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Hobbes' Inductive Methodology Author(s): Fred Wilson Source: History of Philosophy Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Apr.

, 1996), pp. 167-186 Published by: University of Illinois Press Stable URL: Accessed: 06/11/2010 20:16
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History Volume

of Philosophy 13, Number

Quarterly 2, April 1996


Fred Wilson
is usually
tivist and,

stated that Hobbes' methodology

moreover, is an extreme

of science is purely deduc

in which the prem It ises of the demonstrations of the deductive science are all true by definition. Thus A. E. Taylor1 states that "Only . . . the truly deductive type of reasoning is rigidly certain and yields perfectly determinate conclusions" (pp. 34-5), while ". . .the ultimate



. .definitions, that is, statements

first principles

of deductive



of the meaning

of names"

(p. 36).

in science, turns upon the original science therefore, definitions; Everything is merely the correct deduction of the consequences in the giving of implied names (p. 35). Hence there is no role for experiment in science: on altogether false lines proceeding rather than by by direct experiment theories general (p. 35).

held [Hobbes] in attempting reasoning

that the Royal Society was to advance science physical from preassumed


In particular,

then, there is

. . . no place in his for 'Baconian induction' of scientific method. conception ... is entirely to the essentially zeal for experiment alien Bacon's deductive and systematic spirit of the Hobbesian (p. 6). philosophy

Another who argues for this interpretation of Hobbes on method is Co idea of science" inwhich there pleston,2 who speaks ofHobbes'"monolithic is "a progressive development from first principles in a deductive manner" (p. 29). Watkins3 similarly holds that Hobbes was "unimpressed by the

in contrast, the inductivist philosophy of Bacon" (p. 31). For Hobbes, the demonstrative method method is that of demonstration; appropriate consists of "laying down first principles and proceeding deductively there from. . ." (p. 44). As for the first principles, these "first truths were arbi trarily made by those that first of all imposed names upon things" (p. 106). The deductive methodology ismore or less endorsed byWatkins as akin to the hypothetical-deductive methodology defended by Popper; but he sug gests that the (non-Popperian) radical conventionalism is inadequate; the
appropriate premises in any hypothetical-deductive

pirical truths, not statements

true by definition or ex vi terminorum. if it is None




Clearly there must be something to this reading of Hobbes endorsed by thinkers as diverse as Taylor, Copleston and Watkins. 167



theless, the reading is distinctly inadequate. Most have concluded that Hobbes learned nothing from Bacon when he worked as the latter's secre tary.However, there is in fact a good deal of the inductive method inHobbes and this includes something akin to Bacon's method of eliminative induc But

presence of something like themethod of eliminative induction shows that, when Hobbes worked as Bacon's secretary, he might well have become inductivism. infected by the Lord Chancellor's I Hobbes4
a cause

tion.We do not in fact know what Hobbes might have learned from Bacon. the usual conclusion that, given his (alleged) deductivism, he must learned nothing, will be shown to be unfounded. To the contrary, the

gives us "an exact notion ofthat which we call cause" as follows:

and of all such accidents, both in the agents is the sum or aggregate as concur of the effect propounded; all which to the producing it cannot be understood but that the effect existeth with existing together, exist if any one of them be absent them; or that it can possibly (p. 77). the patient,


relations thus involve generalities: "it cannot be understood but that the effect existeth with" the cause. The cause is the set of conditions that are sufficient for the effect: the cause is the set of conditions that
"concur to the

sary: the cause

cause is absent


of the


is absent
then so

if one or more of its parts are absent, and if the

is the effect, for "it cannot be understood. . .that




is also


[the effect] can possibly

causation conditions. are therefore

exist if [the cause]

general statements

be absent."
of necessary

and sufficient



are we to discover these causal

relations? Hobbes


or precedes the must that accompanies examine singly every accident of to the production to conduce in any manner effect, as far forth as it seems to exist, be conceived effect may the propounded the same, and see whether of any of these accidents; and by this means without the existence separate as do not concur, from such as concur to produce the said effect; such accidents, are and to put the concurring which accidents, done, we together being we can possibly these are all present, that when consider whether conceive, will not follow; and if it be evident the effect propounded is the entire cause, of accidents follow, then that aggregate we must other accidents still search out and put together that other wise (p. 77). the effect will not; but

If the effect can exist without a certain accident, then the latter is not (part of) the cause. Thus, the cause is common to all cases where the effect is Method ofAgreement. Again, we must consider cases present. This is the where the effect is absent. The cause is then the set of accidents wherein those cases where the effect is present differ from these cases where the

cause is absent. This is the Method ofDifference. The Method of Agreement yields necessary conditions, while the Method of Difference yields suffi cient conditions. Hobbes applies these jointly. That is,what he describes is




in effect the Joint Method ofAgreement and Difference. This joint method yields necessary and sufficient conditions, that is, precisely those condi tions that Hobbes has described as constituting the cause of an effect. The Methods ofAgreement and Difference and the Joint Method are, of course, the eliminative methods of experimental science that Bacon had been the first to describe. Hobbes is thus arguing that themethods appro to the discovery of causes are the eliminative methods ofBacon. priate There is little doubt that Bacon was the first to describe these methods of experimental science.5 Hobbes was secretary toBacon during the latter 's retreat in disgrace from the world when he was devoting most of his time to experimentation at his residence at Gothambury. We shall never know whether itwas here that Hobbes learned the logic of experiment. But as we have just seen, learn it he did. And it is not unlikely that he learned it at Gothambury. Certainly, Hobbes' clear knowledge of themethods and his connection with Bacon make doubtful indeed Taylor's claim that "the
influence of Bacon . . .has left no trace on Hobbes's own matured thought"

makes clear that Hobbes'method Watkins, is, contrary to (p. 6). Moreover, it not simply hypothetical-deductive: Baconian induction, too, is present. II Philosophy aims to know the causes of things, either things by means their causes or causes by means of their effects.As Hobbes puts it,
we acquire is the knowledge of appearances, by true ratiocination, Philosophy or apparent we have of some possible effects, from the knowledge production or generation as has been or may be, from of the same; and of such production, we have the knowledge of effects (p. 68).


