Alexandra Chadwick, ‘From soul to mind in Hobbes’s The Elements of Law’, History of European Ideas, online first.
Abstract: This paper examines the significance and originality of Hobbes’s use of ‘mind’, rather than ‘soul’, in his writings on human nature. To this end, his terminology in the discussion of the ‘faculties of the mind’ in The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic (1640) is considered in the context of English-language accounts of the ‘faculties of the soul’ in three widely-read works from the first half of the seventeenth century: Thomas Wright’s The Passions of the Minde in Generall (1604), Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), and Edward Reynolds’s A Treatise of the Passions and Faculties of the Soule of Man (1640). For Hobbes’s contemporaries, man’s soul conveyed God-like powers to human beings; for Hobbes this is a dangerous idea. Accordingly, he establishes a sharp divide between ‘soul’ and ‘mind’, understanding the two terms to be concerned with two very different things: one with soteriology, the other with mental abilities. Like his contemporaries, Hobbes thought that understanding the faculties reveals the way to live a good life. But unlike them, his moral and political philosophy relies on citizens accepting that they are not like God, rather than looking to restore the ‘divine’ within themselves.