Thomas Hobbes and Rene Descartes: The Science of Man Essay

Thomas Hobbes and Rene Descartes: The Science of Man Essay

Length: 1407 words (4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Strong Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview


In this paper I intend to examine the political philosophy of

Thomas Hobbes and Rene Descartes, in particular their ideas

relating to the science of man, and attempt to explain why their ideas

prove that it is not possible to construct a science of man. I will also

briefly mention the philosophy of Donald Davidson in regards to a

science of man.

The theories of Hobbes and the contemporary socio-

biologists attempt to recognize how man works and on that basis

build a society. "Hobbes wished to be seen as the inventor of the

science of politics" (Sorell, p45) He went about this by looking at the

psychology of man and discovering that man is a mechanism.

Hobbes wanted to understand mechanics. He wanted to look at why

men live the way that they do in society and therefore, breaks it

down. By doing this he discovered that people are cogs in the social

machine. Therefore he wants to examine these cogs in order to

achieve an understanding of the social mechanism, and does this by

looking at the psychology of the mind. Hobbes is both an empirist

and a materialist. Empiricists believe that sense gives all knowledge.

Generally, they do not believe in astrology, god, electrons etc. Their

philosophy is summed up by saying that all things that give true

knowledge can be sensed. Materialists believe that all things in

existence are physical matter. In other words, the soul and the spirit

do not exist. Therefore Hobbes believes that thoughts are material,

that they are caused by sense and vice versa. Tom Sorell suggests

in his essay, entitled "Hobbes’ scheme of the sciences", that rather

than have knowledge of how the mechanics of the mind’s passions

work, a more successful way of gaining political knowledge is to

understand what these passions cause. They cause various degrees

of action, with the possessor going to various extents to achieve

what they want.

In chapter six of "De Corpere", Hobbes makes a connection

between the knowledge of the principles of politics and the

knowledge of the motions of the average human mind. Hobbes’

account of political science is an idea of what man must do if his

goal is self-preservation. These ideas are not what mankind will do

but what it will have to do, in a rational...


... middle of paper ...


...artes and

Davidson on the other hand, believe that a science of man is

impossible; Descartes because he believes that our minds are

immaterial and Davidson because man’s behavior follows no causal

laws. All of this evidence shows us that trying to interpret man’s

actions and apply them to a science is an impossible undertaking.

Man is too complicated a machine to understand and therefore

political philosophy, for a rational social structure, must be founded

on another basis.






Works Cited

1. Davidson, Donald, Regionalism and Nationalism in the United States: The Attack on Leviathan. Transaction publishers, New Brunswick, N.J., 1991
(Reprint, with new introduction, Originally published: Attack on Leviathan. University of North Carolina Press, 1938)

2. Hobbes, Thomas, The elements of law, natural and politic: Part I, Human nature, part II, De corpore politico ; with Three lives. Editor: Gaskin, J.C.A., Oxford University Press, 1994

3. Sorell, Tom, Descartes: Reason and Experience. Open University
Press, 1982

4. Sorell Tom, The Cambridge Companion to Hobbes; Hobbes’ scheme of the sciences. Cambridge University Press, 1996

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Descartes, Hobbes, and Pascal Essay

- Descartes, Hobbes, and Pascal During the 17th and 18th century, religion, religious beliefs and most of all the religious leaders played a very influential role in the direction of politics. This was also a time when religion and politics played a large role in the direction of what was accepted as a result of the new discoveries in the natural sciences and in a time when there were some very influential writers, philosophers, scientists and mathematicians. At the time, these people were considered to be very radical and revolutionary because of some of their beliefs and this often times led them to be highly scrutinized, criticized and sometimes even punished by the legal system....   [tags: Politics Philosophy Sociology]

Strong Essays
1046 words (3 pages)

Hobbes, Marx, and Shah Essay

- The cold, calculating, and logical brains of Enlightenment thinkers are much different from the emotional, fantasy-loving mind of Romantics. The Enlightenment was an 18th century movement in which rationality and science were placed as the number one things a human could have (Brians). The Enlightenment also propagated the idea equality and liberalism (Brians). Romanticism was an international movement which occurred after the Enlightenment during the late 1700s to the mid-1800s (Melani). It placed emotions at the forefront of human thought (Melani)....   [tags: Politics Philosophy Sociology]

Strong Essays
1496 words (4.3 pages)