What we find in the world are bodies qualified by certain accidents. Bodies in fact are singular things. These singular things are compounded of accidents; the former are distinguished by their unique combinations of the latter (p. 68). These accidents taken as common to several singular things are referred to as universals (pp. 68-69). What we aim to know in the first place are the causes of universals. Then we can infer from these the causes of singular things. For "the causes of singular things are compounded of the causes of universal or simple things" (p. 68). In order

to find these causes, it is necessary to consider not singular things but the universals which are the parts of these things.
seeing universal knowledge things are contained of them is to be acquired we may come continually, in the nature of singular the things, . that is, by resolution. by reason, to know what those things are, whose and afterwards compounded, bring us to I conclude, that the method of therefore, of things, is purely analytical (pp. 68-69).

resolving causes being

first known severally, the knowledge of singular things. to the universal knowledge attaining

The Baconian
analytic method.



therefore to be understood

as part

of the



one universal cause, which is motion (p. 69).

As for universal
they have all but

This makes
therefore causes discover are the all all

clear that Hobbes

have namely, universal

to the variety of possible motions. methods will locate the cause.

singular things of a certain kind, cause of a particular

that all universal

causes, and, we moreover, of bodies. can motions thing,

In our


these to




From among this range, the Baconian

Now, the Baconian methods of elimination will yield a true statement of cause only if two conditions are fulfilled: first, that there is a cause there
to be

a certain limited variety. If the first condition is not fulfilled, then the elimination of all but one possible case will not guarantee that that case is a cause. And if there is no limit to the number of possibilities that must be
eliminated, then no







is one member



systematic and extended itmight be, will succeed in reducing the possible cases to one. These two conditions have usually been called the principle of determinism and the principle of limited variety, respectively. Unless are logically incapable these principles hold, the eliminative mechanisms to yielding as a conclusion that such an such a property ("universal thing") is the cause of some other property.6 Hobbes, we have just seen, holds that these two principles
or, what


of the





It is clear, then, that Hobbes'

method," in order. is the same,


of what

he calls the "analytic

science, is quite

the methods

of experimental


they can yield no necessity. Unless, that is, the first principles themselves are somehow necessary. Hobbes does of course hold that these principles are somehow necessary. Specifically, he holds precisely this with respect to the principles of determinism and limited variety, as he understands them, those principles which are required if the experimental methods are to yield conclusions concerning causes which are certain. As he puts itwith regard to his version of those principles,
. .are manifest or (as they say of themselves, of universal things. so that they need no method to nature; at all; for they have known commonly) is motion all but one universal cause, which (p.69). the causes




the methods

o? empirical




However, it is notorious that such knowledge of first principles is held by Hobbes to be based on definitions. These principles are necessary precisely because they are simply true by definition, ex vi terminorum.
. .of universals, and of their By the knowledge. but their definitions, (which are nothing place (p. 70). conceptions) causes. the explication . .we have in the first of our simple




This in turn leads into the standard objection toHobbes' account of method, that, since definitions are arbitrary, so are all first principles; this implies that there is no objective structure to the world to distinguish those parts of discourse which are true from those which are false; and this is then taken to be a reductio ad absurdum ofHobbes' position. And it indeed would be if itwere an accurate reading ofHobbes' thought. However, one is left wondering how so competent a philosopher as Hobbes could have fallen so quickly into such an absurdity. It cries out for an alternative interpretation. Indeed, so does the presence of the Baconian method that we have already noted. IfHobbes does what we have seen that he does, namely insist that one proceed by the analytical method, that is, themethod ofBacon, appeal ing to the observed facts of the case, how could he also conclude that all principles are arbitrary, true by definition? Again, it cries out for an
alternative interpretation.

is Such a re-interpretation is possible only ifwe recognize that Hobbes to substitute an account of reason that is very different from the proposing we recall what he wrote about reason in traditional. This becomes clear if his Objections

to Descartes' Meditations.

Here he wrote:

will depend If this is so, as may well be the case, reasoning of their meaning. on the imagination, on names, names will depend and imagination will depend on the motions of our bodily and so the it does) merely (as I believe organs; in various than motion mind will be nothing more parts of an organic occurring

the joining is simply what shall we say if it turns out that reasoning or labels by means of the verb 'is'? It would of names and linking together at all about in our reasoning the tell us nothing follow that the inferences to them; that is, nature the labels applied tell us about of things, but merely or not we are combining in the names of things all we can infer is whether conventions which we have laid down in respect accordance with the arbitrary


For Hobbes,
account, words

are names:

is a matter

ofwords. As he later elaborated

so connected as they become signs

of our

thoughts, are called speech, ofwhich every part is a name" (p. 15). Names serve two functions, that of being marks and that of being signs:
of for the acquiring and signs are necessary (as is said) both marks seeing our own thoughts, and signs remember (marks by which we may philosophy, names our thoughts to others), known do both these by which we may make befor they be used as signs offices; but they serve for marks (p. 15).


taken to be marks

are associated
each other,


in particular

in the sense



images or phantasms




they derive.
of them, for which

. . . sensible taken at pleasure, marks [are] that, by means things to our mind as are like those thoughts such thoughts may be recalled we took them (p. 14).

At the same time, they can function as signs by calling to the minds
others similar or resembling ideas or images.




to serve for a mark, which may in A name is a word taken at pleasure raise our mind a thought like to some before, and which thought we have being to others, may be to them a sign of which had, pronounced thought the speaker or had not before in his mind (p. 16).

