Article: Hobbes on the function of evaluative speech

Thomas Holden: ‘Hobbes on the function of evaluative speech’, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 46, 1 (2016)

Abstract: Hobbes’s interpreters have struggled to find a plausible semantics for evaluative language in his writings. I argue that this search is misguided. Hobbes offers neither an account of the reference of evaluative terms nor a theory of the truth-conditions for evaluative statements. Rather, he sees evaluative language simply as having the non-representational function of prescribing actions and practical attitudes, its superficially representational appearance notwithstanding. I marshal the evidence for this prescriptivist reading of Hobbes on evaluative language and show how it sidesteps various textual and philosophical problems that bedevil the traditional interpretations.