An Early European Critic of Hobbes’s De Corpore

In: Hobbes Studies

The Animadversiones in Elementorum Philosophiae by a little known Flemish scholar G. Moranus, published in Brussels in 1655 was an early European response to Hobbes’s De Corpore. Although it is has been referred to by various Hobbes scholars, such as Noel Malcolm, Doug Jesseph, and Alexander Bird it has been little studied. Previous scholarship has tended to focus on the mathematical criticisms of André Tacquet which Moranus included in the form of a letter in his volume. Moranus’s philosophical objections to Hobbes’s natural philosophy offer a fascinating picture of the critical reception of Hobbes’s work by a religious writer trained in the late Scholastic tradition. Moranus’s opening criticism clearly shows that he is unhappy with Hobbes’s exclusion of the divine and the immaterial from natural philosophy. He asks what authority Hobbes has for breaking with the common understanding of philosophy, as defined by Cicero ‘the knowledge of things human and divine’. He also offers natural philosophical and theological criticisms of Hobbes for overlooking the generation of things involved in the Creation. He also attacks the natural philosophical underpinning of Hobbes’s civil philosophy. In this paper I look at a number of philosophical topics which Moranus criticised in Hobbes’s work, including his mechanical psychology, his theory of imaginary space, his use of the concept of accidents, his blurring of the distinction between the human being and the animal, and his theories of motion. Moranus’s criticisms, which are a mixture of philosophical and theological objections, gives us some clear indications of what made Hobbes’ natural philosophy controversial amongst his contemporaries, and sheds new light on the early continental reception of Hobbes’s work.

  • 3

    Noel Malcolm, Aspects of Hobbes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2002), 498.

  • 4

    Malcolm, Aspects, 289–90.

  • 5

    Wolfgang Breidert, ‘Les Mathématiques et la méthode mathématique chez Hobbes’, Revue Internationale de Philosophie, 33: 129 (1979): 415–431 (425): ‘Hobbes avait l’impression d’une attaque collective parce qu’on s’élevait contre lui en division de travail: Seth Ward se bornait expressément à la partie physique, parce que la partie mathématique était traitée par Wallis dans l’Elenchus et par le pere André Tacquet dans une lettre a G. Moranus.’

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  • 8

    Alexander Bird, ‘Squaring the Circle: Hobbes on Philosophy and Geometry’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 57:2 (1996): 217–231 (218). Bird lists Moranus as being among a handful of scholars who had ‘given [Hobbes’s mathematics] more than passing thought.’ Strictly speaking, however, it is Tacquet and not Moranus who gives his attention to Hobbes’s mathematics.

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  • 10

    Douglas Jesseph, Squaring the Circle : The War Between Hobbes and Wallis (Chicago: Chicago University press, 2000), 10, fn. 17.

  • 13

    Moranus, Animadversiones, 3.

  • 20

    Moranus, Animadversiones, 4. Cf. Hobbes, De Corpore, sig. A3r; Concerning Body, sig. Bv.

  • 29

    Karl Schuhmann, ‘Le Vocabulaire de L’Espace’ in Hobbes et son Vocabulaire. Études de Lexicographie Philosophopique, ed. Yves-Charles Zarka (Paris: 1992), 61–82; Cees Leijenhorst, “Jesuit Conceptions of Spatium Imaginarium and Hobbes’s Doctrine of Space,” Early Science and Medicine 1 (1996): 355–80; Cees Leijenhorst, The Mechanisation of Aristotelianism: The Late Aristotelian Setting of Thomas Hobbes’s Natural Philosophy(Leiden: Brill, 2002), 111–122.

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  • 35

    Leijenhorst, ‘Jesuit Concepts’, 368.

  • 36

    Leijenhorst, ‘Jesuit Concepts’, 364.

  • 37

     See Leijenhorst, ‘Jesuit Concepts’, 369–371. See also Leijenhorst’s development of these ideas in, Mechanisation, 102–128.

  • 57

     On Sennert see William R. Newman, Atoms and Alchemy: Chymistry and the Experimental Origins of the Scientific Revolution (Chicgao: Chicago University Press, 2006), Chs. 1–2 and Antonio Clericuzio, Elements, Principles and Corpuscles: A Study of Atomism and Chemistry in the Seventeenth Century (Dordrecht: Springer, 2013), 9–34.

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  • 69

    Hobbes, De Corpore, 224; Concerning Body, 291.

  • 74

    Moranus, Animadversiones, 31–2.

  • 79

    Hobbes, Six Lessons, 58.

  • 84

     See Siegmund Probst, ‘Infinity and Creation: The Origin of the Controversy between Thomas Hobbes and the Savilian Professors Seth Ward and John Wallis’, British Journal for the History of Science 26 (1993): 271–279, and Siegmund Probst, Die mathematische Kontroverse zwischen Thomas Hobbes und John Wallis, PhD Dissertation, Universityof Regensburg 1997.

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