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

Arash Abizadeh: ‘Hobbes on Mind: Practical Deliberation, Reasoning, and Language’, Journal of the History of Philosophy, 55 (2017), pp. 1-34.

Abstract: Readers of Hobbes usually take his account of practical deliberation to be a passive process that does not respond to agents’ judgments 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. I argue that, for Hobbes, deliberation (the basis for voluntary action) is not purely conative and among humans it involves reasoning. Furthermore, while non-linguistic reasoning is passive, specifically linguistic reasoning is an active process in which reasoners affirm propositions from which they reason. The historical significance of Hobbes’s account of agency lies in his attempt, by appealing to the artificial tool of language, to weld a materialist determinism to a cognitive account of practical deliberation that can involve reasoning and be reason-responsive.