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Analytic and Synthetic Method According to Hobbes RICHARD A. TALASKA IT IS UNIVERSALLYACKNOWLEDGEDthat Hobbes wanted to infuse into all of philosophy the kind of rigor he saw in geometry. Hobbes was particularly careful to explain and exemplify his understanding of geometric method, but these explanations and exemplifications are almost universally ignored. How is it possible to understand Hobbes's science, which is supposed to imitate geometric method in some way, without understanding Hobbes's interpretation of geometric method and his understanding of how something like geometric method can be applied to physics? The present article (1) explains Hobbes's concept of method and its kinds; (2) presents his formal understanding of geometric method and offers a translation of a Hobbesian text, ignored by the scholarship, wherein Hobbes openly states his intention to give a paradigmatic example of the analytics; (3) presents and exemplifies Hobbes's understanding of how the paradigmatic geometric analysis is applied with its own proper degree of rigor to physics; and (4) discusses the relationship between rigor in physical proofs and the role of hypothesis. 1o Lack of method for Hobbes implies lack of science. ~Method distinguishes the sciences of geometry, of "natural philosophy universal," of "man's body," and of politics from mere natural and civil histories." Method must be the essence SeeDe copore x-7(EW 1.8)and 6.6-7 (EW 1.71-75). Allreferences to EWand LWare to the Molesworthedition of Hobbes's English and Latin works (London: John Bohn, 1839-45). See also, C. B. Macpherson, ed., Leviathan (Baltimore: Penguin, x968), Introduction, pp. 8x-83; J. Weinberger, "Hobbes'sDoctrine of Method,"American Political ScienceReview 69 0975): t336. " De corpore, Epistle Dedicatory (EW s.viii-ix). Method transforms isolated moral and political sentences, however "wholesomeand choice," into moral and politicalscience,or "a true and certain rule of our actions,by whichwe might knowwhether that weundertake bejust or unjust" (De corpore, 1.7 JEW 1.9]).Just as the fencerwho uses not natural ingenuitybut scientificstudy of defense and attack overcomes the dichotomy between skilland theory by perfecting his skillby [2o7] 208 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 26:2 APRIL t988 of science. But the connectedness itself of the propositions comprising science distinguishes science from mere separated sentences.3 Either Hobbes contradicts himself or method is somehow connectedness. That the latter is true is clear from the very start of the chapter on method in De corpore where Hobbes says that to be understood the definition of method must be seen against the definition of philosophy itself. Philosophy is acquired by reasoning to appearances or apparent effects from known possible producers or generators, or from known effects to possible producers or generators. "It is common to all sorts of method, to proceed from known things to unknown; and this is manifest from the cited definition of philosophy."4 Method is the procedure of connecting propositions about causes with propositions about effects. It is "the shortest way of finding out effects by their known causes, or of causes by their known effects."5 The main reason for the ambiguity about whether means of theory, so also "for Hobbes, method properly understood unites the study of human action and the study of all things that are so as to abolish the traditional disharmony between theory and practice" (Weinberger, "Hobbes's Doctrine of Method," 1337).See also, Leo Strauss, The Political Philosophy of Hobbes 0936; reprint, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1953), 1-2; M. M. Goldsmith, Hobbes's Science of Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1966), 228-29; Quentin Skinner, "The Ideological Context of Hobbes's PoliticalThought," The HistoricalJourna /9 (1966): 286-317- Weinberger needs to make distinctions, although his comment is fundamentallycorrect. The "traditional disharmony between theory and practice" is not present in Plato in exactly the same way that it is present in Aristotle. In Plato the disharmony can be considered under the general rubric of the disharmony between philosophy and the city, but the disharmonyrepresents an unfortunate fact of life. Although it cannot be overcome on the levelof the city, an approximation of overcoming it on the level of the city is possible by attempting to consider the perfect city...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 207-237
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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