Thomas Hobbes’ Understanding of Scientific Knowledge

Thomas Hobbes’ Understanding of Scientific Knowledge

June 28, 2021 Off By Felso

It is clear that science is entirely based on phenomena. Phenomena produce images, images are translated into words, and their correlation in speech makes science possible. Although it is possible to test the propositions of science in experience, Hobbes does not display a purely empiricist attitude in science.

What Hobbes says about philosophy or science is to draw conclusions from first principles. Although he accepts induction in the knowledge of principles, what he emphasizes as an indicator of the scientific process is the validation of results by demonstration. The principles that are the starting point of inference are definition propositions. Definitions are nothing more than explanations of the meanings of words. A definition is a proposition that analyzes its predicate subject. Definitions are the only principles of demonstration, and these definitions themselves cannot be proved. They are conventionally established and the conclusions drawn from them are not obligatory.

In this case, there is a separation between scientific propositions and the factual world, and there is no guarantee about the applicability of scientific propositions to reality. Hobbes’ nominalism, then, comes down to a skepticism between science and the factual world. According to Hobbes; “Reasoning depends on names, names on imagination, and imagination on the movements of the bodily organs.” That is, reasoning only expresses the relations between words. Thus, Hobbes’ nominalism covers the propositions that are the main carrier of knowledge as well as universal concepts. However, according to Hobbes, whether we proceed from cause to effect or from effect to cause; however, the fact remains true that information on possible effects or causes is available. Accordingly, the only certain knowledge is knowledge of the meanings of propositions; If A points to B and A is true, then B is true. Yet we cannot be absolutely certain that causal relationships are what we actually think of them.

The starting point of the inference is the definition propositions. Definitions are explanations of words. A proposition that analyzes its predicate subject is called a definition.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook