Barakat 2020

Title: "Causation in Hobbes's Method"

Karim Barakat

Abstract:

This paper focuses on the role causation plays in Hobbes’s method and shows how causal relations can be allocated a central role in Hobbes’s geometric approach. I begin by engaging several interpretive positions that frame Hobbes as a skeptic and subsequently question his naturalistic commitments, most prominently the readings offered by Strauss and Oakeshott. According to these readings, Hobbes acknowledged the human inability to access natural things, and thus was more concerned with introducing a view of nature that justifies his political conclusions. I consider three problems that result from these readings, the first concerns the relation between perceptual content as involving secondary qualities and reality as matter in motion, the second pertains to the conventional status of definition, and the third revolves around the hypothetical nature of causal knowledge that cannot offer certainty.

I argue, however, that though Hobbes was aware of the difficulties of attaining knowledge of the natural world, he was committed to the position that a proper scientific method would allow us to overcome the problems presented by skepticism. I contend that resolving these problems follows from a close examination of how Hobbes introduces causation into the neat geometric order. I maintain that causation plays the role of bridging the gap between the geometric approach and the world of experience. Finally, I point out some implications to the political account that follow from endorsing this reading of Hobbes. This is particularly clear in the geometric method exemplified in Leviathan, where Hobbes outlines a political account beginning with definitions.

Draft Paper

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