2006 Student Research Conference:
19th Annual Student Research Conference

Social Science

Mathematics and the "Monster of Malmesbury": The Role of Geometry in the Political Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes
Kevin R. Dyke
Dr. David Robinson, Faculty Mentor

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was one of the 17th century’s most prominent and controversial intellectuals. His political philosophy, embodied in Leviathan, has been the object of contentious debate for centuries. Hobbes’s belief in the supremacy of a singular, absolute sovereign in all matters, social and religious as well as political, led to his exile from Britain during the English Civil War and to accusations of atheism. In Leviathan, Hobbes assumes a materialist view of the world inspired by his admiration of geometry. Hobbes adopts a style of geometrical analysis that is reflected in Leviathan and his other political works. However, his lack of mathematical acuity and legendarily stubborn personality led to bitter confrontations with mathematicians over his work in geometry, and implicitly, over his political philosophy. Viewed through the lens of Hobbes’s mathematical works, the early controversies surrounding Leviathan and its author may be understood more clearly.

Keywords: Political Philisophy, Geometry, Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, 17th Century


Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 57-1
Location: VH 1232
Time: 2:45

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