Ideas of Thomas Hobbes, by Theme

[English, 1588 - 1679, Born in Malmesbury (the 'Sage of Malmesbury'). Exile in Paris for many years. Died at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire.]

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1. Philosophy / C. History of Philosophy / 4. Later European Philosophy / b. Seventeenth century philosophy
Hobbes created English-language philosophy
     Full Idea: Hobbes created English-language philosophy.
     From: report of Thomas Hobbes (The Elements of Law [1640]) by Richard Tuck - Hobbes Pref
     A reaction: Tuck mentions Hooker as a predecessor in jurisprudence. Otherwise, an impressive label.
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 5. Aims of Philosophy / e. Philosophy as reason
Definitions are the first step in philosophy
     Full Idea: In beginning philosophy, the first beginning is from definitions.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 1.6.15)
     A reaction: Note that he doesn't say that definitions are the aim of philosophy, as some analysts might think.
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 8. Humour
Laughter is a sudden glory in realising the infirmity of others, or our own formerly
     Full Idea: The passion of laughter is nothing else but sudden glory arising from some sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves, by comparison with the infirmity of others, or with our own formerly.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Human Nature [1640], Ch.IX.13)
     A reaction: Laughter tends to involve something unusual. We don't just burst out with a glory of vanity whenever we meet some inferiority in another person.
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 2. Analysis by Division
Resolve a complex into simple elements, then reconstruct the complex by using them
     Full Idea: Hobbes took his method from Galileo, of resolving any complex situation into its logically primitive, simple elements and then using the simple elements to show how the complex situation could be reconstructed.
     From: report of Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651]) by Alasdair MacIntyre - A Short History of Ethics Ch.10
     A reaction: Reverse engineering of reality. This idea, wherever it comes from, strikes me as the key to the advance of human understanding. No one has yet improved on it as a method, in science or philosophy. Reconstruction needs the mechanism.
2. Reason / D. Definition / 2. Aims of Definition
Definitions of things that are caused must express their manner of generation
     Full Idea: Definitions of things which may be understood to have some cause, must consist of such names as express the cause or manner of their generation, as when we define a circle to be a figure made by the circumduction of a straight line in a plane etc.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 1.6.13)
     A reaction: His account of the circle is based on its mode of construction, which is the preferred account of Euclid, rather than a statement of its pure nature.
2. Reason / D. Definition / 5. Genus and Differentia
Definition is resolution of names into successive genera, and finally the difference
     Full Idea: The definition is nothing but a resolution of the name into its most universal parts; ...definitions of this kind always consist of genus and difference; the former names being all, till the last, general; and the last of all, difference.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 1.6.14)
     A reaction: This is basically the scholastic Aristotelian view of definition. Note that Hobbes explicitly denies that the last step of the definition is general in character.
2. Reason / D. Definition / 8. Impredicative Definition
A defined name should not appear in the definition
     Full Idea: A defined name ought not to be repeated in the definition. ...No total can be part of itself.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 1.6.15)
2. Reason / F. Fallacies / 3. Question Begging
'Petitio principii' is reusing the idea to be defined, in disguised words
     Full Idea: 'Petitio principii' is when the conclusion to be proved is disguised in other words, and put for the definition or principle from whence it is to be demonstrated.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 1.6.18)
4. Formal Logic / G. Formal Mereology / 3. Axioms of Mereology
A part of a part is a part of a whole
     Full Idea: A part of a part is a part of a whole.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.07.09)
6. Mathematics / A. Nature of Mathematics / 3. Nature of Numbers / e. Ordinal numbers
If we just say one, one, one, one, we don't know where we have got to
     Full Idea: By saying one, one, one, one, and so forward, we know not what number we are at beyond two or three.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.12.05)
     A reaction: This makes ordinals sound like meta-numbers.
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 3. Being / a. Nature of Being
Only supernatural means could annihilate anything once it had being
     Full Idea: A being cannot naturally go out of existence. For even if a ship or a plank ceases to be a ship or a plank, it never naturally ceases to be a being. For a being, unless it is annihilated, does not cease to be a being. To annihilate is a supernatural task.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Mundo (On the World) [1642], 12.5)
     A reaction: This idea was becoming an orthodoxy in Hobbes's time, and leads to the various conservation laws in physics.
7. Existence / B. Change in Existence / 1. Nature of Change
Change is nothing but movement
     Full Idea: All mutation consists in motion only
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.09.06)
     A reaction: Another little gem of simplicity from Hobbes, and one with which I am inclined to agree. The value of a variable can 'change', but that may be metaphorical.
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 5. Physicalism
Every part of the universe is body, and non-body is not part of it
     Full Idea: The world is corporeal, that is to say, body...and every part of the universe is body, and that which is not body is no part of the universe.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], IV.46)
     A reaction: [Hobbes concedes existence to visible spirits, but not invisible ones]. This is the kind of remark which got Hobbes hated. It is also the sort of thing that makes him the best candidate for the 'first modern man'.