Names can have meaning without naming any actual thing; Hobbes gives as examples the names 'nothing' and less than nothing'. But where they do name, they name bodies. But these bodies are not to be considered to have essences or real natures of the sort which the Aristotelians and rationalists
that the understood


things to have.

stone should be of this word be the sign of a stone, cannot sound sense in any but this, that he that hears it collects that he it thinks of a stone. And, that disputation, whether pronounces therefore, names or form, or something of both, and other signify the matter compounded like subtleties is kept up by erring men, such as of the metaphysics, and understand not the words they dispute about (p. 17; Hobbes' italics).

Descartes replied:
I did

rejected Hobbes'


of reasoning. To Hobbes'

objection he

the difference between and a purely mental concep imagination explain we in this very example, I listed the features where of the wax which we conceive I also and the mind alone. And those which imagine by using is under elsewhere how one and the same thing, say a pentagon, explained tion stood occurs

are occur

in one way As for the linking that in another. and imagined together that this is not a linking of names but of the things when we reason, that the opposite and I am surprised view should signified by the names, to anyone.8

What he is doing is simply insisting that there are ideas other than images, that these ideas are signified by our words, and these ideas provide the Aristotelians, ground for our reasoning about things. Now, traditionally, for ideas are the essences or forms or natures of things qua existing in the mind. But the same position is defended by such rationalists as Descartes.9 refers to actual being as "formal" being or reality (esse Thus, Descartes formale): the formal being of a thing is constituted by its properties or modifications. This he distinguishes from the objective being of a thing, that "mode of being, by which a thing exists objectively or is represented

by a concept of it in the understanding."10 This is "the way inwhich its [the When a thing has objective being intellect's] objects are normally there."11 in the mind that thing is not a mode or property of the mind, that is, it is not "formally" in the mind; otherwise themind would actually be the thing. Nonetheless, though the thing that is objectively in themind lacks as such formal reality it is still not nothing,12 and is to be contrasted to ideas which are merely chimerical.13 Thus, as Descartes put it to Carterus in the replies to the First Set ofObjections,
the idea of the sun as ? in the intellect not of course itself existing it does in the heavens, but objectively i.e., in the existing, formally existing, are normally is in which in the intellect. Now this mode of being way objects exist outside of course much less perfect than that possessed by things which is the sun nothing.14

Meditation III], it is not therefore simply the intellect;but, as I did explain [in

One must



objective existence of things in the mind is constituted by the presence in the mind of the essence of the thing. But once we recognize this we also recognize that the Cartesian account of perception is structurally that of Aristotle, inwhich the mind knows the object by virtue of having the form or essence of that object literally in it. To be sure, Descartes rejects the mechanisms which Aristotle explained the presence of the form or by essence in the mind. For Aristotle the formwas transported from the object known to the knowing mind through a process of abstraction. Using the wax example of Meditation II, Descartes argued that no such process could us with the essence of any thing. Such essences are, he argued, provide following Plato, innate. This distinction between innatism and abstraction ism is, however, a difference that is, as it were, within the ring. The important point is that both adopted a position concerning things, inwhich from their natures or forms or essences, and things are distinguished upon that, a position concerning the nature of ideas, in which depending the essences of things are in the mind of the knower.

of course distinguish the thing from the thing qua formally It is the thing qua formally existing that is there in the world, existing. existing as the entity with which other real objects, including ourselves, interact. Thus, when Descartes distinguishes the thing, e.g., the sun, from the sun qua formally existing, the thing that is said to be in the mind, that is, the sun insofar as it does not formally exist, must be the essence of the thing. In other words, what is present to the mind when the thing is the objectively in it is not this real object but its essence. For Descartes

Descartes thus in its central points retained the Aristotelian notion that science was, ideally, scientia in the Aristotelian sense, that is, in the sense that at its best science consists of demonstrations proceeding from self
evident the propositions concerning truths the natures are or essences of things. the For essences both, of eternal or necessary connections among

things, connections that hold independently of the actual existence of things. In fact, it is precisely this latter that is the ground of the necessity of these truths. It is precisely this concept of reason that Hobbes
be the Aristotelian version or that of Descartes.

is rejecting, whether
are no essences



forms or natures of things that could in any way ground the necessity of the truth of the basic premises of science. Thus, for Hobbes there is no objective ground for the necessity of causal propositions. But knowledge,

by the traditional definition, is scientia: it is a matter

necessary truths. Wherein, then, can the necessity



the first principles be located, given theHobbesian framework? The answer that Hobbes gives is clear in his Objection to Descartes: the necessity does not lie in the things, it lies rather in our thought about those things. But to say this is not yet to give an account of such necessity. However, Hobbes does go on to attempt to provide an explanation ofwhy we attribute

necessity demonstration


to causal from propositions premises and why we treat ? science somehow as ? a matter necessary. of


to be

that he believes he has available to account for the necessity of judgments and of the first principles by which we know causal relations is that of definition ? not, of course, the real definition of the nor the necessary connections of the rationalists, but simple Aristotelians nominal definition.

The model our causal

IV Before elaborating this point, there is a possible mis-reading ofHobbes that must be excluded. For, it has determined some of the more radical
readings of Hobbes'account of science.

I refer to the charge that Hobbes is a radical nominalist who makes every truth a matter of convention. This is the reading, for example, of Taylor. Hobbes holds that the only names that denote realities are the names of individual bodies. Among these names are those that are proper to one thing and those that are common. Upon Hobbes' account of things, there
are no forms a or natures or essences for these terms to denote. when a stone, a spirit, or any other to be is said thing, living creature, or can be that any man, it is not to be understood, stone, &c. was but only that these words a living creature, a stone, &c. are universal universal, common to many that is, names names, answering things; and the conceptions are the images of several them in our mind, and phantasms living creatures, or other (p. 20). things universal, as we have seen, "a name is a word taken at pleasure almost to serve for" a


mark or sign of our ideas (p. 16). Itwould

arbitrary or conventional. Indeed, Hobbes

seem, therefore, that all truth is

says this when he re



names that first of all imposed made the first truths were arbitrarily by those of others. For it is true (for them from the imposition things, or received but it is for this reason, that it pleased is a living creature, that man example) on the same men to impose both names thing (p. 36).

