decay of the feudal aristocracy, the rise of the capitalist middle class, and the increase of...