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 8. Properties as Modes
Accidents are just modes of thinking about bodies
     Full Idea: An accident is a mode of conceiving a body.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.08.02)
     A reaction: In contrast to the other thinkers who followed Suárez on modes in the early 17th century, Hobbes thinks they are just ways of 'conceiving' bodies, rather than actual features of them.
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 12. Denial of Properties
Accidents are not parts of bodies (like blood in a cloth); they have accidents as things have a size
     Full Idea: An accident's being in a body is not to be taken as something contained in that body - as if redness were in blood like blood in a bloody cloth, as part of the whole, for then accident would be a body. It is like body having size or rest or movement.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.08.03)
     A reaction: [compressed] Hobbes is fishing for something like the Quinean view of properties, but no one seems to be able to articulate this sceptical view very well. Pasnau says he means to talk of 'the mode of conceiving a body' (De C 8.2).
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 2. Powers as Basic
A 'conatus' is an initial motion, experience by us as desire or aversion
     Full Idea: Hobbes' notion of 'conatus' is a 'beginning of motion' - a motion through a point of space in an instant of time. In a human subject this is experience as desire or aversion. It thus forms a bridge between physics and psychology.
     From: report of Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], p.178) by Richard T.W. Arthur - Leibniz 3 'Worlds'
     A reaction: This sounds rather like the primitive concept of a power which I like, but the term seems to be used very vaguely, and never discussed carefully. The idea provoked Leibniz to connect physical force with mental life.
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 3. Powers as Derived
The complete power of an event is just the aggregate of the qualities that produced it
     Full Idea: The power of agent and patient taken together, which may be called the complete power, is the same as the complete cause, for each consists in the aggregation together of all the accidents that are required to produce an effect in both agent and patient.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.10.01)
     A reaction: They treat powers as macro phenomena, and don't seem to have a sense of the basic powers that build up the big picture.
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 1. Nominalism / b. Nominalism about universals
The only generalities or universals are names or signs
     Full Idea: Nothing is general or universal besides names or signs.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.08.05)
     A reaction: This is the perfect motto for nominalists, among which I am inclined to include myself. Hobbes had a fabulous gift for economy of phrasing. This website is dedicated to that ideal. Reality does not contain generalities (obviously!!).
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 5. Individuation / c. Individuation by location
Bodies are independent of thought, and coincide with part of space
     Full Idea: A body is that, which having no dependence on our thought, is coincident or coextended with some part of space.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.08.01)
     A reaction: This rather Cartesian view doesn't seem to offer any distinction between empty space and space containing an 'object'. Presumably it is the ancestor of the Quinean account just in terms of space-time points. Don't like it.
If you separate the two places of one thing, you will also separate the thing
     Full Idea: One body cannot be in two places at the same time, ...for the place that a body fills being divided into two, the placed body will also be divided into two; the place and the body that fills that place are divided both together.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.08.08)
     A reaction: If every time you manipulated one body it affected both of them, you might say that one body was in two places, rather like a mirror image.
If you separated two things in the same place, you would also separate the places
     Full Idea: Two bodies cannot be together in the same place, ..because when a body that fills its whole place is divided into two, the place itself is divided into two also, so that there will be two places.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.08.08)
     A reaction: The wonderful things about philosophy is that you are faced with obvious truths of the world, and cannot begin to think why they are true - and then up steps a philosopher and offers you a reason.
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 1. Unifying an Object / b. Unifying aggregates
If a whole body is moved, its parts must move with it
     Full Idea: How can any whole body be moved, unless all its parts be moved together with it?
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.08.05)
     A reaction: This might be a distinguishing mark for a whole physical body. I think it is probably the main mark for ordinary folk. I've never found this idea in Aristotle.
9. Objects / C. Structure of Objects / 2. Hylomorphism / a. Hylomorphism
A chair is wood, and its shape is the form; it isn't 'compounded' of the matter and form
     Full Idea: Nothing can be compounded of matter and form. The matter of a chair is wood; the form is the figure it has, apt for the intended use. Does his Lordship think the chair compounded of the wood and the figure?
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Letter to Bramhall [1650], 4:302), quoted by Robert Pasnau - Metaphysical Themes 1274-1671 07.1
     A reaction: Aristotle does use the word 'shape' [morphe] when he is discussing hylomorphism, and the statue example seems to support it, but elsewhere the form is a much deeper principle of individuation.