The result is an apparently silly position. For if is literally true that all truth is conventional then all propositions about individual bodies are
either necessary

ual and 'F is by convention a common name that denotes the same indi vidual, then the sentence Fa is true by virtue of its meaning, that is, the meanings of the terms that it contains. If, similarly, it is decided that a is not among the bodies commonly denoted by 'G', then Ga is false by virtue of the meanings of the terms that it contains. But to say that the former is true ex vi terminorum while the latter is false ex vi terminorum is to say that the former is necessarily true while the latter is necessarily false. If it is further held that propositions that are self-contradictory are empty,

or contradictory.









or say nothing, then all false propositions will be empty or say nothing. If one further understands this tomean that strictly speaking one succeeds
in making thing, then an one assertion never only says if one asserts when a proposition one says anything that says some Indeed, anything false.

of convention, a matter ofwhat the speaker decides, it becomes questionable whether it is even possible to err with regard to the truth. At most one would have violated the conventions of the language, which would make it a matter ofmis-speaking rather than one of genuine since all is a matter

things to which subject terms apply. On the other hand, they apply to the will apply to the property properties of things. Thus, the predicate term 6F and then apply to all those things which have this property. John Stuart F, Mill was later to draw the relevant distinction in terms of "connotation" and "denotation."19 A name which applies properly to a thing, that is, to only one thing, is said to denote that thing. A name which applies commonly to several things is said to denote those things, but is also said to connote a certain property. Then, it applies correctly to a thing if that thing in fact exemplifies the property that it connotes. In this way one can consistently hold both that common names name or denote individual things while also holding that falsehood does not amount to contradiction and that it is after all possible to err and to assert what is false. does not speak o? connotation. But he says much the same. The imposition of common names is not wholly arbitrary. Rather, it depends upon the resemblances of things, that is, the properties or accidents which Hobbes they exemplify.
or identity are such as we impose for the likeness, Positive [names] equality, or inequality for the diversity, unlikeness, of the things we consider; negative, a of the same. Examples of the former are, a man, for a man philosopher; and a philosopher, of men, denotes any one of many any one of a multitude is a positive of their similitude; name, also, Socrates philosophers, by reason one and the same man it signifies because (p. 18) always

created by Antisthenes' view. solution that could avoid the paradoxes Specifically, Plato argued that one must draw a distinction between the object towhich the subject term of a proposition applies and that by virtue ofwhich the predicate term applies to a that thing. One must distinguish, in other words, between a thing and its properties. Predicate terms will have as itwere a double reference. On the one hand they apply to the same

Such a position seems to have been held in antiquity by Antisthenes,15 ofwhom it is reported by Aristotle that he held the paradoxical belief that "contradiction is impossible" {Topics, 1, 104b20)16, and that he "foolishly claimed that nothing could be described except by its own formula, one formula to one thing; fromwhich it followed that there could be no contra diction, and almost that there could be no error" {Metaphysics, 5,1024b30). It is likely that this view was the object ofPlato's criticism in the Sophist.11 In any case, it is certainly true that Plato in the Theaetetus18 proposed a



are formed from subjects and predicates joined by the Propositions The subject and predicate are both names, and these copula.
in our mind of one and the same raise the thought thing; but the us think of the cause makes for which those names were copulation imposed on that thing. As, for example, when we say a body is moveable, though we our mind conceive the same yet by both those names, thing to be designed it is to be a body, or to be moveable, rests not there, but searches farther what consists that is, wherein those and other for the difference betwixt things, which others are not so called these are so called, (p. 31). names

The cause for our saying that the body ismoveable is "that it ismoved or These reasons justifying the copulation, the motion of the same" (p. 32). in the assertion true, are the similarities and dissimilarities making These similarities and dissimilarities are objective, not merely the things. result of some arbitrary imposition of names upon things. For, Hobbes holds, there is a ground in things for these similarities and dissimilarities. Specifically, the ground in things for these objective similarities and dis similarities are the accidents in things. The things in which accidents inhere are all conceivable apart from those accidents (save for the one essential accident of extension), though we should not, Hobbes warns us, conceive of the separability as a matter of abstracting these parts and them into independent existents.
are the same with the causes of names of our conceptions, [the] causes some power or affection some of the thing conceived, of action, which manner the senses, but by most men upon any thing works by which I say accidents, in which not in that sense is called accidents; accident nor parts to necessary; the things themselves, but so, as being neither the things do nevertheless accompany and be destroyed, they may all perish, in such manner, that (saving but can never be abstracted


namely, call the they are

opposed thereof, extension) (pp. 32-33).

Truth and falsity are therefore not merely a matter of arbitrary choice, and
Hobbes cannot,

on the model







of radical



To be sure, it is arbitrary that we have chosen to apply this predicate rather than that to things by virtue of some objective similarity. For commonly all those things that are similar to each other in respect of a certain colour. Given his position on the objective basis of similarities and dissimilarities in the accidents of things, it is no doubt just this that Hobbes had inmind when he stated that ". . .thefirst truths were arbitrarily made
example, it is arbitrary that we have chosen 'red' rather than 'der' to name

by those that first of all imposed names upon things, or received them from the imposition of others. For it is true (for example) that man is a living creature, but it is for this reason, that it pleased men to impose both names on the same thing" (p. 36). Contrary to Taylor, then, this passage cannot
be used to ascribe to Hobbes a radical conventionalism.

