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By Frederick Charles Copleston

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Extra resources for A History of Philosophy [Vol V]

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In so far as we can speak of him as deducing the State, he deduces it simply from the passions of man, without reference to metaphysical and transcendental considerations. In this sense his theory is thoroughly naturalistic in character. If Hobbes devotes a considerable part of the Leviathan to religious and ecclesiastical questions and problems, he does so in the interests of a defence of Erastianism, not in order to supply a metaphysical theory of the State. A great deal of the importance of Hobbes's theory is due to the fact that he tries to set political philosophy on its own feet, so to speak, connecting it, indeed, with human psychology and, in intention at least, with his general mechanistic philosophy, but cutting it adrift from metaphysics and theology.

But we have seen that his authoritarian ideas were not simply the result of a philosophical deduction; for they were greatly strengthened by his reflections on concrete historical events in his own country and by his fear and hatred of civil war. And, in general, he can be regarded as having discerned the great part played by power in the dynamics of political life and history. In this respect he can be called a 'realist'. And we can link him up with the Renaissance writer, Machiavelli. 1 But whereas the latter had been primarily concerned with political mechanics, with the means of attaining and preserving power, Hobbes provides a general political theory in which the concept of power and its function plays a supremely important part.

Moreover, it is evident that we have ideas of many things which are not perceptible by the senses. It follows, therefore, that we cannot legitimately deny the existence of a being simply because it cannot be perceived by the senses; nor are we entitled to say that a name which purports to connote an incorporeal object is necessarily devoid of significance. 'Were existence to be allowed to nothing, that doth not fall under corporeal sense, then must we deny the existence of soul and mind in ourselves and others, because we can neither feel nor see any such thing.

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