9. Objects / C. Structure of Objects / 8. Parts of Objects / b. Sums of parts
A body is always the same, whether the parts are together or dispersed
     Full Idea: A body is always the same, whether the parts of it be put together or dispersed; or whether it be congealed or dissolved.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.11.07)
     A reaction: This appears to be a commitment by Hobbes to what we now call 'classical' mereology - that any bunch of things can count as a whole, whether they are together or dispersed. He seems to mean more than a watch surviving dismantling.
9. Objects / C. Structure of Objects / 8. Parts of Objects / c. Wholes from parts
To make a whole, parts needn't be put together, but can be united in the mind
     Full Idea: In composition, it is to be understood that for the making up of a whole there is no need of putting the parts together, so as to make them touch one another, but only of collecting them into one sum in the mind.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.07.08)
     A reaction: This seems to the 'unrestricted composition' of classical mereology, since it appears that Hobbes offers no restriction on which parts can be united by a mind, no matter how bizarre.
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 5. Essence as Kind
Particulars contain universal things
     Full Idea: Universal things are contained in the nature of singular things.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 1.6.04)
     A reaction: That is the neatest and most accurate summary of the situation I have ever read. Particulars come first, but they are all riddled with generalities (but that is not as well said as Hobbes's remark).
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 7. Essence and Necessity / b. Essence not necessities
Some accidental features are permanent, unless the object perishes
     Full Idea: There are certain accidents which can never perish except the body perish also.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.08.03)
     A reaction: He is just making an observation, and not proposing a theory about essence.
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 13. Nominal Essence
The feature which picks out or names a thing is usually called its 'essence'
     Full Idea: That accident for which we give a certain name to any body, or the accident which denominates its subject, is commonly called the essence thereof.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.08.23)
     A reaction: This is clearly a prelude to Locke's more carefully formulated 'nominal essence'. Fairly obvious, for nominalist empiricists. A bit surprising to say this was 'common'.
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 15. Against Essentialism
Essence is just an artificial word from logic, giving a way of thinking about substances
     Full Idea: Essence and all other abstract names are words artificial belonging to the art of logic, and signify only the manner how we consider the substance itself.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Letter to Bramhall [1650], 4:308), quoted by Robert Pasnau - Metaphysical Themes 1274-1671
     A reaction: I sympathise quite a lot with this view, but not with its dismissive tone. The key question I take to be: if you reject essences entirely (having read too much physics), how are we going to think about entities in the world in future?
9. Objects / E. Objects over Time / 8. Continuity of Rivers
It is the same river if it has the same source, no matter what flows in it
     Full Idea: That will be the same river which flows from one and the same fountain, whether the same water, or other water, or something other than water, flow thence.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.11.07)
     A reaction: This makes the source the one necessity for a river. I think the end matters too. If the Thames reversed direction, and flowed into Wales, it would not be the Thames any more.
9. Objects / E. Objects over Time / 9. Ship of Theseus
If a new ship were made of the discarded planks, would two ships be numerically the same?
     Full Idea: If some man kept the old planks as they were taken out, and by putting them afterwards together again in the same order, had again made a ship of them, ...there would have been two ships numerically the same, which is absurd.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.11.07)
     A reaction: This is the origin of the famous modern problematical example of the Ship of Theseus. The ancient example is just the case of whether you step into the same river, but using an artefact with parts, to make it clearer.
Some individuate the ship by unity of matter, and others by unity of form
     Full Idea: In the Ship of Theseus, some place individuity in the unity of matter; others, in the unity of form.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.11.07)
     A reaction: Simons raises this comment into a dogma, that there are at least two objects present in the ship. If I offered you a sum for the contents of your house, they would have a unity of monetary value.
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 3. Relative Identity
As an infant, Socrates was not the same body, but he was the same human being
     Full Idea: It makes a great difference to ask concerning Socrates whether he is the same human being or whether he is the same body. For his body, when he is old, cannot be the same it was when he was an infant. …He can, however, be the same human being.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.11.07)
     A reaction: This is not commitment to full (Geachian) relative identity, but it notes the problem.
9. Objects / F. Identity among Objects / 8. Leibniz's Law
Two bodies differ when (at some time) you can say something of one you can't say of the other
     Full Idea: Two bodies are said to differ from one another, when something may be said of one of them, which cannot be said of the other at the same time.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.11.02)
     A reaction: Note the astute addition of 'at the same time'. Note also that it is couched in terms of what is true, rather than in terms of 'properties' or 'accidents'.
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 5. Contingency
'Contingent' means that the cause is unperceived, not that there is no cause
     Full Idea: For contingent, men do not mean that which hath no cause, but that which hath not for cause any thing that we perceive, as when a traveller meets a shower, they both had sufficient causes, but they didn't cause one another, so we say it was contingent.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Of Liberty and Necessity [1654], §95)
     A reaction: Contingent nowadays means 'might not have happened', or 'does not happen in all possible worlds'. Personally I share Hobbes' doubts about the concept of contingency, and this is quite a good account of the misunderstanding.
