Hoekstra. The End of Philosophy the Case of Hobbes.pdf

September 16, 2005 Time: 02:26pm hoekstra.tex ii*—the end of philosophy (the case of hobbes) by Kinch Hoekstra abstract In the first three sections, I argue that Hobbes has a distinctive conception of philosophy, the highest value of which is not truth, but human benefit; and that his philosophical utterances are constrained by this value (both insofar as they are philosophical in particular, and insofar as they are public utterances of any kind). I address an evidentiary proble
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  ii*—the end of philosophy(the case of hobbes) by Kinch Hoekstra abstract  In the first three sections, I argue that Hobbes has a distinctiveconception of philosophy, the highest value of which is not truth, but humanbenefit; and that his philosophical utterances are constrained by this value(both insofar as they are philosophical in particular, and insofar as they arepublic utterances of any kind). I address an evidentiary problem for thisview in the penultimate section, and then turn to the question of how sucha conception of philosophy requires different interpretations of particularphilosophical positions. The whole is intended as a case study of the needfor an interpreter to understand how the interpreted philosopher conceivesof the nature and aim of his undertaking. L ike commentators on a chess match, interpreters of a philo-sophical work generally assume that however complex orinnovative it is, the ultimate aim of the players and the definingrules of the activity are uncontroversial. In studying the historyof philosophy, however, the underlying conception and aim of philosophy for a particular philosopher at a particular time areamong the subjects requiring interpretation. By focussing onone such case, that of Thomas Hobbes, I hope both to shedlight on the nature of his philosophical enterprise and to raisedoubt about the common working assumption that attributingour own conception of philosophy to our predecessors is an ad-equate starting point for interpreting the history of philosophy.I shall focus throughout on making plausible the suggestionthat Hobbes has a different conception of philosophy fromconceptions now current, but I think that related arguments maybe made for many other figures in the history of philosophy,and that this affects the project of interpretation. An earlier version of this paper was delivered at The Faculty of History, CambridgeUniversity, 26 April 2004; I am grateful to those who discussed it with me then.I am indebted to Mark Greenberg and Jacob Eigen for suggestions, and to HeatherMatsumoto for computer file recovery.*Meeting of the Aristotelian Society, held in Senate House, University of London,on Monday, 24th October, 2005 at 4.15 p.m.  24  kinch hoekstra An immediately striking fact is that in Hobbes’s plan fora systematic philosophy – starting with his work on body,on which his work about human nature is built, from whichproceeds his work on the commonwealth and the citizen – theentire project  begins with the definition of philosophy itself  . Itis appropriate, then, that we should consider the nature of Hobbes’s philosophy by examining his definitions thereof; thisexamination will highlight the point that philosophers can haveand have had contrasting conceptions of philosophy.‘ PHILOSOPHY  ,’ Hobbes says in  Concerning Body , ‘is suchknowledge of Effects or Appearances, as we acquire by trueRatiocination from the knowledge we have first of their Causesor Generation: And again, of such Causes or Generationsas may be from knowing first their Effects.’ 1 Such a viewhas been assimilated to a common account, generally basedon the fifth chapter of   Leviathan , that Hobbes’s conceptionof philosophy is not only alethic, or truth-oriented, buta formal system of rational deductions. Once Hobbes haddiscovered Euclid, according to this account, he was born asa philosopher, and began to lay out a similarly systematicphilosophy. So, for example, in the epistle before his 1649translation of Hobbes’s  De cive , Samuel Sorbi`ere calls it ‘awork of pure reasoning.’ 2 In Dorothea Krook’s words: ‘ForHobbes, truth, and therefore “science,” remains, in the end,demonstrative; and it is for this reason that he ranks as one of the most thoroughgoing rationalists of the seventeenth century.’ 3 This rationalism, it is frequently argued, pervades the politicaltheory. According to Jean Hampton, Hobbes maintained that‘the only effective cure’ for the disorder that surrounded him ‘wasto give members of these societies a sound, rational argument for 1. Hobbes,  Elements of Philosophy, the First Section, Concerning Body  (London,1656), 1.2, p. 2.  Concerning Body  is a translation of   Elementorum philosophiae sectio prima de corpore  (London, 1655). Although the translation was not by Hobbes,he corrected it and considerably altered the contents from the Latin version: cf. Concerning Body , sig. a3 r . In all quotations, italic and roman type have beensubstituted for one another when italic is the default for a given section.2. Hobbes,  Le citoyen ou les fondements de la politique  (Paris: Flammarion, 1982),p. 63 (‘un ouvrage de pur raisonnement’).3. Dorothea Krook, ‘Thomas Hobbes’s Doctrine of Meaning and Truth,’  Philosophy 31:116 (1956), p. 19.  