We may conclude that, whatever Hobbes has in mind concerning his account of first principles as definitions, it is not something that follows simply from a radical conventionalism along the lines traditionally as

cribed toAntisthenes. and most subsequent



holds no such radical view: likeAristotle philosophers, he agrees with Plato's solution to the problem posed by Antisthenes, that we must distinguish between a thing and the properties of that thing, between a thing and the objective simi inwhich that thing stands to other things. larities and dissimilarities For Hobbes V The traditional account of science as scientia is that this proceeds deduc there were many tively from self-evident premises. For the Aristotelians self-evident truths to function as premises in scientific demonstrations. For the new science the range was rather more limited. Itwas in fact restricted to that paradigm of demonstrative science, the geometry ofEuclid. Galileo
had advanced geometry as the tool of science. Descartes


themes, but unlike Galileo put those themes in a rigidly meta context. The axioms of geometry were the essential truths of body. physical
axioms were the necessary connections to be found in the essence or




nature of body, that essence which was the objective idea ofbody as innately present in our minds. Hobbes, as iswell known, was immensely impressed by the work ofGalileo, and took up the same themes as Descartes. But he strongly objected
sisted: there are no no metaphysical

to the metaphysical
essences or forms

context upon which Descartes

or natures of things, and in this



necessity? answer ?

not do. We must find another.

Yet it is science and therefore necessary. What, then, is the source of this This is the question we asked previously. We have seen one that it derives from the conventionality of all truth? that will

IfHobbes was committed to the Galilean ideal of a mathematical science, he was also committed to the traditional logic, including the account of demonstration that is part of the traditional logic. On the traditional view,20we can (to take a simplified example)
Corsicus is dissolving


using the syllogism

Whenever Corsicus Corsicus Corsicus is in water is dissolving is put in water Corsicus dissolves


that the premise is necessary. This is established as necessary a scientific syllogism. Let Corsicus be C and let Abe the pattern through of sensible events of dissolving if in water. Then C is A. The scientific syllogism that we need will have this as its conclusion. The middle term

that explains C being Ais the capacity (power, nature, essence, form, soul) of solubility. Let B be this capacity. Then the explanatory syllogism (S) is:



(B isA) Corsicus is soluble (C is B)
Corsicus is such is soluble is such that whenever it is put in water it dissolves


that whenever

it is put

in water

it dissolves

(C is A)

Solubility is an active power, like the nutritive power, the activity ofwhich accounts for the pattern of behaviour described in the conclusion. As the nutritive power is one of a set of powers, including the appetitive and the ratiocinative, which make up the soul or form or nature of human beings, so also solubility will be one of the set of powers that constitute the set that
makes up the full nature or essence of Corsicus, e.g., the nature of Corsicus

may be sugar. Thus, the second premise of (SO is necessary because the nature or essence is inseparable from the substance Corsicus. Provided that the major premise of (SO is also necessary, then the conclusion will be necessary, and the syllogism will establish a necessary connection among the events in the pattern mentioned in the conclusion. The necessity of the law derives from the form or essence; thus, explanation of a pattern of is not obtained by fitting that pattern into a more complex behaviour as in the new science, but by re-describing the object whose pattern, explained.21 Now, as Moli?re made clear, for the defenders of the new sciences, the major premise of (SO is indeed necessary, but only trivially so, since it is true by nominal definition. For that reason, for the critics ofAristotle (SO
is no more explanatory than is an unmarried male Whatever is a bachelor


is being

(S'O Callias
C allias

is a bachelor
is an unmarried male

(S'O doesn't explain since the minor premise merely re-states what the conclusion says. As for themajor premise in (S"), that is in fact redundant; for the rule of language
'Bachelor' is short for 'unmarried male'


licenses its assertion as a necessary truth equally licenses re-writing of the minor as the conclusion and therefore also licenses
inference of the conclusion from the minor premise alone.

the the

On the other hand, forAristotle (SO is explanatory. The major premise cannot, therefore, be true by definition. It must be a substantive truth. Thus, for the empiricist capacities are analyzable in the sense that the term 'soluble' in the major premise of (SO can be defined by the right hand side using only (the principles of logic and) terms that refer to observable characteristics of things; while forAristotle, since themajor premise of (SO cannot be a definitional truth, capacities (dispositions, tendencies, powers) cannot be analyzed into (patterns of) observable characteristics of things.
Aristotelian explanations are in terms of the unanalyzable active disposi

tions and powers of things.




If the major premise of (SO is not definitional, it is also not contingent; Aristotle holds, as we have seen, that the premises of a scientific syllogism
are necessary. The exclusive empiricist and divides jointly propositions, exhaustive classes. as Hume There does,22 are, on into the two mutually

(Kant's term, 'syn propositions which are both synthetic and necessary. thetic a priori,'is not quite appropriate forAristotle, but the point ismuch
the same.)23

one hand, those propositions which state relations of ideas, and which are therefore necessary in the sense of being tautological, devoid of factual import, and, on the other hand, those propositions which state matters of observable fact and which are therefore contingent. If the former proposi tions are, as they are often called, analytic and the latter synthetic, then forAristotle, in contrast to the empiricist, there is a third category, that of



tried to fit the inferences of Euclid

be sure, as is well known, there are

into this syllogistic

many inferences in



view that Hobbes

geometry that cannot be captured within the limited logical of syllogistic. Be that as itmay, itwas the traditional view that apparatus the inference patterns ofEuclid did indeed fit those of syllogistic. It is this accepts. What he rejects is the traditional account ofunanalyzable powers. None he still accepts the traditional doctrine o? scientia inwhich science theless, consists of demonstrative syllogisms having as their premises propositions








the real definitions unanalyzable

necessary. Except

of things. What Hobbes does is reject the doctrine of dispositions but retains the idea that they nonetheless are
that he now construes them as nominal




takes over the traditional model

of which are necessary

of science as demonstrations
save that upon his



the necessity derives not from the ontological structure of things but from the linguistic conventions which make thepremises true by definition.