10. Modality / D. Knowledge of Modality / 4. Conceivable as Possible / b. Conceivable but impossible
We can imagine a point swelling and contracting - but not how this could be done
     Full Idea: Even if we can feign in our mind that a point swells to a huge bulk and then contracts to a point - imagining something's made from nothing (ex nihilo), and nothing's made from something - still we cannot comprehend how this could be done in nature.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.08.20)
     A reaction: [compressed] Pasnau notes that this offers two sorts of conceivability, of something happening, and of a reason for it happening. A really nice idea, significant (I think) for scientific essentialists, who say possibilities are fewer than you think.
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 4. Sense Data / a. Sense-data theory
The qualities of the world are mere appearances; reality is the motions which cause them
     Full Idea: Whatsoever accidents or qualities our senses make us think there be in the world, they are not there, but are seemings and apparitions only. The things that really are in the world without us are those motions by which these seemings are caused.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (The Elements of Law [1640], I.2.10), quoted by Robert Pasnau - Metaphysical Themes 1274-1671 10.2
     A reaction: This seems to count as a sense-datum theory, rather than a representative theory of perception, since it makes no commitment to the qualities containing any accurate information at all. We just start from the qualities and try to work it out.
Appearance and reality can be separated by mirrors and echoes
     Full Idea: If colours or sounds were in the bodies or objects that cause them, they could not be severed from them, as by glasses, and in echoes by reflection, we see they are; where we know the thing we see is in one place, the appearance in another.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.01)
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 1. Empiricism
Evidence is conception, which is imagination, which proceeds from the senses
     Full Idea: All evidence is conception, as it is said, and all conception is imagination and proceeds from sense. And spirits we suppose to be those substances which work not upon the sense, and therefore not conceptible.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (The Elements of Law [1640], I.11.5), quoted by Robert Pasnau - Metaphysical Themes 1274-1671 16.2
     A reaction: This is exactly the same as Hume's claim that all ideas are the result of impressions, and is the very essence of empiricism. We see here that such an epistemology can have huge consequences.
Experience can't prove universal truths
     Full Idea: Experience concludeth nothing universally.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (The Elements of Law [1640], I.4.10), quoted by Richard Tuck - Hobbes Ch.2
     A reaction: Empiricists seem proud to claim this limitation on human understanding, where rationalists like Leibniz use it as an argument against empiricism. Kripke says (e.g. Idea 4966) they are both wrong! I sympathise with Kripke.
13. Knowledge Criteria / D. Scepticism / 5. Dream Scepticism
Dreams must be false because they seem absurd, but dreams don't see waking as absurd
     Full Idea: Because waking I often observe the absurdity of dreams, but never dream of the absurdity of my waking thoughts, I am well satisfied that, being awake, I know I dream not, though when I dream I think myself awake.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.02)
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / g. Causal explanations
Science aims to show causes and generation of things
     Full Idea: The end of science is the demonstration of the causes and generation of things.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 1.6.13)
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 2. Imagination
Imagination is just weakened sensation
     Full Idea: Imagination is nothing else but sense decaying or weakened by the absence of the object.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 4.25.07)
     A reaction: This sounds more like memory than imagination. He needs to say something about unusual combinations of memories, I would have thought.
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 5. Against Free Will
A man cannot will to will, or will to will to will, so the idea of a voluntary will is absurd
     Full Idea: The will is not voluntary: for a man can no more say he will will, than he will will will, and so make an infinite repetition of the word 'will', which is absurd and insignificant.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Human Nature [1640], Ch.XII.5)
     A reaction: A nice simple point, allied to Nietzsche's notion that thoughts are uncontrollable (Idea 2291). Even Aquinas, who is quite a fan of free will, spotted the problem (Idea 1854). Personally I agree with Hobbes. Free will is a shibboleth.
Freedom is absence of opposition to action; the idea of 'free will' is absurd
     Full Idea: If a man should talk to me of a 'free-will', or any 'free' but free from being hindered by opposition, I should not say that he were in an error, but that his words were without a meaning, that is to say, absurd.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.05)
Those actions that follow immediately the last appetite are voluntary
     Full Idea: Those actions that follow immediately the last appetite are voluntary.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Letters to the Lord Marquis of Newcastle [1652])
If a man suddenly develops an intention of doing something, the cause is out of his control, not in his will
     Full Idea: When first a man hath an appetite or will to something, to which immediately before he had no appetite or will, the cause of his will is not the will itself, but something else not in his own disposing.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Letters to the Lord Marquis of Newcastle [1652])
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 7. Compatibilism
Liberty and necessity are consistent, as when water freely flows, by necessity
     Full Idea: Liberty and necessity are consistent: as in the water, that hath not only liberty, but a necessity of descending by the channel.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], II.Ch.XI)
     A reaction: Hume asserts something similar (Idea 2223), but they both miss the point, which is that libertarians about water would have to believe it didn't need to follow gravity, but could refuse to flow. Freedom of will and freedom of action are quite different.
