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The philosopher Hobbes as the poet Homer


  • Versions of this paper were given in 2011 at the ANZAMEMS Conference, Dunedin, then at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam. My thanks to all discussants, the organizers of the former, and Robert von Friedeburg of the latter; my thanks also to Bill Walker, (UNSW), the anonymous reviewers and Jennifer Richards for constructive criticism.


Until recently Hobbes's translations of Homer have received little attention. That he made some effort to make the epics conform to his political doctrines has been established. The argument here is that the translations as a whole are informed by his conception of philosophy and his sense of the philosopher's responsibility. The oversimplification of his understanding of philosophy has itself helped isolate his Homer from the rest of his work. To recognize that Hobbes's Homeric epics were the work of a philosopher does something to explain the hostility they generated, and the need to translate Homer afresh.