Building Better Citizens: Hobbes against the Ontological Illusion
Epoche 20:1 (2015), 105-129
31 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2011 Last revised: 20 Dec 2016
Date Written: September 14, 2011
By way of a discussion of the demonology chapter in Leviathan, this paper analyzes Hobbes’s political arguments against what I call the “ontological illusion,” the constitutive human tendency to take presentations of the imagination as extramental entities. Hobbes’s claim, made primarily in part four of Leviathan, is that managing this tendency is critical for the stability of the state. The first section describes the psychology of fear in Hobbes. The second describes the process of the ontological illusion and ties it to Hobbes’s discussion of demonology as a political problem. The third indicates the importance of witchcraft persecutions to Hobbes, particularly given Leviathan’s target audience. The fourth brings all of these together to emphasize the reasons why Hobbes thinks witchcraft persecutions, which elevate the ontological illusion to state policy and in so doing evidence the mismanagement of human passions, are disastrous policy.
Keywords: Hobbes, fear, demonology, witchcraft, imagination
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