Free Libraries

Thomas Hobbes's Grave

The political philosophy course left me with a love of Thomas Hobbes and an interest in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries (which were also a major part of the course on the rise of scientific Europe). I read Leviathan last summer, since then On the Citizen, Human Nature and De Corpore Politico, and Behemoth is currently being carried around to read occasionally (including a trip to Hardwick Hall the other weekend). I'm saving Hobbes and Bramhall on Liberty and Necessity for a rainy day. Jonathan Israel's Radical Enlightenment is currently keeping me busy, bought after reading Matthew Stewart's The Courtier and the Heretic (which also led me to buy Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise, edited by Israel and currently sitting on the large pile of books I haven't yet read).

That's a lot of money - upwards of a hundred quid, even before you add in Noel Malcolm's Aspects of Hobbes or the Cambridge Companion to Hobbes's Leviathan. I don't mind that - I can afford it, and I like to have proper books. I occasionally read things on my PDA or iPod Touch, but it isn't a comfortable or convenient way of reading for me.

But increasingly, some of the more unusual writings of this era are available online. Leviathan is the only text by Hobbes available from Project Gutenberg, but the other day I stumbled across the Online Library of Liberty. This has many of Hobbes's works, scanned in from a mid-nineteenth-century edition, including some which I've never seen mentioned before, let alone in print. And that's a drop in the ocean - there's a vast catalogue of good-quality HTML and PDF versions of all sorts of famous works and obscurities. The Liberty Fund is fundamentally about promoting conservative individualist libertarianism, but there's no partiality in the selection of libertarian authors - Shaw is there, Shelley, Hazlitt and Marx (to pick a few names from the nineteenth century).

Nigel Warburton recently tweeted a link to Jonathan F Bennett's collection of Early Modern Texts, annotated and edited versions of some of the major works of the period. I'm not keen (I find his style of annotation obtrusive), but if the OU's discussion forums are any indication, many students would find them helpful when struggling with unfamiliar styles of prose.

And finally, the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, no sign of Hobbes or Spinoza but they do have Samuel Clarke's criticism of both (mentioned in Israel).

Back from the dead, again.

Not quite as large a dead stretch as the gap from 2001 to 2007, but I haven't updated this in a year. Perhaps because I spent late 2007 and most of 2008 studying a couple of general humanities courses where the emphasis was more on history than philosophy - A207 (From Enlightenment to Romanticism 1780-1830), and AS208 (The Rise of Scientific Europe 1500-1800). I'm now doing AA308 (Thought and Experience: Themes in the Philosophy of Mind), the final module for a BA in Humanities with Philosophy. I'm not finding it hugely inspiring (it's not an area of philosophy I find interesting), but it's the only OU philosophy course I haven't done yet.