“Philosophy, Therefore, Is within Yourself”

The Rational Potential in Hobbes’s Theory

in Hobbes Studies
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The connection that Hobbes makes between reason, method, and science renders reason a faculty that is not only natural but also acquired and even somewhat exclusive. This idea might pose a serious problem to Hobbes’s political theory, as it relies heavily on the successful use of reason. This problem is demonstrated in Hobbes’s account of the laws of nature, for which some equality in human reason is clearly needed, but Hobbes is not explicit about the relationship between that and the more advanced form of reason that eventually leads to science. This article suggests that Hobbes’s account of reason is developmental. The seed of natural reason is common to everyone, and is sufficient for the establishment of the commonwealth. Thereafter, peace and leisure provide the necessary conditions for developing the rational skill, that is, fulfilling the human potential for rationality. Consequently, under the right circumstances, knowledge and science are expected to progress dramatically for the benefit of society, an open-ended vision which Hobbes nevertheless leaves implicit. Following Hobbes’s account of reason and philosophy closely can therefore show that he might have had great hopes for humankind, and that in this sense he was a key member of an English Enlightenment.

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