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 [Tuck]
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 5. Aims of Philosophy / e. Philosophy as reason
Definitions are the first step in philosophy
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 8. Humour
Laughter is a sudden glory in realising the infirmity of others, or our own formerly
1. Philosophy / F. Analytic Philosophy / 2. Analysis by Division
Resolve a complex into simple elements, then reconstruct the complex by using them [MacIntyre]
2. Reason / D. Definition / 2. Aims of Definition
Definitions of things that are caused must express their manner of generation
2. Reason / D. Definition / 5. Genus and Differentia
Definition is resolution of names into successive genera, and finally the difference
2. Reason / D. Definition / 8. Impredicative Definition
A defined name should not appear in the definition
2. Reason / F. Fallacies / 3. Question Begging
'Petitio principii' is reusing the idea to be defined, in disguised words
4. Formal Logic / G. Formal Mereology / 3. Axioms of Mereology
A part of a part is a part of a whole
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
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 3. Being / a. Nature of Being
Only supernatural means could annihilate anything once it had being
7. Existence / B. Change in Existence / 1. Nature of Change
Change is nothing but movement
7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 5. Physicalism
Every part of the universe is body, and non-body is not part of it
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 8. Properties as Modes
Accidents are just modes of thinking about bodies
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
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
8. Modes of Existence / E. Nominalism / 1. Nominalism / b. Nominalism about universals
The only generalities or universals are names or signs
9. Objects / A. Existence of Objects / 5. Individuation / c. Individuation by location
Bodies are independent of thought, and coincide with part of space
If you separate the two places of one thing, you will also separate the thing
If you separated two things in the same place, you would also separate the places
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
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
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
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
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 5. Essence as Kind
Particulars contain universal things
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 7. Essence and Necessity / b. Essence not necessities
Some accidental features are permanent, unless the object perishes
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 13. Nominal Essence
The feature which picks out or names a thing is usually called its 'essence'
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 15. Against Essentialism
Essence is just an artificial word from logic, giving a way of thinking about substances
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
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?
Some individuate the ship by unity of matter, and others by unity of form
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
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
10. Modality / B. Possibility / 5. Contingency
'Contingent' means that the cause is unperceived, not that there is no cause
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
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
Appearance and reality can be separated by mirrors and echoes
12. Knowledge Sources / D. Empiricism / 1. Empiricism
Experience can't prove universal truths
Evidence is conception, which is imagination, which proceeds from the senses
13. Knowledge Criteria / D. Scepticism / 5. Dream Scepticism
Dreams must be false because they seem absurd, but dreams don't see waking as absurd
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / g. Causal explanations
Science aims to show causes and generation of things
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 2. Imagination
Imagination is just weakened sensation
15. Nature of Minds / C. Capacities of Minds / 10. Conatus/Striving
A 'conatus' is an initial motion, experienced by us as desire or aversion [Arthur,R]
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
Freedom is absence of opposition to action; the idea of 'free will' is absurd
Those actions that follow immediately the last appetite are voluntary
If a man suddenly develops an intention of doing something, the cause is out of his control, not in his will
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 7. Compatibilism
Liberty and necessity are consistent, as when water freely flows, by necessity
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 1. Physical Mind
Conceptions and apparitions are just motion in some internal substance of the head
Sensation is merely internal motion of the sentient being
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 3. Emotions
Apart from pleasure and pain, the only emotions are appetite and aversion
18. Thought / B. Mechanics of Thought / 5. Mental Files
Words are not for communication, but as marks for remembering what we have learned
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 [Tuck]
The will is just the last appetite before action
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 3. Acting on Reason / a. Practical reason
