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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

Gordon Hull

University of North Carolina at Charlotte - Department of Philosophy

Date Written: September 14, 2011

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Hull, Gordon, Building Better Citizens: Hobbes against the Ontological Illusion (September 14, 2011). Epoche 20:1 (2015), 105-129. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1927305 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1927305

Gordon Hull (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina at Charlotte - Department of Philosophy ( email )

9201 University City Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28223
United States

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