Notes for January 28

Main points

Hobbes begins with a materialist psychological theory: he tries to explain how thinking can be understood as the product of matter in motion. From there, he moves to the difference between causal reasoning and science, as he understood it. Causal reasoning involves drawing generalizations from experience and is probabilistic. Science is linguistic and certain.

One thing we’ll return to next time is the question of how science, so understood, could be relevant to the world.

How to read Hobbes

One of the chief lessons of the day is to look for the trees: the branching structure that Hobbes loved to use.

So, for instance, when I read the very first paragraph, I see that the topic is “thoughts” and that there are two main branches: single thoughts and thoughts in train. If I look ahead a bit, I see that thoughts in train come in the third chapter. So right off the bat, I’m oriented through at least the first three chapters.

As I read, I always look for those bits indicating that Hobbes is going to make a branch. Here’s what I got for chapters 1-3.

A tree representation of the topics in Leviathan, chapters 1-3
This page was written by Michael Green for Hobbes Seminar, Philosophy 185s, Spring 2013. It was posted January 28, 2013.
Hobbes Seminar