Thomas Hobbes has been frequently criticised for his account of deliberation that purportedly consists merely of, in his own words, an ‘alternate succession of appetite and fear’ and therefore lacks the judgement and reflection commentators think is essential if he is to provide an adequate treatment of practical rationality. In this paper Hobbes’s account of deliberation is analysed in detail and it is argued that it is not vulnerable to this critique. Hobbes takes so-called ‘mental discourse’ to be partly constitutive of the process of practical deliberation, and this provides the cognitive judgement and reflection that critics have claimed it lacks.
P. RileyWill and Political Legitimacy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press1982) 34. In the footnote following this passage Riley refers to T.H. Green Prolegomena to Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1906) 102-4 where Green argues that motives cannot be merely natural (causes) because they are motives to a self-consciousness and self-consciousness is not a natural event. This reference seems to imply that Riley is driven by a different concern than he actually makes explicit in this passage. What Riley says in this passage is that Hobbes does not distinguish adequately between cognitive and emotive elements when describing deliberation. Green is concerned with the necessary role of self-consciousness when characterising motives and/or reasons. That is an issue beyond the scope of the present paper.
E.g. T. IrwinThe Development of Ethics: From Suarez to Rousseau114. For a reply to this kind of view a reply I take to be consistent with the views expressed in this paper see S. Darwall ‘Normativity and projection in Hobbes’ ‘Leviathan”.
HobbesLeviathan22. Hobbes is here redefining foresight prudence providence and wisdom as meaning the same thing although Hobbes tends to reserve the term wisdom for particularly astute or far ranging foresight and associates it with reasoning and science.
HobbesLeviathan46. It should be noted that I have up to now not spoken about Hobbes’s understanding of ‘reason’ and the reference to reason which I believe is significant in this context will be explained below.
HobbesLeviathan210. In Questions Concerning Liberty Necessity And Chance 350 he makes the same point even more explicitly: the criminal ‘had time enough to deliberate whether the action were lawful or not’.
See A. Vanden Houten‘Prudence in Hobbes’s Political Philosophy’History of Political Thought23:2(2002) for an argument that Hobbes is inconsistent when he claims that people are generally equally prudent while he recognises great differences in judgement and fancy between individuals. Prudence according to Vanden Houten is to a great extent determined by one’s judgement.
I. HackingWhy does Language matter to Philosophy? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press1975) 16. See F. Bacon ‘The Advancement of Learning’ in Brian Vickers (ed.) Francis Bacon: A Critical Edition of the Major Works (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1996). Descartes Rules for the Direction of the Mind ed. Errol E. Harris (London: Georghe Allen & Unwin 1957). See also H. Dawson ‘Hobbes Language and Philip Pettit’ Hobbes Studies 22:2(2009) 220.
This has lead Tom SorellHobbes (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul1986) 85 to argue that Hobbes misconstrues what it is to think. Hobbes seems to believe that thinking is a procession of phantasms produced by sense and imagination. But in this way Sorell maintains Hobbes makes ‘the medium of thinking and the organization of thinking too simple a by-product of sense.’
HobbesLeviathan458. Note that we see here again the two forms of regulated mental discourse distinguished above: ‘when imagining any thing whatsoever we seek all the possible effects’ and when ‘of an effect imagined we seek the causes’