Hobbes on Powers, Accidents, and Motions


Draft for Bender and Perler (ed.), Powers and Abilities in Early Modern Philosophy. Thomas Hobbes often includes powers and abilities in his descriptions of the world. Meanwhile, Hobbes’s philosophical picture of the world appears quite reductive, and he seems sometimes to say that nothing exists but bodies in motion. In more extreme versions of such a picture, there would be no room for powers. Hobbes is not an eliminativist about powers, but his view does tend toward ontological minimalism. It would be good to have an account of what Hobbes thinks powers are, and how they fit into his understanding of the world. In this chapter, I investigate Hobbes’s account of the metaphysics of powers and abilities. Section 1 considers three important aspects of Hobbes’s account of powers: the connection between powers and causes; the modal aspects of powers; and the connection between powers and motions. Sections 2 and 3 then consider interpretive arguments about whether Hobbes identifies powers with underlying corporeal features.

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Stewart Duncan
University at Buffalo


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