all the angel’d syllables (uncounted)

July 24, 2013 § Leave a comment

all-the-240713

Experimental philosophers, as we have repeatedly stressed in previous posts on this blog, regarded Francis Bacon as their progenitor and promoted observation and experiment and decried speculation and the use of hypotheses and premature system building.

It is of great interest, therefore, to find elements of the method of experimental natural philosophy being applied as early as 1670 in an attack on Thomas Hobbes’ doctrine of the state of nature. The divine Thomas Tenison in his The Creed of Mr Hobbes examined, London, 1670, attacked Hobbes’ doctrine of the state of nature for being the product of Hobbes’ own imagination. Hobbes postulated in his Leviathan (1651) that before the existence of civil society all people were in a state of ‘warre, as is of every man, against every man’’ in which life is ‘solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short’. Here is how Tenison attacks him:

It is a very absurd and unsecure course to lay the ground-work of all civil Polity and formed Religion, upon such a supposed state of Nature, as hath no firmer support than the contrivance of your own fancy.

For Tenison, it is one thing for the various competing cosmological hypotheses of Ptolemy, Tycho, Copernicus and Descartes to be entertained, for, even if none of these happens to be true, ‘the interests of Men remain secure’. But it is another thing entirely to found the doctrines of civil, moral and Christian philosophy on ‘Hypotheses, framed by the imagination’.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Matthew Stone

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