Reason is usually general, but deliberation is of particulars
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
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / f. Love
Desire and love are the same, but in the desire the object is absent, and in love it is present
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / h. Self interest
All voluntary acts aim at some good for the doer
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 1. Goodness / c. Right and good
Hobbes shifted from talk of 'the good' to talk of 'rights' [Tuck]
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
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
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 2. Source of Ethics / h. Expressivism
'Good' is just what we desire, and 'Evil' what we hate
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 [Tuck]
Men's natural desires are no sin, and neither are their actions, until law makes it so
23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 1. Contractarianism
The person who performs first in a contract is said to 'merit' the return, and is owed it
Hobbes wants a contract to found morality, but shared values are needed to make a contract [MacIntyre]
A contract is a mutual transfer of rights
23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 2. Golden Rule
For Hobbes the Golden Rule concerns not doing things, whereas Jesus encourages active love [Flanagan]
23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 3. Promise Keeping
In the violent state of nature, the merest suspicion is enough to justify breaking a contract
23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 4. Value of Authority
Suspicion will not destroy a contract, if there is a common power to enforce it
Fear of sanctions is the only motive for acceptance of authority that Hobbes can think of [MacIntyre]
23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 5. Free Rider
If there is a good reason for breaking a contract, the same reason should have stopped the making of it
No one who admitted to not keeping contracts could ever be accepted as a citizen
23. Ethics / B. Contract Ethics / 7. Prisoner's Dilemma
The first performer in a contract is handing himself over to an enemy
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
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / c. Motivation for virtue
Virtues are a means to peaceful, sociable and comfortable living
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
24. Political Theory / A. Basis of a State / 1. A People / b. The natural life
Hobbes attributed to savages the passions which arise in a law-bound society [Rousseau]
In time of war the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short
24. Political Theory / B. Nature of a State / 2. State Legitimacy / a. Sovereignty
Hobbes says the people voluntarily give up their sovereignty, in a contract with a ruler [Oksala]
25. Social Practice / B. Equalities / 1. Grounds of equality
There is not enough difference between people for one to claim more benefit than another
Hobbes says people are roughly equal; Locke says there is no right to impose inequality [Wolff,J]
25. Social Practice / C. Rights / 3. Alienating rights
If we seek peace and defend ourselves, we must compromise on our rights
25. Social Practice / D. Justice / 2. The Law / c. Natural law
We should obey the laws of nature, provided other people are also obeying them [Wolff,J]
25. Social Practice / D. Justice / 2. The Law / d. Legal positivism
The legal positivism of Hobbes said law is just formal or procedural [Jolley]
25. Social Practice / D. Justice / 3. Punishment / a. Right to punish
Punishment should only be for reform or deterrence
25. Social Practice / E. Policies / 1. War / c. Combatants
I act justly if I follow my Prince in an apparently unjust war, and refusing to fight would be injustice
25. Social Practice / E. Policies / 2. Religion in Society
If fear of unknown powers is legal it is religion, if it is illegal it is superstition
25. Social Practice / F. Life Issues / 5. Sexual Morality
Lust involves pleasure, and also the sense of power in pleasing others
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
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 1. Causation
Acting on a body is either creating or destroying a property in it
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 8. Particular Causation / c. Conditions of causation
An effect needs a sufficient and necessary cause
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
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 9. General Causation / d. Causal necessity
A cause is the complete sum of the features which necessitate the effect
27. Natural Reality / A. Classical Physics / 1. Mechanics / a. Explaining movement
Motion is losing one place and acquiring another
27. Natural Reality / A. Classical Physics / 1. Mechanics / c. Forces
'Force' is the quantity of movement imposed on something
27. Natural Reality / D. Time / 2. Passage of Time / k. Temporal truths
Past times can't exist anywhere, apart from in our memories
28. God / C. Attitudes to God / 4. God Reflects Humanity
The attributes of God just show our inability to conceive his nature
29. Religion / D. Religious Issues / 1. Religious Commitment / a. Religious Belief
Religion is built on ignorance and misinterpretation of what is unknown or frightening
29. Religion / D. Religious Issues / 2. Immortality / a. Immortality
Belief in an afterlife is based on poorly founded gossip