Hobbes on the state of nature:
In such condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short (Leviathan, chapter 13).
Thucydides on the early state of Greece, something that Hobbes translated:
It appears, for example, that the country now called Hellas had no settled population in ancient times; instead there was a series of migrations, as the various tribes, being under the constant pressure of invaders who were stronger than they were, were always prepared to abandon their own territory. There was no commerce, and no safe communication either by land or sea; the use they made of their land was limited to the production of necessities; they had no surplus left over for capital, and no regular system of agriculture, since they lacked the protection of fortifications and at any moment an invade might appear and take their land away from them (1.2, Warner’s translation).
For discussion, see James Jan Sullivan in A Handbook to the Reception of Thucydides.
In a previous post, I pointed to Hobbes’s theorizing about moral language at the end of chapter 4 of Leviathan. I argued that Hobbes thinks moral terms have a double signification: they signify something in the world, and also something about the nature of the speaker — something about them that contributed to their applying that word to this thing.
The notion that some moral or political terms have a double signification is also visible in the earlier Elements of Law. Thus ‘aristocracy’ and ‘oligarchy’ “signify the same thing, together with the divers passion of those that use them; for when the men that be in that office please, they are called an aristocracy, otherwise an oligarchy” (EL 20.3). Both ‘aristocracy’ and ‘oligarchy’ have two significations. Each signifies some group of men. Each also signifies the attitude of the speaker towards that group, be it positive or negative.
Understanding Hobbes’s view about the double signification of moral terms can also help us to understand his discussions of ‘good’ and ‘evil’. One of those occurs earlier in the Elements of Law:
Discussions of Hobbes’s views about language seem to proceed on two separate paths. (Neither of these paths is terribly busy, I’ll grant you, but they both seem to be there.) On the one hand there are discussions of Hobbes’s general philosophy of language — signification, nominalism, and the like. On the other hand there are discussions of what Hobbes says about language in his moral and political philosophy — on what he says about ‘good’ and ‘evil’, for example. But it seems to me that these two discussions should be more closely tied together.
One interesting text for starting to think about the link between the two is the final paragraph of chapter 4 of Leviathan. There Hobbes discusses moral language, including the names of virtues and vices. This discussion contributes to the moral and political projects of the book, while also being part of a general account of the workings of language. It uses the terminology of that general account, in particular its notion of signification.
The names of virtue and vices, and others like them, are, Hobbes says, of “inconstant signification”. Moreover, they are words,
which besides the signification of what we imagine of their nature, have a signification also of the nature, disposition, and interest of the speaker; such as are the names of Vertues, and Vices; For one man calleth Wisdome, what another calleth feare; and one cruelty, what another justice; one prodigality, what another magnanimity; and one gravity, what another stupidity, &c. And therefore such names can never be true grounds of any ratiocination. No more can Metaphors, and Tropes of speech: but these are less dangerous, because they profess their inconstancy; which the other do not.
PHI 2010 Introduction to Philosophy
PHI2010 is a general introduction to philosophy. It aims to introduce you to some fields and debates in philosophy; to show you something of philosophy’s history; and to develop skills in reading, discussing, and communicating that will be useful in later philosophy classes and elsewhere. The topics considered will include arguments for and against the existence of God; Thomas’s Hobbes’s Leviathan, a famous text in the history of political philosophy; and views and arguments about the meaning of life. This class meets the Humanities general education requirement. It also counts for 4000 words of the writing requirement. The main items of assessed work will be three papers and a final exam. There is one required book: Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, edited by A.P. Martinich and Brian Battiste (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview, 2011; ISBN 9781554810031). All other readings, both historical and contemporary, will be made available through the Canvas site for the class.
PHH5405 Modern Philosophy 1
In Modern 1 next semester I plan to focus largely on the philosophy of Leibniz. Before we get to Leibniz, we’ll spend a couple of week looking at the work of Descartes, reading parts of his Principles of Philosophy. After that, I plan to spend around four weeks looking at Leibniz’s 1686 ‘Discourse on Metaphysics’ and associated texts. That will take us almost halfway through the semester. For the second half of the semester, I want to look at a variety of later texts. Some of these are further systematic statements of Leibniz’s views (e.g., the ‘New System’, the ‘Monadology’), while others are engagements with other philosophers (e.g., the correspondences with Arnauld and Clarke). The main focus of these discussions will be on metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language. However, we will also touch on issues in philosophy of religion, natural science, epistemology, and moral philosophy.
The great majority of the Leibniz readings will be from G.W. Leibniz, Philosophical Essays, translated by Ariew and Garber (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1989). Others will be posted on the Canvas site for the class. The text of the Ariew and Garber volume is also available on the Past Masters database to which UF subscribes. The main pieces of assessed work for the class will be two essays and a final exam.
A couple of recent papers (one by Marcus Adams, the other by Arash Abizadeh) have me thinking about Hobbes’s views about ideas, about ideas as images, and about what the parts of ideas are.
Sometimes Hobbesian ideas have what we might call conceptual parts. One example is the discussion of resolution in De Corpore 6.4. The idea square is said to have parts including line and angle, and the idea gold is said to have parts including solid and heavy.
At other times, though, the parts of ideas seem more like the spatial parts of images. One example of this occurs when Hobbes talks of remembering, and the ways memories are less detailed than experiences, in Elements of Law 3.7. This he describes as involving a “missing of parts” and a lack of “distinction of parts”. So on the one hand you look at a city and see the buildings clearly distinguished, on the other you remember it as “a mass of building only”. But here the parts that are missing, or can’t be distinguished, are spatial parts of the image.
