PPE at Hertford College

Magdalen Hall and 'Cat Street' in the early nineteenth century, before the building of the current Lodge, Hall and Spiral Staircase
Thomas Hobbes: the first great political theorist of the modern age, and still arguably the greatest

The History of Hertford College

As explained in the page About Hertford College (which also lists various famous alumni), the College traces its history back to Hart Hall, founded in 1282, and Magdalen Hall, founded in 1448 (not to be confused with Magdalen College, which was founded in 1458). The College site on Catte Street belonged originally to Hart Hall, with Magdalen Hall removing here when its previous buildings were destroyed by fire. The most distinctive of the current College buildings (including the famous bridge, spiral staircase and octagon) were designed by the great Oxford architect Sir Thomas Jackson, and give a lovely environment for life and study, just on the edge of Radcliffe Square, Oxford's most familiar landmark and one of the most beautiful city areas in the world.


PPE and Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)

Hertford has a special relevance for PPE, being the college of probably the greatest ever political theorist Thomas Hobbes (and arguably the greatest English philosopher of any kind, though John Locke of Christ Church provides strong competition). As the general Philosophy site EpisteLinks puts it:

     'Hobbes is considered the founder of English moral and political philosophy and the first political thinker to propose a purely secular theory of political authority. In his most famous work, the Leviathan, Hobbes famously argued that life in the state of nature is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." To avoid this fate, we enter into a social contract beneath a sovereign and absolute government (and Hobbes prefers a monarchy) to which we give up just enough of our rights to ensure peace and social cooperation. Hobbes also published translations of Thucydides and Homer and wrote a trilogy (De Corpore, De Cive, De Homine) whose topics include optics, human nature, religion, language, logic, law, and political and moral philosophy. He also wrote on aesthetics, defended a compatibilist account of free will, and developed a materialist explanation of human psychology that brought him into disputes with Descartes. Hobbes has been very influential in political philosophy, and his ideas have helped to shape contemporary rational choice theory.'

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