Marcus P. Adams
- Assistant Professor
- University of Albany, State University of New York
Mechanical Epistemology and Mixed Mathematics: Descartes’ Problems and Hobbes’ Unity
Thomas Hobbes offers a remarkably consistent, unified philosophy, but there has been little consensus on how to characterize the unity of his philosophy. This project provides a new way to understand it that sheds light on the structure of the Leviathan and exposes the source of Hobbes’ objections to Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy and Cartesian philosophy more generally. The project articulates Hobbes’ unity by arguing that his commitment to mechanical philosophy permeated all aspects of his philosophy, from a ‘mechanical epistemology’ to his later views on causal explanation in natural philosophy and politics. It argues, moreover, that Hobbes provided a unified philosophy in which causal explanations in politics and natural philosophy depend upon, but are not deduced from or reducible to, causal principles from geometry and first philosophy. It characterizes this dependence by showing that Hobbes viewed natural philosophy and politics as mixed mathematical disciplines, akin to astronomy and optics.
Making and Knowing: Thomas Hobbes’s Unified Philosophy
Thomas Hobbes maintained that his philosophy constituted a unified and complete system, but in what precise sense did he think that the branches of his philosophy were unified? This question has provoked extensive scholarship over the last half-century. Answering it is essential not only to understanding Hobbes’s philosophy generally, but how one answers it significantly impacts our understanding of Hobbes’s most influential work—the Leviathan. ”Making and Knowing” answers it by placing Hobbes’s politics within his broader concerns about scientific knowledge as constructed by humans and by demonstrating that the relationship between "pure" and "mixed" mathematics provided Hobbes with a model for thinking about the relationships between geometry, natural philosophy, and politics.