Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Professor James R. Noxon
This thesis is intended to show, first, that, contrary to contemporary interpretations, Hobbes' philosophy is, as he claimed, a deductive system, beginning with factual or non-evaluative first principles and culminating in a set of moral rules, the laws of nature. The argument is, thus, that Hobbes was a consistent and a successful ethical naturalist. It is not claimed that his moral philosophy is deduced directly from his mechanistic first principles, but, that his system is deductive in much the same sense as are scientific theories, bringing both general principles and observed facts into the deduction. This claim is more fully explained in chapters one and two. Second, the thesis is intended to provide a thorough exposition and alternative interpretation of Hobbes' views on method, metaphysics, and psychology. Accordingly, in expounding the details of Hobbes' philosophy, the thesis goes well beyond what would be necessary to provide a basis for arguing that his philosophy is, in fact, a system.
It has been attempted throughout to follow the order of discussion as it is exhibited in Hobbes' own systematic work, The Elements of Philosophy. Thus, in chapter one, it is shown that Hobbes' philosophical development supports the view that his philosophy is a system. Chapter two offers a detailed account of Hobbes' views on reason and scientific method and, on the basis of this account, argues that Hobbes did conceive of his philosophy as constituting a system. Chapters three and four present a thorough discussion of Hobbes' metaphysical principles. Here it is argued that Hobbes did not simply beg the question of the external would but that he saw it primarily as a problem for natural philosophy. In chapter three it is argued that all accidents, insolar as they are subjects of thought and knowledge, are, for Hobbes, imaginary and that all substance, since it is only as corporeal that it is a subject of reason and knowledge, is corporeal. Hobbes' views on essence and causality are examined in chapter four. Here it is argued that Hobbes held a process view of causality according to which all distinctions between cause and effect are somewhat arbitrary. It is shown also that Hobbes' arguments in support of his mechanism, while not sound, are not, as usually thought, circular. Finally, an attempt is made to understand Hobbes' determination in light of his views on causality and the nature of motion.
Hobbes' psychology is discussed in chapters five and six. In chapter five an argument for the external world is extrapolated from his mechanistic account of the nature of separation. It is argued as well that Hobbes' theory of sensation is neither an epiphenomenalist nor representationalist theory, and an attempt is made to show the connections between his metaphysics and various aspects of his cognitive psychology. In chapter six it is shown that Hobbes' mechanistic account of desire is a deduction from his metaphysics, that his psychology ~-' a 'selfish' psychology, and that 'good' is, for him, a psychological and, hence, mechanistic concept. It is shown too, in the discussion of the moral argument form De Homine, that Hobbes did clearly distinguish moral from prudential virtue.
The derivation of Hobbes' moral philosophy is taken up in chapter seven. Here it is shown that the state of nature is an unrealizable state which would obtain only if men without any social experience whatever were to act simply and solely according to their natural desires. It is then shown that the war of all against all and the unlimited right of each is a consequence of that state and that the state of nature is a deduction from Hobbes' mechanistic psychology. The derivation of the laws of nature from the state of nature is then given. In chapter eight some alternative interpretations are examined are rejected.
In general, it is concluded that Hobbes' philosophy is a unified, deductive system, culminating in moral laws which have their basis, ultimately, in his mechanism.
Gray, Jr, Robert L., "The Metaphysical and Psychological Basis of Thomas Hobbes' Moral Philosophy" (1976). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 875.