I don’t know what to make of this. But I think Hobbes is not alone, among philosophers with a more or less imagistic theory of ideas, in having these two sorts of parts in mind. So Hume usually thinks of ideas as having conceptual parts. But in Treatise 1.2, in the discussion of space, the coloured points into which our visual impressions and ideas are resolved are spatial rather than conceptual parts.
[Cross-posted from modsquad.)
After putting together a small set of extracts from Margaret Cavendish’s Philosophical Letters for a class, I figured that others might find it interesting or useful, so I posted it online: Some of the Philosophical Letters.
That page presents five of the letters in part 1 of Cavendish’s book: letter 1 (which is introductory), letter 4 (the first letter on Hobbes, on the views about perception in ch.1 of Leviathan), letter 30 (the first letter on Descartes, on body and motion), letter 35 (on the alleged real distinction between mind and body), and letter 36 (on reason and non-human animals, discussing Descartes’s arguments in Discourse part 5). Together, they give examples of Cavendish’s criticisms of Descartes and Hobbes, while also introducing important aspects of her own views.
Some more textual details below the fold (as well as on the page itself):
[Cross posted from http://philosophymodsquad.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/cavendish-and-causal-models/.]
I want to say a little bit about the way Margaret Cavendish thinks about causation. A key aspect of that is an inversion, or set of inversions, of what other modern philosophers were up to. One prominent trend in modern philosophy was what is called mechanism. The central mechanist idea is that many natural phenomena are to be explained as the results of mechanical interactions. The shapes, sizes, and motions of the small parts of things explain, the mechanists argued, more than one might otherwise think. The mechanism of a clock provided a useful example: its apparently non-mechanical ability to tell the time is explained by the shapes, sizes, and motions of the parts inside. The mechanist project, so to speak, was to explain more and more of nature in this sort of way. Descartes provides an obvious example of someone taking this sort of approach. Hobbes provides an even better one, thinking that this sort of mechanical explanation applies to human cognition too.
That Hobbes and Descartes were wrong about things in this general area is one of the themes of the first part of Cavendish’s Philosophical Letters [PL].
PHH 3400 Modern Philosophy
PHH3400 is an introduction to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European philosophy. We will focus on four prominent works of the period: René Descartes’s 1641 Meditations on First Philosophy, G.W. Leibniz’s 1686 Discourse on Metaphysics, John Locke’s 1689 Essay concerning Human Understanding, and David Hume’s 1748 Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. We will also look, more briefly, at the views of some of their contemporaries, including Thomas Hobbes and Margaret Cavendish. The course will focus on the philosophers’ views in metaphysics and epistemology, but will also consider views in the physical sciences and in ethics.
Most readings for the class can be found in the adopted book, Ariew and Watkins (ed.), Modern Philosophy (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2009), and in the online Past Masters database, to which UF subscribes. Other readings will be made available via the e-Learning site for the class. Assessment will involve papers, a final exam, and some other smaller items. As well as meeting requirements for the Philosophy major and minor, PHH3400 counts towards the Humanities (H) and International (N) general education requirements.
UPDATE (6/6/14): I will be teaching PHH3400 in Fall 2014, but I will not be teaching the PHH4420 class previously described here.
I have attempted to list below all the editions of Cavendish’s works published in the last 20 years. This list does not include appearances of Cavendish’s works in anthologies; translations; texts in subscription databases; or editions in theses and dissertations.
Cavendish, Margaret. 1994. The Blazing World and Other Writings. Edited by Kate Lilley. London: Penguin.
—. 1996a. The Atomic Poems of Margaret (Lucas) Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, from her Poems, and Fancies, 1653, an electronic edition. Edited by Leigh Tillman Partington. Atlanta: Lewis H. Beck Center, Emory University. URL = http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/179qb
—. 1996b. Grounds of Natural Philosophy. West Cornwall, CT: Locust Hill Press. A facsimile reprint, with a short introduction by C. Michael.
—. 1997. Sociable Letters. Edited by James Fitzmaurice. New York: Garland.
—. 1999. The Convent of Pleasure and Other Plays. Edited by Anne Shaver. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
—. 2000. Paper Bodies: A Margaret Cavendish Reader. Edited by Sylvia Bowerbank and Sara Mendelson. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview.
—. 2001. Observations upon Experimental Philosophy. Edited by Eileen O’Neill. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
—. 2002. Bell in Campo; The Sociable Companions. Edited by Alexandra G. Bennett. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview.
—. 2003. Political Writings. Edited by Susan James. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Following on, in a way, from Lewis’s post, here’s something from Henry More’s Philosophical Poems.
This is that awfull cell where Naturalists
Brood deep opinion, as themselves conceit;
This Errours den where in a magick mist
Men hatch their own delusion and deceit,
And grasp vain shows. Here their bold brains they beat,
And dig full deep, as deep as Hyle‘s hell,
Unbare the root of life (O searching wit!)
But root of life in Hyles shade no’te dwell.
For God’s the root of all, as I elsewhere shall tell.
This is the stupid state of drooping soul,
That loves the body and false forms admires;
Slave to base sense, fierce ‘gainst reasons controul,
That still it self with lower lust bemires;
That nought believeth and much lesse desires
Things of that unseen world and inward life,
Nor unto height of purer truth aspires:
But cowardly declines the noble strife
‘Gainst vice and ignorance; so gets it no relief.
From “PSYCHATHANASIA OR The second part of the Song of the SOUL, Treating Of the Immortality of Souls, especially MANS SOUL”.
[Cross-posted from philosophymodsquad.wordpress.com.]