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Conditioned to Believe: Hobbes on Religion, Education, and Social Context

In: Hobbes Studies
Author:
Alissa MacMillan fwoPostdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Antwerp, Stadscampus, Grote Kauwenberg 18, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium, macmillanalissa@hotmail.com

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Using the example of ghosts and religion, this paper argues for the importance of social context and background operative in Hobbes’s account of social life and, in particular, the role of environment, education, and language in explaining much of what we think we know, and much of what we believe. The paper looks to aspects of Hobbes’s epistemology and his account of belief, to make the case that he recognizes how a kind of social conditioning is required to sustain certain beliefs. The paper briefly concludes with a focus on the commonwealth itself and how the example of religion and religious belief extends to the commonwealth and the kinds of beliefs required for the commonwealth to sustain itself.

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