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 1. Physical Mind
Conceptions and apparitions are just motion in some internal substance of the head
     Full Idea: Conceptions and apparitions are nothing really, but motion in some internal substance of the head.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Human Nature [1640], Ch.VII.1)
     A reaction: Note that he carefully covers both thought in concepts and thought in images, and also that he is not saying that thought is the substance, but that it is a 'motion'. This strikes me as an excellent word, and I think Hobbes is right.
Sensation is merely internal motion of the sentient being
     Full Idea: Sense in the sentient, can be nothing else but motion in some of the internal parts of the sentient; and the parts so moved are parts of the organs of sense.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 3.15.02)
     A reaction: Amazingly bold for the time, and presumably influenced by Lucretius. I am sympathetic, but to suggest that sensation is nothing more sounds a bit like a category mistake. Has he grasped that the brain is involved?
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 3. Emotions
Apart from pleasure and pain, the only emotions are appetite and aversion
     Full Idea: All the passions, called passions of the mind, consist of appetite and aversion, except pure pleasure and pain.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 4.25.13)
18. Thought / B. Mechanics of Thought / 5. Mental Files
Words are not for communication, but as marks for remembering what we have learned
     Full Idea: The use of words consists in this, that they may serve for marks by which whatsoever we have found out may be recalled to memory ...but not as signs by which we declare the same to others.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 1.6.11)
     A reaction: This exactly fits the idea of mental files, of which I am a fan. That this is the actual purpose of language is an unusual but interesting view.
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 1. Acting on Desires
It is an error that reason should control the passions, which give right guidance on their own
     Full Idea: Hobbes (and Descartes, and many contemporaries) argued that the traditional idea that reason should control the passions was an error, and that (properly understood) our emotions would guide us in the right direction.
     From: report of Thomas Hobbes (The Elements of Law [1640]) by Richard Tuck - Hobbes Ch.2
     A reaction: I'm an intellectualist on this one. It strikes me as rather naïve and romantic to think that unthinking emotion could ever consistently approach what is right. A recipe for disaster.
The will is just the last appetite before action
     Full Idea: In deliberation, the last appetite or aversion immediately adhering to the action, or to the omission thereof, is that we call the Will.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.06)
     A reaction: I share his caution about 'the will', but his observation strikes me as inaccurate. When I drink, my 'will' is not my thirst. I take the will to be a feature of my reason. I gave my thirst permission to indulge itself. The will is practical reason?
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / a. Practical reason
Reason is usually general, but deliberation is of particulars
     Full Idea: Reasoning is in general words, but deliberation for the most part is of particulars.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.06)
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 1. Nature of Value / f. Ultimate value
There is no absolute good, for even the goodness of God is goodness to us
     Full Idea: There is no such thing as absolute goodness, considered without relation: for even the goodness which we apprehend in God Almighty, is his goodness to us.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Human Nature [1640], Ch.VII.3)
     A reaction: Plato's view of goodness is much more absolute than that of religion, as he proposes the Good as the eternal underpinning of nature. I agree with Hobbes that if God is the source of goodness, that will prevent goodness from being truly absolute.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / d. Love
Desire and love are the same, but in the desire the object is absent, and in love it is present
     Full Idea: Desire and love are the same thing, save that by desire we always signify the absence of the object, by love most commonly the presence of the same.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.06)
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / f. Self interest
All voluntary acts aim at some good for the doer
     Full Idea: Of the voluntary acts of every man, the object is some good to himself.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.14)
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 1. Goodness / c. Right and good
Hobbes shifted from talk of 'the good' to talk of 'rights'
     Full Idea: Hobbes (like Grotius) shifted from talking about 'the good', which had been the traditional subject for both ancient and Renaissance moralists, to talking instead about 'rights'.
     From: report of Thomas Hobbes (The Elements of Law [1640]) by Richard Tuck - Hobbes Ch.2
     A reaction: This is part of the crucial shift away from the Greek interest in excellence of character, towards the Enlightenment legalistic interest in right actions, as well as social rights. Bad move, well analysed by MacIntyre.