the end of philosophy  25 the correct political structure of the state as rigorous as any of Euclid’s geometric proofs.’ 4 This view of Hobbes has made him a favourite of philosophers. It has also informed countless historical accounts,according to which Hobbes is part of an important shiftfrom a renaissance humanism based on prudence, rhetoric,considerations of   ragion di stato , and counsel to princes; to anearly modern civil science based on reason that rejects thesecentral humanist preoccupations as unproductive at best. 5 I wantto argue, by contrast, that Hobbes simultaneously works withinboth traditions, and that on balance he does not regard truthas the ultimate philosophical value or aim. My emphasis willbe on a few of Hobbes’s affinities with the humanists, thoughI do not mean to deny the manifest links with the scientists;but the latter affiliations are better known, and in any case thattradition has itself been simplified by ignoring the full views of figures like Hobbes, assimilating them to the paradigm ratherthan vice-versa. What emerges as Hobbes’s view of philosophyshould complicate our understanding of the early modern viewof it that is supposed to have so influenced our own. I A Philosophy of Benefit.  The definition of philosophy asknowledge gained by reasoning from effects to causes or vice-versa is only a starting point, and Hobbes is quick to characterizephilosophy more completely. He goes on in  Concerning Body  toexpress a sentiment with which many of us are all too familiar. For [t]he inward glory and triumph of mind that a man mayhave, for the mastering of some difficult and doutfull matter, orfor the discovery of some hidden truth, is not worth so muchpaines as the study of Philosophy requires; nor need any man 4. Jean Hampton, ‘Hobbes’s Science of Moral Philosophy,’ in Marcelo Dascal andOra Gruengard, eds.,  Knowledge and Politics: Case Studies in the Relationship betweenEpistemology and Political Philosophy  (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1989), p. 48.5. Significant amendments to this view have been proposed by Leo Strauss,  ThePolitical Philosophy of Hobbes: Its Basis and Its Genesis , tr. Elsa Sinclair (Oxford:Clarendon Press, 1936); and by Quentin Skinner,  Reason and Rhetoric in thePhilosophy of Hobbes  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).  26  kinch hoekstra care much to teach another what he knowes himselfe, if he thinkthat will be the onely benefit of his labour. 6 So what  is  the end of philosophy, if not the delight in solvingproblems, the discovery of truth, or the imparting of knowledge?Hobbes has a ready answer: ‘The  End   or  Scope  of Philosophy,is, that we may make use to our benefit of effects formerlyseen; or that by application of Bodies to one another; wemay produce the like effects of those we conceive in ourminde... for the commodity of humane life.’ 7 Hobbes repeatsBacon’s formula that ‘knowledge is power,’ and explains that ‘theend of Knowledge is Power;... the scope of all speculation is theperforming of some action, or thing to be done.’ 8 In  Leviathan ,Hobbes defines philosophy as ‘the Knowledge acquired byReasoning, from the Manner of the Generation of any thing,to the Properties; or from the Properties, to some possible Wayof Generation of the same; to the end to bee able to produce,as far as matter, and humane force permit, such Effects, ashumane life requireth.’ 9 The end of philosophy – to producewhat humans require – is integral to the very definition of philosophy. 10 That Hobbes sees his own philosophical project in these termsmust affect our interpretation of it. The beneficial aim or endof philosophy is no mere motivation to engage in philosophy,but a constitutive parameter. I may play chess for fun or for 6. Hobbes,  Concerning Body  1.6, p. 5.7. Ibid.8. Hobbes,  Elementorum philosophiae sectio secunda de homine  (London, 1658), 11.13,p. 66: ‘scire est posse’ (cf. e.g. Bacon’s 1597  Meditationes sacrae ); Hobbes,  ConcerningBody  1.6, p. 5.9. Hobbes,  Leviathan  46.1, p. 367: references to  Leviathan  are to chapter andparagraph number, and then to page number of the first edition (London, 1651).Although the position of the definition seems to have changed, this is presumbablynot because of a theoretical demotion, but because  Leviathan  begins  in media res ,with a discourse  de homine  or ‘Of   Man .’ Thus, structurally prior considerations, suchas the definition of philosophy, or matters of   philosophia prima , only arise as theydirectly affect a later part of the system (cf.  Leviathan  46.14–29, pp. 371–5).10. Hobbes is known for rejecting the idea of a final cause or an explanatory end.This prohibition does not apply, however, to intentional human activities, wherereference to an end is necessary for an adequate understanding (an idea he expressesin  Decameron Physiologicum: or, Ten Dialogues of Natural Philosophy  (London,1678), p. 15, by saying ‘the Final Cause... hath place onely in Moral Philosophy’and not in natural philosophy).
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