Malmesbury appoints UK's first town philosopher


Malmesbury in Wiltshire has appointed the UK's first official town philosopher.

Angela Hobbs said she was the first of a number of philosophers appointed as Malmesbury bids to become known as a philosophy town.

The town is already home to the annual Thomas Hobbes Festival of Ideas which took place last weekend.

Ms Hobbs' role has yet to be clearly defined, but it will include supporting the festival and improving its profile.

Idyllic setting

Ms Hobbs said it was a "family legend" that she was remotely related to Thomas Hobbes, the political philosopher who was born Malmesbury in the sixteenth century, but that it was yet to be proved.

She said the idea of a town philosopher came from Michael Cuthbert who organises the Hobbes Festival which began in 2008.

"As I understand it there's not just going to be me, I understand there's going to be a small group of us who will be town philosophers," she said.

"The idea was that the organisers [of the festival] want a professional academic connection to advise on the programme and on speakers and future events, marketing and publicity, and to generally use our network of contacts."

She said Malmesbury was an idyllic setting for such a festival and had "that connection with a very vibrant, challenging period of our intellectual history, the end of the renaissance, the Civil War going on" through Thomas Hobbes.

"It's hugely relevant at the moment when we are really wrestling with what kind of political set-up we want, how do we pay for it, what contributions are for what, what contributions are unfair, and what we want the State to do for us and what should we be required to do for the State," Ms Hobbs said.

She said debates on cuts, banking and environmental change were "areas where philosophy can make a contribution".

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