This, however, does not seem to leave us in any better a position in interpreting Hobbes than did Taylor's account of the necessity of proposi tions in terms of a radical conventionalism. After all, if the premises of
demonstrative science are all true

then in what way have we escaped attributing to him a conventionalism that makes all causal propositions true by definition? And if causal propo sitions are all true by definition, then why do we have to employ the Baconian methods of elimination in order to discover their truth? VI Hobbes
any cause of science

by virtue

of certain



does address

this problem. He

tells us that
things, as have is this. The end of things; which

the reason

and generation of such I say that the cause why or generation, ought to enter into their definitions, of the causes and generations is the demonstration



of the if they be not in the definitions, they cannot be found in the conclusion from those definitions; and if they be not in the first syllogism, that is make from first conclusion, deduced they will not be found in any further conclusion we shall never come to in this manner, that; and, therefore, by proceeding of demonstration is against the scope and intention science; which (pp. 82-83).

Three things are clear here. First, it is clear, as we have argued, that on Hobbes' view, science aims to be demonstrative and if it is to be demonstra tive must begin from definitions. Second, it is clear that Hobbes holds that the definitions which he seeks are definitions of things, that is, of things insofar as they are effects. Third, these definitions of the things insofar as they are effects must include the causes of those effects. The traditional doctrine was of course that, in giving a real definition of a substance, one was giving a definition of the essence of the thing. In giving the real definition of being human one was giving the real definition of the essence of Socrates. One thereby defines the thing or substance in which the effect occurs. Hobbes' point ismuch the same. Except that he does not distinguish the thing and its essence: there is no essence or form or nature. What one defines, then, upon Hobbes' scheme is the thing itself.
Now, a cause as noted only A ifwe earlier, have Hobbes'discussion a general of B proposition. of cause We makes can clear that we say that have correctly

is the cause

we can affirm that only if

Whenever A then B

or, in the more (@)

traditional phraseology,

(All)A isB methods


The Baconian

of elimination are designed

a proposition cannot be

to discover the truth of

For a proposi



tion is necessary

only if it is true by definition. For, as Hobbes

also says,

. .; to the subject. is either equivalent in every necessary the predicate proposition, . ..But in a or part of an equivalent name. this cannot contingent proposition be (p. 38).

However, even if it is true that universal causal propositions, as Hobbes calls them, are not necessary, there is for all that no reason why the proposition that (@0

Corsicus is such that whenever it isA then it isB

be constituted as necessary.

Now, according to Hobbes, we achieve knowledge resolution or analysis. Thus, he tells us that

ofwhat a thing is by

to himself o? gold, he may, by resolving, if any man the conception propound to the centre of the come to the ideas of solid, visible, heavy, (that is, tending or downwards) that gold itself. . . (p. and many other more universal earth, 69).




Since a singular thing is distinguished from other things by its accidents, our knowledge of singular things similarly proceeds by resolution or analy sis. Now, it is true that
something downwards is heavy if and only if whenever it is unsupported then it move

in fact is true by definition. There are similar definitions of the other powers that enter into the definition o? gold itself. Indeed, the concept of gold is just the conjunction of a set of such defined powers. Thus, the concept of a sort of singular thing and, since singular things are distin guished by their accidents, the concept of any singular thing itself,will be This

iour: they relate universal things to their causes. These statements of the causes of universal things that enter into the definitions of singular things are contingent. But, though they are contingent, that they describe the behaviour of a certain singular thing will be true by definition. Thus, although (@) as a statement of the cause of a universal thing is contingent, the statement (@') as the statement of causation thing will be necessary.
To see this, consider a simple example. Since


of defined







of behav

to understand

to a singular
a singular

thing is to resolve it into the set of powers that define it,we can suppose Corsicus to be defined by two powers. If, for example, we have as true by definition the two disposition statements D

ifand only if whenever A thenB

if and only ifwhenever A' then B'

we may

then further define D D* ifand only if and D'


is what



to as

name "by joining another name to it, ismade less universal, and signifies that more conceptions than one were in the mind, for which that latter name was added" (p. 24). Now, ifwe also take D* as defining the essence or form of Corsicus, then we have the syllogism
Whatever is D* is such that whenever it is A then it is B






Corsicus isD*
ergo, Corsicus is such that whenever it is A then it is B

The concept D* functions as a middle term. The major premise is true by definition of this concept. Moreover, this concept is (part of) the concept defining Corsicus. So theminor premise is also necessary. That makes the conclusion necessary. We therefore have a demonstrative syllogism that establishes that (?') is necessary. But, to repeat, this does not mean that the statement (@) concerning the cause of the universal thing A is not



in the sense of proceeding from syllogism here is demonstrative It is synthetic in the sense that presupposes that we necessary premises. have synthesized our knowledge of the causes of universal things into a is needed to discover the causes of concept of a singular thing. Analysis universal that is, the parts of singular things. But in order to things, demonstrate the necessity of the causation of singular things, our method must be "compositive" (p. 71), putting together these statements of causa tion or power into the "compounded names" of things. It is the compounded names or definitions of singular things that enable us to construct a demonstrative science based on the synthetic methods of syllogistic. We thus obtain the following picture of science according to Hobbes: Bacon's methods of eliminative induction are used to establish the truth of the contingent statements of causation with regard to universal things, and these statements of causation or power then enter into the definitions of the concepts of singular things. These definitions of things form the ultimate premises of demonstrative science, which proceeds synthetically from them by means of syllogisms. This science establishes the necessity of causal
statements about singular things. VI

