The Politics of Motion

The Politics of Motion: The World of Thomas Hobbes

Copyright Date: 1973
Pages: 224
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    The Politics of Motion
    Book Description:

    Two principal issues interact and overlap in this penetrating analysis: the relationship between Hobbes' natural philosophy and his civil philosophy, and the relationship between Hobbes' thought and the Aristotelian world view that constituted the philosophical orthodoxy he rejected.

    On the first point Thomas A. Spragens Jr. argues that Hobbes' political ideas were in fact significantly influenced by his cosmological perceptions, although they were not, and could not have been, completely derived from that source. On the second, the author demonstrates that Hobbes undertook a highly systematic transformation of Aristotelian cosmology: he borrowed the form of the Aristotelian cosmology, but radically refashioned its substance to accommodate the discoveries of contemporaries such as Galileo.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6452-6
    Subjects: Political Science, Philosophy, History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. 5-6)
  3. Preface (pp. 7-10)
  4. Foreword (pp. 11-16)
    Antony Flew

    What surely was and still remains the best critical presentation of the whole Hobbes was first published by Richard Peters in 1956.¹ This seems to have been the first book-length contribution to Hobbes studies in English since that of John Laird twenty-two years earlier.² But in the seventeen years since 1956 a further nine books have appeared dealing with, or purporting to deal with, particular aspects of the thought and influence of Hobbes: eight by single authors, and one a collection of papers from various hands.³ We need, therefore, some very good reason for the adding of yet another volume....

  5. 1 Hobbes the Philosopher (pp. 17-52)

    Political theory should not be an antiquarian exercise. Its proper task is the clarification of patterns of political orderthose patterns which we inhabit and those for which we should strive. Perhaps unfortunately, however, it does not follow that we are permitted to ignore or to forget our past. Whether it be regarded as an incubus or as a treasure-house, whether we agree with Marx or with Burke, we must recognize that we are inescapably history-laden creatures. As political animals we do not enter upon an empty stage; as political theorists we cannot begin writing upon a clean slate.

    Thoughtful students...

  6. 2 Inertia and the End of the Finite Cosmos (pp. 53-76)

    Vast conceptual revolutions often turn around very small hinges. The intellectual revolution of the seventeenth century, which shattered the medieval synthesis of Christianity and Aristotelianism, can be taken as a striking instance of this sort. It would, of course, be a gross oversimplification to attribute such a remarkable intellectual cataclysm to the transformation of a single concept. Nevertheless, the more that one examines the logical structure of the seventeenth-century intellectual transformation, the more he is impressed by the absolute centrality to the whole process of a new view of motion. As Herbert Butterfield has observed: ‘Of all the intellectual hurdles...

  7. 3 The Corporealization of Substance (pp. 77-96)

    The Aristotelian cosmos was composed of substance and movement. The notion of ‘substance’ was the correlate of ‘movement’, for it was within substance that movement occurred, connecting the potential and the completed actuality. The Hobbesian universe is composed, in contrast but in parallel, of motion and ‘body’, ideas as closely interconnected as substance and movement. The rejection of one member of each pair involves the corresponding rejection of the other member. Therefore, the results of Hobbes’s disavowal of movement was a parallel disavowal of substance, and vice versa. The Aristotelian rubric of substance/movement remains as a form in Hobbes’s body/motion,...

  8. 4 The Disordering of Nature (pp. 97-128)

    The critical transformations which Hobbes performs upon the root concepts of motion and substance lead quite logically to an equally new, radically transformed concept of nature. In the Aristotelian system, substance and movement were the two components which together comprised the realm of nature, so the sharp change in the way the parts were envisaged implied a corresponding change in the complex whole which they were seen to form. In short, once again Hobbes follows the formal pattern of the basic Aristotelian world-framework, after having effected his key substantive changes.

    The linkage between the concept of motion and the image...

  9. 5 A New Science and Political Deliverance (pp. 129-162)

    The basic patterns which Hobbes perceives as characteristic of nature carry over into his philosophical anthropology. This permeation of Hobbes’s vision of man by his fundamental cosmological vision is logically quite proper; for man is himself in Hobbes’s view one part of the whole of nature, and he could therefore justifiably be considered as sharing the fundamental properties of the natural order. As Hobbes says in the Introduction to theLeviathan,man is ‘that Rationall and most excellent work of Nature.’¹

    The Cartesian solution to the problem of where to locate man in the world ofres extensawas simply...

  10. 6 Passion and the Politics of Containment (pp. 163-202)

    The two principal components of man’s nature are his cognitive capacities and his affective inclinations. In the previous chapter the nature and significance of Hobbes’s conception of human reason, its powers and processes, were discussed. His basic view of man’s rationality, it was argued, is an adaptation of the Aristotelian epistemological format to the exigencies of the seventeenth-century’s new view of reality. Moreover, it was noted, Hobbes is convinced that reason, so conceived, has a critical role in the deliverance of man from his political plight. To complete the sketch of Hobbes’s view of human nature, it is necessary now...

  11. 7 Conclusion and Methodological Postscript (pp. 203-221)

    It has been generally recognized that the brilliant and perverse political theory which Hobbes produced marked a revolutionary departure within the tradition of political thought. What has not been generally appreciated is the systematic nature of this revolutionary departure. For the relationship between Hobbes and the regnant tradition from which he came and against which he reacted was not simply that of a major change or a sharp divergence. Hobbes’s political theory was not merely different from the previously entrenched Aristotelian paradigm. It constituted instead a highly systematic transformation of the established viewpoint that paralleled and borrowed from that viewpoint...

  12. Index (pp. 222-224)


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