Article ID: CBB141650092

Principles of Motion and the Absence of Laws of Nature in Hobbes’s Natural Philosophy (2019)


Psillos, Stathis (Author)
Eirini Goudarouli (Author)

Volume: 9
Issue: 1
Pages: 93-119
Publication date: 2019
Language: English

Thomas Hobbes based his natural philosophy on definitions and general principles of matter in motion, which he refrained from calling “laws of nature.” Across the channel, René Descartes had presented his own account of matter in motion in such a way that laws of nature play a central causal-explanatory role. Despite some notable differences in the two systems of natural philosophy, the content of the three Cartesian laws of nature is shared by Hobbesian principles of motion. Why is it the case that Hobbes never ‘transferred’ the concept of law of nature from the sphere of civil society to the realm of nature? What is the status of the Hobbesian principles of motion if they are not laws? Answering these questions is the main aim of this article. It is shown that Hobbes made available an importantly different and genuinely original way to do natural philosophy, which renders it free of metaphysics and eschews the need to ground it in anything other than ‘natural reason’. Briefly put, Hobbes took the category of ‘laws of nature’ to involve commitments that cannot be met in the natural world, unless natural philosophy loses its autonomy from theology and metaphysics.

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Authors & Contributors
Palmerino, Carla Rita
Baldin, Gregorio
Ducheyne, Steffen
Borghero, Carlo
Brooke, John Hedley
Clericuzio, Antonio
Galilæana: Journal of Galilean Studies
British Journal for the History of Philosophy
Bruniana & Campanelliana: Ricerche Filosofiche e Materiali Storico-testuali
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
Foundations of Science
Oxford University Press
University of Chicago Press
Carleton University (Canada)
Natural philosophy
Motion (physical)
Methodology of science; scientific method
History of philosophy of science
Hobbes, Thomas
Galilei, Galileo
Newton, Isaac
Descartes, René
Gassendi, Pierre
Bacon, Francis, 1st Baron Verulam
Time Periods
17th century
18th century
16th century
Early modern
Royal Society of London

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