We can see what Hobbes is trying to do. Bacon was the first to describe the logic of the experimental method. These were themethods that were used by such scientists as Harvey. Others besides Bacon were prepared to defend the use of these methods. Descartes, in the Discourse on Method, for example, defended their use.24 We now see that Hobbes was another defender of these methods. Hobbes and Descartes both accepted that, at their best, causal judgments have to be necessary. For Descartes one achieved such necessity if the causal judgments could be derived from necessary truths about the essences of things. Hobbes accepted this point. Tb this extent, commentators
such as Taylor, Copleston and Watkins are correct. But, as these commentators

have not noticed, Hobbes also advanced a much more empiricist account of both things in the world and our knowledge of such things than that of

therefore, any objective necessities in things that our reason could grasp. But that means that the Hobbesian concept of reason is very different from that ofDescartes. To be sure, they both use the language of ideas, but where, for
Descartes, things, the ideas that our reason our grasps ideas are are the essences, as, on the the reasons, one hand, of for Hobbes, in contrast, images


for Hobbes




are no essences,


representative of resemblance classes of images and appearances of things and as, on the other hand, associated with certain words that stand as marks and signs of those images. Since there are no objective necessities to be reflected in our ideas, those ideas or images in and of themselves stand in no logical relations to one another. One obtains logical connections among ideas only when one establishes those conventions which yield nominal definitions is this of things. The only necessity therefore that is possible forHobbes




necessity. This is, however, but a weak simulacrum of the and the rationalists. In ontologically grounded necessity of Descartes it simply disguises the fact that what is crucial for any causal particular, explanation are the contingent causal relations that enter into the defini tions of things. These turn out to be merely contingent, and in fact the distinction between causation and accidental generality disappears. The disguise did indeed have some success. role at least in leading most commentators It seems to have played some to overlook the fact that for
that are, now on his own







view, contingent, and which are to be established

native methods of experimental science. Nonetheless,


by the Baconian
we see

that a

clear view ofHobbes' position allows that these empirical and non-demon strative methods have a central place in his account of science, and that they cannot be eliminated in favour of the idea of a demonstrative science proceeding from premises that are simply true by definition, ex vi termi norum, however central to science Hobbes took such demonstrations to be. of nominal definitions hardly provides a secure ground wherein to attempt to locate causal necessity. It is likely for this reason that Hobbes' approach to causal judgments proved unattractive to his empiricist successors. Hume adopted much the same view of ideas, and argued in detail the claim that there are no objective essences of things nor, there Hobbesian fore, any objective causal necessities.25 Both thus agreed, formuch the
same sort of reason, that basic causal In any case, as the commentators usually make clear, the conventionality

alities. Hume also defended what we have seen to be the Hobbesian view, derived from Bacon, that such judgments are established by the methods of eliminative induction, or, as Hume called them, the "rules by which to judge of causes and effects."26 But Hume gave up the whole idea that science should somehow have demonstration as its goal. Locke had devel oped the empiricist ontology and epistemology far enough that by Hume's day itwas no longer implausible to hold that our capacity to come tomake
reasonable causal judgments has an empirical and contingent basis rather


are matter

of fact


than the a priori demonstrations of traditional scientia.21 This meant that Hume did not feel constrained, as Hobbes apparently felt constrained, to locate such necessity as causation has in the notion of a demonstrative science. And so, according toHume what distinguishes causal propositions from others is indeed their necessity. But it is neither the ontological and the rationalists, nor the conventional necessity of the Aristotelians ofHobbes. It is rather the simply psychological necessity of being necessity moved tomake such inferences as a matter of habit induced, in the first tion to the basic empiricist position ofHobbes proved in the longer run a more congenial account of the (non-objective) necessity of causal judgments.29 University of Toronto
instance, by the observation of constant conjunctions.28 This Humean altera

Received August

8, 1995



1. A. E. Taylor, Thomas Hobbes Archibald Constable & Co, 1908). (London: 2. F. Copleston, vol. 5 ["Modern The ofModern History Philosophy, Philosophy: British to Payley"] Pt. I ["Hobbes NY: (Garden Philosophers"], Books, City, Image 1964). Doubleday, 3. J. W son, inW 1973). N. Watkins, Hobbes's System of Ideas, Second Edition (London: Hutchin

Elements the First Section, Hobbes, of Philosophy, Body, Concerning Works vol. I (London: John Molesworth, ed., The English of Thomas Hobbes, are to this work. otherwise references 1839). Unless Bohn, noted, pages 5. Cf. J. Weinberg, in his Abstraction, Induction Relation, "Induction," (Madison, WI: University ofWisconsin 1965). Press, 6. Cf. (Oxford: 7. The vol. G. H. Blackwell, von Wright, 1957). The Logical Problem of Induction, trans. John Second Edition Robert

4. Thomas

Stoothoff and Dugald Murdoch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985),

II, p. 125. 8. Ibid. 9. For and details, in E. 1994). Meditations, III, trans. L. Lafleur, in L. Bobbs-Merrill, 1964), J. Lafleur, trans., p. 97ff. see F Wilson, "The Rationalist Response J. Kremer, ed., The Great Arnauld to Aristotle (Toronto: in Descartes University of



of Descartes,


Arnauld," Toronto Press, 10. See Descartes:


Philosophical Essays (Indianapolis: 11. Cottingham et al., II, p. 74. 12. Meditations, trans. Lafleur, p. 98. Ibid., p. 100. 14. Cottingham et al., II, p. 75. 15. For an extended discussion see C. M. vol. Gillespie, 27 (1914), "The


of Antisthenes, and vol.

and 28

the evidence Archiv pp.


Philosophie, Gillespie Protagoras. Gillespie and those 16. All McKeon 17. See, attribution Antisthenes. 18. See 19. See Bk. I, Ch. 20. nauld," brated which a In

Logic pp. 479-500

of Antisthenes,"


his der of


f?r Geschichte 20-38.

carefully also

distinguishes an

the views

of Antisthenes between Basic

from the relativism the views Works of Antisthenes


interesting are


of Hobbes. quotations (New York: from Aristotle Random House, from The of Aristotle, ed. R. 1941).

for example, but which Theaetetus J. S. Mill, II, sec. 5.

