Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Imagination and diversity in the philosophy of Hobbes

Juhana Lemetti

Doctoral dissertation, July 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social and Moral Philosophy and University of Oxford, Harris Manchester College.

This dissertation is a study of some aspects of theoretical philosophy of the early modern thinker Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679). The focal point of the work is Hobbes's conception of imagination, which is discussed from both a systematic and a historical point of view, as well as in the light of contemporary scholarship. I argue that though there are significant similarities between the view of Hobbes and that of his predecessors, he gives a novel theory of imagination, which clarifies not only early modern discussions on human nature, knowledge, science, and literary criticism, but above all his own versatile philosophy.

The prologue of the dissertation introduces methodological principles and gives critical remarks on the standard view of Hobbes. In Chapter II, I discuss the prominent theories of imagination before Hobbes and link them to his account. I argue that though Hobbes adopted the Aristotelian framework, his view is not reduced to it, as he borrows from various sources, for instance, from the Stoics and from Renaissance thought.

Chapters III and IV form the psychological part of the work. In the Chapter III I argue that imagination, not sense, is central in the basic cognitive operations of the mind and that imagination has a decisive role in Hobbes's theory of motivation. The Chapter IV concentrates on various questions of Hobbes's philosophy of language. The chapter ends with a defence of a less naturalistic reading of Hobbes's theory of human nature.

Chapters V and VI form the epistemological part of the work. I suggest, contrary to what has been recently claimed, that though Hobbes's ideas of good literary style do have a point of contact with his philosophy (e.g. the psychology of creative process), his ideas in the field are independent of his project of demonstrative political science. Instead I argue that the novelty of his major political work, Leviathan (1651), is based on a new theory of knowledge which he continued to develop in the post-Leviathan works.

Chapter VII seeks to connect the more theoretical conclusions of Chapters V and VI to Hobbes's idea(l) of science as well as to his philosophical practice. On the basis of Hobbes's own writings as well as some historical examinations, I argue that method is not an apt way to conceptualise Hobbes's philosophical practice. Contemporary readings of Hobbes's theory of science are critically discussed and the chapter ends with an analysis of Hobbes's actual argumentation.

In addition to the concluding remarks, the epilogue suggest three things: first, imagination is central when trying to understand Hobbes's versatile philosophy; second, that it is misleading to depict Hobbes as a simple materialist, mechanist, and empiricist; and, third, that in terms of imagination his influence on early modern thought has not been fully appreciated.

The title page of the publication

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Last updated 05.07.2006

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