Monthly Archives: October 2013

Pasnau, Hobbes, and substance

[Cross-posted from http://philosophymodsquad.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/pasnau-hobbes-and-substance/.]

Robert Pasnau, in his Metaphysical Themes 1274-1671, draws attention to two ways in which we find Hobbes talking about substance. One is found in De Corpore, among other texts. On this, “there is no room for metaphysical entities like the thin substance and its inhering accidents” (Pasnau 117). Indeed Hobbes wrote against Bramhall that nothing could be compounded of substance and accident. However we also find Hobbes talking about substance in the earlier Third Objections, and there he appears more open to a substance-accident distinction and to accidents as “metaphysical parts” of things. Hobbes says there that “all philosophers distinguish the subject from its faculties and acts” and that “even the old Peripatetics taught clearly enough that substance is not perceived by the senses but is inferred by reasoning” (Pasnau 137). This suggests a picture on which we perceive accidents and infer the existence of the (underlying) body, contrary to the first picture. So how do the two ways of talking about substance fit together? Continue reading