René Descartes and Thomas Hobbes Essay

- During the sixteen hundreds, the French philosopher René Descartes laid the foundations for the beginnings of Cartesian Dualism. In contrast, the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes argued against dualism in favor of materialism. Recently, Cartesian Dualism, and dualism in general has fallen out of favor as materialism arose as a more plausible and explanatory theory regarding the interrelationships between body and mind. The translation Descartes’ writing in the Meditations is far more cryptic than Hobbes’ writing in the Leviathan....   [tags: Descartes vs Hobbes]

Strong Essays
1496 words (4.3 pages)

Rene Descartes Essay

- Rene Descartes was a famous French mathematician, scientist and philosopher. He was arguably the first major philosopher in the modern era to make a serious effort to defeat skepticism. His views about knowledge and certainty, as well as his views about the relationship between mind and body have been very influential over the last three centuries. Descartes was born at La Haye (now called Descartes), and educated at the Jesuit College of La Flèche between 1606 and 1614. Descartes later claimed that his education gave him little of substance and that only mathematics had given him certain knowledge....   [tags: Biographies Bio Biography]

Strong Essays
1096 words (3.1 pages)

Sir Isaac Newton, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Thomas Hobbes Essays

- Isaac Newton Isaac Newton was born in 1642, the same year Galileo died, in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire, England on Christmas Day. He is considered one of the greatest scientists in history. As an English mathematician and physicist, Newton made important contributions to many fields of science. His discoveries and theories laid the foundation for much of the progress in science since his time. The three most important offerings of Newton are solving the mystifications of light and optics, formulating his three laws of motion, and deriving from them the law of universal gravitation....   [tags: Jean-Jacques Rousseau Essays]

Free Essays
1833 words (5.2 pages)

Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan Essay

- Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan Above anything else, Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan is a creation story and an investigation of human nature. The story begins in a time of chaos and death and through a journey of human development culminates in the establishment of a sustainable and rational society—the commonwealth—led by a sovereign. At a first casual glance, Hobbes’ reasoning of the transformation from the state of nature to the commonwealth is not airtight. A few possible objections can be quickly spotted: the contradictions of natural law with suicide and the civil law to honor even harmful covenants....   [tags: Hobbes Thomas Leviathan Essays]

Strong Essays
1937 words (5.5 pages)

An Analysis of Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan Essay

- In his book The Leviathan Thomas Hobbes begins with bringing to the readers attention that despite the fact that all men may not be deemed equal that they were created equal. He backs up this statement by saying, "For as to the strength of body, the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by a secret machination, or by confederacy with others, that are in the same danger with himself. In saying this, Hobbes illustrates that physical strength is not really an issue or a major factor....   [tags: Thomas Hobbes' Philosophy]

Strong Essays
2075 words (5.9 pages)

Thomas Hobbes and the Realist School Essay

- Different schools of thought have generated arguments since the beginning of civilization. They represent different perspectives of every part of life, whether its religion or politics. The realist school and the humanist perspectives offer people different views in many different aspects. The realist school is based on the thought that human nature is not perfectible. Human nature is viewed as evil and something that cannot be trusted or counted on. In order to have a successful society the citizens need to be controlled by a strong sovereign government....   [tags: Thomas Hobbes' Philosophy]

Free Essays
732 words (2.1 pages)

Thomas Hobbes' Philosophy Essay

- Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher who lived from 1588-1679. He attended Oxford University where he studied classics. His occupation was a tutor, but he also traveled around Europe to meet with scientists and to study different forms of government. He became interested in why people allowed themselves to be ruled, and what would be the best form of government for England. Thomas Hobbes was the first great figure in modern moral philosophy. Hobbes had a pessimistic view of people; he believed humans were selfish creatures who would do anything to better their positions....   [tags: Thomas Hobbes' Philosophy]

Strong Essays
517 words (1.5 pages)

Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan Essay

- Thomas Hobbes begins Leviathan with Book 1: Of Man, in which he builds, layer by layer, a foundation for his eventual argument that the “natural condition” of man, or one without sovereign control, is one of continuous war, violence, death, and fear. Hobbes's depiction of this state is the most famous passage in Leviathan: [D]uring the time men live without a common Power to keep them all in awe, they are in a condition which is called Warre; and such a warre, as is of every man, against every man....   [tags: Thomas Hobbes' Philosophy]

Free Essays
670 words (1.9 pages)