The Wax and the Mechanical Mind: Reexamining Hobbes's Objections to Descartes's Meditations

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 22 (3):403-424 (2014)
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Abstract

Many critics, Descartes himself included, have seen Hobbes as uncharitable or even incoherent in his Objections to the Meditations on First Philosophy. I argue that when understood within the wider context of his views of the late 1630s and early 1640s, Hobbes's Objections are coherent and reflect his goal of providing an epistemology consistent with a mechanical philosophy. I demonstrate the importance of this epistemology for understanding his Fourth Objection concerning the nature of the wax and contend that Hobbes's brief claims in that Objection are best understood as a summary of the mechanism for scientific knowledge found in his broader work. Far from displaying his confusion, Hobbes's Fourth Objection in fact pinpoints a key weakness of Descartes's faculty psychology: its unintelligibility within a mechanical philosophy.

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Marcus P. Adams
State University of New York, Albany

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