ABSTRACT

The long-running antagonism between Edward Hyde and Thomas Hobbes is one of the most important encounters of Hobbes’s early reception. 1 Although Hyde’s formal critique of Hobbes, the Brief View and Survey of Leviathan, would only be published in the 1670s, it represented the culmination of a dispute that stretched over thirty years. 2 During that time Hyde’s hostility to Hobbes’s work would play a decisive role in shaping Hobbes’s subsequent reputation. To give one important example, the modern and influential view that Hobbes was an early supporter of Cromwell more than ready to desert the royalist cause is a view that not only takes much of its evidence from Hyde’s published comments, but, as we shall see, was also an interpretation only made possible by Hyde’s practical actions against Hobbes in the early 1650s. 3 At the same time, Hyde’s published treatment of Hobbes also played a significant part in establishing what has become an extremely durable view of Hyde’s own theoretical allegiances. Hyde’s apparently unremitting hostility to Hobbesian ideas has helped to cement the thought that Hyde espoused a distinctive form of historically based moderate constitutional royalism fundamentally at odds with Hobbes’s abstract theoretical absolutism. This view has shaped much of the commentary on the relationship between the two men. For example, in his classic 1951 study of Clarendon, Brian Wormald drew attention to what he saw as an essential contrast between Clarendon’s historical thinking and what he calls Hobbes’s theoretical ‘positivism’. 4 The same thought was later re-articulated by Perez Zagorin, who argued that Clarendon’s distinctive political ‘moderation’ was an ideological antidote to Hobbes’s deductive rationalism. As Zagorin puts it, Clarendon’s opposition to Hobbes’s philosophy was due ‘not simply to political disagreements, but to an entirely different and antithetical intellectual orientation’. 5 Represented as a fundamental clash between modally distinct historical and scientific approaches to politics, the dispute between Clarendon and Hobbes has often been taken to be representative of the perennial struggle between political traditionalism and philosophical rationalism. 6