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Frontiers of Philosophy in China

Front. Philos. China    2016, Vol. 11 Issue (4) : 680-697
Orginal Article |
The Incomprehensible Art of Thomas Hobbes
Christopher C. Chrappa()
Department of Philosophy, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430000, China
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The political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes is one of the cornerstones of modern liberalism. Resting on controversial doctrines of freedom, perception, human nature, and history, the foundations of Hobbesianism presuppose an emergence of reason from matter-in-motion that Hobbes never adequately explains. In this paper I explore the motivations and consequences of his neglect of fundamental philosophical problems through a series of ambiguous uses of key terms manifested his work: nature, necessity, and God in metaphysics and theology; freedom in politics; intelligible unity in epistemology; and imagination in ethics. These show up, respectively, in his doctrines of naturalism, political science, phenomenalism, and the state of nature. While it may be that Hobbes’s metaphysical ideas are finally incoherent, this only raises a further question: Might Hobbes have recognized that the goal of a liberal state—a common human war against death—can only be grounded on sketchy and inadequate metaphysics, to be suppressed and avoided so far as possible? Primarily through a reading of the Leviathan, I explore this question and tentatively propose that an affirmative answer is warranted.

Keywords Hobbes      Leviathan      science      political philosophy      freedom      state of nature     
Issue Date: 17 January 2017
 Cite this article:   
Christopher C. Chrappa. The Incomprehensible Art of Thomas Hobbes[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2016, 11(4): 680-697.
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