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The powerful intellect of Thomas Hobbes was drawn to geometry, philosophy, the classics, ethics, history, and political theory. His reputation today turns especially on his political philosophy, which boldly advanced a materialist understanding of all things, denied free will, was atheist (beneath a thin disguise), and rejoiced in making the case that human beings are radically asocial and, if left alone, will tear one another apart. Not surprisingly, his books were sometimes banned, and he was often attacked as an enemy of religion and morality.

The practical thrust of Hobbes's political thought was conservative: He defended absolute monarchy and hence criticized liberty. But this conservative thrust took its impetus from the radical views listed above, and Hobbes thus is properly credited with being one of those ...

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