Review of Samuel I. Mintz: The Hunting of Leviathan

Review of The Hunting of Leviathan: Seventeenth-Century Reactions to the Materialism and Moral Philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, by Samuel I. Mintz, Modern Philology, Vol. 62, No. 3 (February 1965).


Hobbes was attacked in the first place on account of his materialism, materialism being regarded by all of his critics as the “main root of atheism” (p. 67). Hobbes’s materialism is most vulnerable to attack since “he did not prove, or even attempt to prove, that matter alone is real” (p. 66). The argument which the more intelligent men among his critics “thought was the strongest was the one which asserted that matter in motion cannot by itself account for thought” (p. 69). The arguments used for proving this assertion were for the most part traditional (pp. 77, 85, 100-101). Mintz is silent on the question of whether Hobbes’s critics saw the difference between Hobbes’s materialism and traditional (say, Epicurean) materialism. Accordingly he is not concerned with the difference between the traditional arguments and the arguments peculiar to the more original among Hobbes’s critics. Henry More and Joseph Glanvill, it appears, used the fact of witchcraft as an important argument for refuting materialism (pp. 86, 102-3, 109). More’s doctrine according to which “all substance has dimensions” or that God himself is extended, is of a different description (pp. 88-92), but for the reason given it does not become clear whether that doctrine as peculiar to More is a response to the materialism peculiar to Hobbes.