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 2. Happiness / c. Value of happiness
Life has no end (not even happiness), because we have desires, which presuppose a further end
     Full Idea: For an utmost end, in which the ancient philosophers have placed felicity, there is no such thing in this world, nor way to it: for while we live, we have desires, and desire presupposeth a further end.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Human Nature [1640], Ch.VII.6)
     A reaction: Kant's definition of happiness (Idea 1452) seems to be the underlying idea, and hence with the same implication (of impossibility). However, an alcoholic locked in a brewery would seem to have all that Hobbes requires for happiness.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 1. Nature of Ethics / d. Ethical theory
Good and evil are what please us; goodness and badness the powers causing them
     Full Idea: We call good and evil the things that please and displease us; and so we call goodness and badness, the qualities of powers whereby they do it.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (The Elements of Law [1640], I.7.3), quoted by Richard Tuck - Hobbes Ch.2
     A reaction: It is pointed out by Tuck that this is just like his treatment of colour terms (values as secondary qualities). I would have thought it was obvious that I could say 'x pleases me, although I disapprove of it' (e.g. black humour).
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / h. Expressivism
'Good' is just what we desire, and 'Evil' what we hate
     Full Idea: Whatsoever is the object of any man's appetite or desire, that is it which he for his part calleth 'Good'; and the object of his hate or aversion 'Evil'.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.06)
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / j. Ethics by convention
Self-preservation is basic, and people judge differently about that, implying ethical relativism
     Full Idea: If men are their own judges of what conduces to their preservation, ..all men make different decisions about what counts as a danger, so (for Hobbes) the grimmest version of ethical relativism seems to be the only possible ethical vision.
     From: report of Thomas Hobbes (The Elements of Law [1640]) by Richard Tuck - Hobbes Ch.2
     A reaction: This might depend on self-preservation being the only fundamental value. But if self-preservation is not a pressing issue, presumably other values might come into play, some of them less concerned with the individual's own interests.
Men's natural desires are no sin, and neither are their actions, until law makes it so
     Full Idea: The desires and other passions of man are in themselves no sin. No more are the actions that proceed from those passions, till they know a law that forbids them.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.13)
23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 1. Contractarianism
Hobbes wants a contract to found morality, but shared values are needed to make a contract
     Full Idea: Hobbes makes two incompatible demands of the original contract: he wishes it to be the foundation of all shared and common standards and rules; but he also wishes it to be a contract, which needs prior shared and common standards.
     From: comment on Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], Pt 1) by Alasdair MacIntyre - A Short History of Ethics Ch.10
     A reaction: At the very least, the participants in a contract must be committed to keeping it even when it is not convenient. But a common purpose seems to be needed too, which makes the contract itself intrinsically valuable. Similar objections to Kant.
A contract is a mutual transfer of rights
     Full Idea: The mutual transferring of right is that which men call 'contract'.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.14)
The person who performs first in a contract is said to 'merit' the return, and is owed it
     Full Idea: He that performeth first in the case of a contract, is said to 'merit' that which he is to receive by the performance of the other, and he hath it as due.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.14)
23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 2. Golden Rule
For Hobbes the Golden Rule concerns not doing things, whereas Jesus encourages active love
     Full Idea: Hobbes put the Golden Rule as 'do NOT do to others what you would NOT want done to yourself'. Jesus's formulation encouraged active love. Most Westerners conceive their moral duty as not to do harm, rather than actively doing good.
     From: report of Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651]) by Owen Flanagan - The Problem of the Soul p.20n
     A reaction: This idea probably runs very deep into western culture, where most people feel that they are being very morally good when they are sitting at home and not actually annoying anyone. Utilitarianism also offers a challenge to such complacency.
23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 3. Promise Keeping
In the violent state of nature, the merest suspicion is enough to justify breaking a contract
     Full Idea: If a covenant is made with neither party performing presently, but trust one another, in the condition of mere nature (which is war between men) upon reasonable suspicion, it is void.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.14)
23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 4. Value of Authority
Suspicion will not destroy a contract, if there is a common power to enforce it
     Full Idea: If there be a common power set over both parties in a contract, with right and force sufficient to compel performance, a contract does not become void as soon as the parties are suspicious.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.14)
Fear of sanctions is the only motive for acceptance of authority that Hobbes can think of
     Full Idea: Hobbes has such a limited view of human motives that he cannot provide any other explanation for the acceptance of authority than the fear of sanctions..
     From: comment on Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], Pt 1) by Alasdair MacIntyre - A Short History of Ethics Ch.10
     A reaction: There are two alternative views - the conservative view that people naturally welcome and even need authority, because they need to be led; or the Aristotelian view that people are naturally communal, and authority is part of community life.
