Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > Hobbes and Contemporary Philosophy > Selden
  The Casuists Thomas Hobbes; His life and character  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

XII. Hobbes and Contemporary Philosophy.

§ 6. Selden.

It is only to a small extent that the writings of John Selden, historian, jurist and political writer, fall within the scope of this chapter. His treatise De Dis Syris (1617), his Historie of Tithes (1618) and most of his other works lie beyond its range. But, in his treatment of the law of nature, he enters upon topics which are common to him and the philosophers. In his Mare Clausum (1635), he maintains two propositions against Grotius: first, that, by the law of nature, the sea is not common to all men, but is capable of private sovereignty or proprietorship, equally with the earth; and, secondly, that the king of Great Britain is sovereign of the surrounding seas, as an individual and perpetual appanage of the British empire. As was usual in his day and for long afterwards, he identified the law of nature with international law. This identification is seen in the title of his work De jure naturali et gentium juxta disciplinam Hebraeorum (1640). But here he has in view not the law or custom which regulates the relation of state to state, but the natural or moral law which is common to all men independently of positive enactment divine or human. With the wealth of learning in which he was without a rival in his day, he traces the opinions of the Jews on the subject of moral obligation, and, at the same time, brings out his own view of the law of nature. He holds, with most jurists, that law requires an authority to prescribe it, and that, therefore, reason cannot be the source of law. At the same time, he allows that God has imprinted certain moral rules in the minds of all men.   7
  Speculation on these and kindred topics was soon to enter upon a new stage under the impulse derived from the original mind of Hobbes. Before his work is dealt with, two other writers may be mentioned. Sir Kenelm Digby, remarkable in many departments of life and letters, was, also, a philosopher, and wrote a treatise on the immortality of the soul (1644). In 1655, Thomas Stanley, well known as a classical scholar, published the first History of Philosophy written in the English language.   8

  The Casuists Thomas Hobbes; His life and character  

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