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Article: Hobbes on Mind: Practical Deliberation, Reasoning, and Language

Updated: Jun 22, 2021

Abstract: Readers of Hobbes usually take his account of practical deliberation to be a passive process that does not respond to agents’ judgements about what normative reasons they have. This is ostensibly because deliberation is purely conative and/or excludes reasoning, or because Hobbesian reasoning is itself a process in which reasoners merely experience a succession of mental states (e.g. according to purely associative mental structures). I argue to the contrary that for Hobbes deliberation (and hence the basis for voluntary action) is not purely conative and amongst humans it involves reasoning. Furthermore, while non-linguistic reasoning is passive, specifically linguistic reasoning is for Hobbes an active process in which reasoners affirm propositions from which they reason. The historical significance of Hobbes’s new account of agency lies in his attempt, in deploying the tool of language, to weld a materialist determinism to a cognitive account of practical deliberation that can involve reasoning and be reason-responsive.

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