23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 5. Free Rider
No one who admitted to not keeping contracts could ever be accepted as a citizen
     Full Idea: He therefore that breaketh his covenant, and consequently declareth that he thinks he may with reason do so, cannot be received into any society.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.15)
If there is a good reason for breaking a contract, the same reason should have stopped the making of it
     Full Idea: If any fault of man be sufficient to discharge our covenant made, the same ought in reason to have been sufficient to have hindered the making of it.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.15)
23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 7. Prisoner's Dilemma
The first performer in a contract is handing himself over to an enemy
     Full Idea: He which performeth first in a contract, does but betray himself to his enemy.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.14)
23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 8. Contract Strategies
Someone who keeps all his contracts when others are breaking them is making himself a prey to others
     Full Idea: He that should be modest and tractable, and perform all the promises, in such time and place where no man else should do so, should but make himself a prey to others.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.15)
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / c. Motivation for virtue
Virtues are a means to peaceful, sociable and comfortable living
     Full Idea: The writers of moral philosophy, though they acknowledge the same virtues and vices, yet not seeing wherein consisted their goodness, nor that they come to be praised as the means of peaceable, sociable and comfortable living.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.15)
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / c. Justice
Injustice is the failure to keep a contract, and justice is the constant will to give what is owed
     Full Idea: The definition of 'injustice' is no other than the not performance of covenant….. and 'justice' is the constant will of giving to every man his own.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.15)
24. Applied Ethics / B. Moral Rights / 2. Sexual Morality
Lust involves pleasure, and also the sense of power in pleasing others
     Full Idea: Lust consists of two appetites together, to please, and to be pleased, and the delight men take in delighting is not sensual, but a pleasure or joy of the mind consisting in the imagination of the power they have so much to please.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Human Nature [1640], Ch.IX)
     A reaction: Hobbes would rather burst a blood-vessel than admit any altruism. If you take pleasure in pleasing someone else, why can't that simply be because of the other person's pleasure, with which we sympathise, rather than relishing our own 'power'?
25. Society / A. State of Nature / 1. A People / b. The natural life
In time of war the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short
     Full Idea: In a time of war…. there is continual fear, and danger of violent death, and the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.13)
Hobbes attributed to savages the passions which arise in a law-bound society
     Full Idea: Hobbes had wrongly injected into the savage man's concern for self-preservation the need to satisfy a multitude of passions which are the product of society and which have made laws necessary.
     From: report of Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651]) by Jean-Jacques Rousseau - Discourse on the Origin of Inequality Part I
     A reaction: Hobbes's famous remark concerns a state of war, which is quite a sophisticated state of conflict between well formed social groups. Rousseau's savage is fairly solitary, so won't be involved in war.
25. Society / B. The State / 2. State Legitimacy / a. Sovereignty
Hobbes says the people voluntarily give up their sovereignty, in a contract with a ruler
     Full Idea: While Hobbes had held that the people were the final source of political authority, he had argued that in entering the social contract they gave up their sovereignty by transferring all power to an absolute ruler.
     From: report of Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651]) by Johanna Oksala - Political Philosophy: all that matters Ch.5
     A reaction: Later the idea of 'inalienable' rights crept in. If you volunteer for exploitation or slavery, that still doesn't justify them. Sadism is presumably not justified by masochism.
25. Society / B. The State / 8. Religion in Society
If fear of unknown powers is legal it is religion, if it is illegal it is superstition
     Full Idea: Fear of power invisible, feigned by the mind or imagined from tales publicly allowed, is religion; not allowed, is superstition.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.06)
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 3. Social Equality / a. Grounds of equality
Hobbes says people are roughly equal; Locke says there is no right to impose inequality
     Full Idea: Hobbes's principle of equality was a claim about the mental and physical capabilities of all people. For Locke it is a moral claim about rights: no person has a natural right to subordinate any other.
     From: report of Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651]) by Jonathan Wolff - An Introduction to Political Philosophy (Rev) 1 'Locke'
     A reaction: There are obvious questions to ask about the claim that people are naturally equal. For the second one, does the lion have a natural right to subordinate the gazelle? Who cares! I'm inclined to be consequentialist about equality.
There is not enough difference between people for one to claim more benefit than another
     Full Idea: The difference between man and man is not so considerable as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any benefit to which another may not pretend as well as he.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.13)
25. Society / C. State of Nature / 4. Legal Rights / b. Alienating rights
If we seek peace and defend ourselves, we must compromise on our rights
     Full Idea: From the first law of nature (that we seek peace, but also defend ourselves) comes the second: that a man be willing to lay down his rights to all things, and be contented with so much liberty against other men as he would allow other men against himself.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.14)
25. Society / C. Social Justice / 5. Right to Punish / a. Right to punish
Punishment should only be for reform or deterrence
     Full Idea: We are forbidden to inflict punishment with any other design than for correction of the offender, or direction of others.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.15)
25. Society / E. State Functions / 1. The Law / b. Natural law
We should obey the laws of nature, provided other people are also obeying them
     Full Idea: Hobbes's position is that we have a duty to obey the Laws of Nature when others around us are known (or can reasonably be expected) to be obeying them too, and so our compliance will not be exploited.
     From: report of Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651]) by Jonathan Wolff - An Introduction to Political Philosophy (Rev) 1 'Hobbes'
     A reaction: In particular, we should keep contracts. Hobbes doesn't seem fully committed to keeping facts and values separate.
25. Society / E. State Functions / 1. The Law / c. Legal positivism
The legal positivism of Hobbes said law is just formal or procedural
     Full Idea: Hobbes was one of the first to propose the view known as 'legal positivism' - that the criterion for deciding whether a rule is a genuine law is entirely formal or procedural
     From: report of Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651]) by Nicholas Jolley - Leibniz Ch.7
     A reaction: This was opposed to the tradition of natural law, deriving from Aquinas. It is part of a picture of values draining out of the world as science comes to dominate. The is/ought distinction is its culmination. Power replaces virtue, and Thrasymachus wins.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 6. Early Matter Theories / b. Prime matter
Prime matter is body considered with mere size and extension, and potential
     Full Idea: Prime matter signifies body considered without the consideration of any form or accident except only magnitude or extension, and aptness to receive form and accidents.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.08.24)
     A reaction: I take 'considered without' to indicate that he thinks of it as a psychological abstraction, rather than some actual existing thing.
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 1. Causation
Acting on a body is either creating or destroying a property in it
     Full Idea: A body is said to work upon or act, that is to say, do something to another body, when it either generates or destroys some accident in it.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.09.01)
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 8. Particular Causation / c. Conditions of causation
An effect needs a sufficient and necessary cause
     Full Idea: There can be no effect but from a sufficient and necessary cause.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.10.02)
     A reaction: To be compared with Mackie's subtler modern account of this matter. If two different separate causes could lead to the same result, it is hard to see how the cause must be 'necessary' (unless you say they lead to different effects).
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 9. General Causation / a. Constant conjunction
Causation is only observation of similar events following each other, with nothing visible in between
     Full Idea: In knowing the meaning of 'causing', men can only observe and remember what they have seen to precede the like effect at some other time, without seeing between the antecedent and subsequent event any dependence or connexion at all.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.12)
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 9. General Causation / d. Causal necessity
A cause is the complete sum of the features which necessitate the effect
     Full Idea: A cause it the sum or aggregate of all such accidents, both in the agents and in the patient, as concur to the producing of the effect propounded; all of which existing together, ti cannot be understood but that the effect existenth without them.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 1.6.10)
     A reaction: For most causes we meet, this definition will include gravity and electro-magnetism, so it doesn't help in narrowing things down. Notice that he accepts the necessity, despite his committed empiricism.
27. Natural Reality / A. Classical Physics / 1. Mechanics / a. Explaining movement
Motion is losing one place and acquiring another
     Full Idea: Motion is privation of one place, and the acquisition of another.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 1.6.06)
     A reaction: This is basically the 'at-at' theory of motion which empiricists like, because it breaks motion down into atoms of experience. Hobbes needs an ontology which includes 'places'.
27. Natural Reality / A. Classical Physics / 1. Mechanics / c. Forces
'Force' is the quantity of movement imposed on something
     Full Idea: I define 'force' to be the impetus or quickness of motion multiplied either into itself, or into the magnitude of the movent, by means of which whereof the said movent works more or less upon the body that resists it.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 3.15.02)
     A reaction: Not very helpful, perhaps, but it shows a view of force at quite an early date, well before Newton.
27. Natural Reality / C. Space-Time / 2. Time / f. Presentism
Past times can't exist anywhere, apart from in our memories
     Full Idea: When people speak of the times of their predecessors, they do not think after their predecessors are gone that their times can be any where else than in the memory of those that remember.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (De Corpore (Elements, First Section) [1655], 2.07.03)
28. God / C. Attitudes to God / 4. God Reflects Humanity
The attributes of God just show our inability to conceive his nature
     Full Idea: All the attributes of God signify our inability and defect of power to conceive any thing concerning his nature.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (The Elements of Law [1640], I.10.2), quoted by Richard Tuck - Hobbes Ch.2
     A reaction: Presumably he means that 'omnipotence' should just be translated as 'mind-boggling power'. St Anselm's concept of God (Idea 1405) is helpful here, placing it at the upper limit of what can actually be conceived.
29. Religion / D. Religious Issues / 1. Religious Commitment / a. Religious Belief
Religion is built on ignorance and misinterpretation of what is unknown or frightening
     Full Idea: In these four things - opinion of ghosts, ignorance of second causes, devotion towards what men fear, and taking of things casual for prognostics, consisteth the natural seed of religion.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.12)
29. Religion / D. Religious Issues / 2. Immortality / a. Immortality
Belief in an afterlife is based on poorly founded gossip
     Full Idea: Knowledge of man's estate after death, and its rewards, is a belief grounded upon other men's sayings that they knew it supernaturally, or they knew those, that knew those, that knew others, that knew it supernaturally.
     From: Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan [1651], 1.15)