John Milton's Relationships - Literary - Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes

There is little known about a direct relationship, if there was any, between Milton and Thomas Hobbes except for one passage from John Aubrey's Minutes of the Life of Mr. John Milton: "His widow assures me that Mr. T. Hobbes was not one of his acquaintances, that her husband did not like him at all, but he would acknowledge him to be a man of great parts, and a learned man. There interests and tenets did run counter to each other".

This does not stop scholars from wanting to compare these two contemporaries together, especially with their conflicting ideas on politics. To Marjorie Nicolson, Milton spent his life combating and counteracting the philosophy of Hobbes, an individual that he believed was "The Atheist and Arch Heretic". However, this view was challenged a decade later by George Williamson, who believed that, in terms of philosophy and not theology or politics, Milton and Hobbes held similar beliefs. These views became two extremes of a debate on the relationship between the two, and Nathaniel Henry, to try to find a compromise between both sides, argued that both were wrong because "Hobbes was no atheist" and that "Milton and Hobbes were in reality somewhat opposed in their views".

Henry argued that the only way to determine an intellectual relationship between the two men was to analyze how their philosophical views, and, particularly, "Milton's views on the soul must be considered from a wider point of view". The view that Milton held of the soul was the Anabaptist idea of soul sleeping. Hobbes, according to Henry, was a follower of John Calvin's Psychopannychia, which "was a tract against the 'Anabaptist' doctrine of the sleep of the soul between death and resurrection, separating the two further.

The two were also opposed in their views on how best to prevent Catholicism to enter into England. Milton believed that the only way to stop Catholicism was to remove all centralized government and liturgical practices and, according to Timothy Rosendale, "he flatly denounces the liturgy as 'evil'" and as a "popish relic". Hobbes argued that this decentralization could not have this effect because, as Patricia Springborg points out, the "national religions of the Reformed Church still retained theological doctrines which could give Roman Catholicism a foot-hold in the realm".

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Famous quotes containing the word hobbes:

    They that approve a private opinion, call it an opinion; but they that mislike it, heresy: and yet heresy signifies no more than private opinion.
    —Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679)