251A-B and 252 C where views are stated without Sophist as those attributed seem to be the same to by Aristotle 202 A ff. System of Logic, Eighth Edition (London: Longmans, 1872),

F Wilson, "The there is a detailed

Rationalist textual

is clearly to be found in Aristotle, and that it was the notion of science to the rationalism was of Descartes to be a response. and Arnauld intended It is clear that what Hobbes was a student he was at Oxford was taught when of Aristotle. He rejected all this teaching, and later scoffed at in The English vol. Ill, p. 670) (Leviathan, Works, "Aristotelity" the jargon of "vain philosophy" that the "natural (p. 674); he argued was rather a dream than science" [of the Greeks] (p. 668), and dismissed diet


to Aristotle in Descartes and Ar Response as here adum that shows the scheme

thoroughgoing the University's tricked out with


the "error of separated of Aristotle" religion, he was

he said was (p. 675), which as the source of "absurdities" "built (p. 675) on

the vain in natural

essences" (p. 674),

philosophy philosophy, universities

In this condemnation and politics. of the Aristotelity of the and Bishop Butler; joined by other critics such as Clarendon see Strickland in H. E. Salter of Oxford," "The University and M. D. Lobel, Gibson, Oxford University (London: eds., Victoria History Press, of the County of Oxford 1954), vol. Ill, p. 270.

or the De see Mark the De partibus naturalibus H. Curtis, and anima; Oxford in Transition: 1558-1642 Oxford University (London: Press, 1959), p. Cambridge 91. The tutors would add supplementary texts, as they did at Cam presumably in natural these might include Toletus' Commen {ibid., p. Ill); bridge philosophy, . . . in octo libros Aristotelis taria and Giacomo Zabarella's De rebus naturalibus libri XXX P. Reif, History were see textbooks available {ibid.). Other (for this tradition, commonly in Natural Tradition "The Textbook Journal 1600-1650," of the Philosophy, vol. 30 [1969], and also L. Thorndyke, "The Cursus pp. 17-32; of Ideas, before Descartes," Archive Internationales d'Histoire des Sciences, of course many variations in this tradition, pp. 16-24). There were was an The essential textbook and Aristotelian tradition held, core that with

a student, were was when such as Hobbes he was to study, Bachelors, expected as part of their course of instruction, natural For the latter they were philosophy. to read Aristotle's the De c?elo et mundi, and the De meteoris, supposed Physics,

Philosophicus vol. 4 [1951], but there inaccurately.

certain, universal, tion" (Reif, p. 21); trying 'occult' "to resolve

or simply qualities tradition to which Hobbes, modern tradition, objected.

and unchanging knowledge further, like Aristotle, their difficulties by resorting 'nature'" And {ibid.).

not the textbooks represented in that "science consists Aristotle, achieved demonstra through causal the textbook tradition often ended up to such aspects and Locke, as pseudo-explanations of the Aristotelian

It is these

like Descartes, Arnauld, it is, therefore, these

to, albeit briefly, characterize. Again, in Descartes alist Response to Aristotle 21.

the rest of the early that I am here trying aspects see Wilson, for greater "The Ration detail, and Arnauld." and Insight and Argument in Aristotle's (Assen, The that for

Cf. L. A. Kosman, 'Understanding, Explanation et al., eds., Exegesis in H. N. Lee Analytics," Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1973), pp. 374-92: Posterior "Prima thing, it being facie. but . some .understanding other thing, the why namely

the case.

of something is not understanding its cause, is responsible that which

of what leads Aristotle "Any account its causes must begin with knowing For itmust understand 'cause'

in question, itself under that description which reveals but to the entity . ..The scientific certain of its kath auto predicates. why in terms of which is simply is defined in question. the nature of the phenomenon understanding . ..The a why question more to understand is thus an attempt fully the asking nature of the phenomenon being explained" (p. 376). 22. Second D. Hume, Edition Enquiry (Oxford: Human ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge, concerning Knowledge, Clarendon 1892), p. 25, p. 163. Press, to say, as Lesher "The it is quite wrong does [James H. Lesher, in the Posterior vol. 18 (1973), pp. 44-68], Phronesis, Analytics,"

to identify understanding and something the defeat ofthat prima facie expectation. to refer not to something other than the entity

23. This is why o?NOUS Meaning that "If. . .we mean world nous in an a priori as intuition"

it of sense experience from which innate, but acquired only after a certain amount is abstracted; of abstraction to Lesher, but the product ofthat process is, contrary a rational structure in sense as such. intuition that is not given of a necessary

a faculty which the about acquires by 'intuition' knowledge to think of the Aristotelian then itwill be inappropriate manner, is not to Aristotle, (p. 64). To be sure, the knowledge, according



Discourse trans. of the on Method, P. J. Olscamp role of the in Discourse (Indianapolis: experimental Response Hume on Method, Optics, Geome 1965), Cartesian and pp. Bobbs-Merrill, methods to Aristotle and in the

24. See Descartes, try, and Meteorology, 37-38, p. 52. For a discussion see philosophy, Arnauld." (Oxford:

F. Wilson,

"The Rationalist

in Descartes

25. Cf. T. Beauchamp and A. Rosenberg, Oxford University 1981). Press, 26. D. Hume, Treatise 1888), Press,

the Problem

of Causation (Oxford: science, Oxford see F

to empirical discussion of the transition from scientia in the Theory "The Lockean in S. Revolution of Science," Wilson, G. Moyal, eds., Early Modern Philosophy. Epistemololgy, Metaphysics and also "Critical Review of (New York: Caravan Press), pp. 65-97; Journal Canadian vol. 8 of Probability," of Philosophy, Emergence 97. 28. Cf. F. Wilson, and W pp. 661-94. 29. Wilson, Robison, and 101-20; For an

University 27. For

Nature, ed., L. A. of Human Bk. I, Part III, sec. 15.


and Tweyman and Politics I. Hacking, (1978), pp. The 587

in D. F. Norton, N. Capaldi, "Hume's ofMental Activity," Theory Hill Press, Hume Studies Austin (San Diego: eds., McGill 1979), "Hume's of Causal Defence vol. 22 (1983), pp. Inference," Dialogue, discussion Worlds and defence of the Humean D. Reidel, position, 1986). see F.

extended and Other