Hobbes considers speech — names and their connections — as invention: ‘The most noble and profitable invention’ (EW Will, 18.)1 Speech separates man from the beast, without it there would be no commonwealth and, consequently, no peace. Also, there would be no science and little art. In Leviathan, Hobbes says, ‘The general use of speech, is to transfer our mental discourse, into verbal’ (ibid.). This makes for two benefits which provide a neat distinction between ‘mark’ and ‘sign’. Marks serve the memory of the user; they need not be words nor need they be known to other than him who uses them to remember. Marks suggest the benefit of language including signs, as a mnemotechnical device. Signs have the function of communication. The greater complexity of using signs is suggested by its function. Communication involves the connection and ordering of words one to another with attention to systematic exactness and agreed upon meaning. From the use of language proceed both specific political benefits and entertainments; and, with each of these a corresponding possibility for abuse.


Human Functioning Civil Code Public Dimension Moral Language Systematic Exactness 
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  1. 1.
    Cf. EW II, 305: ‘The explication of words, whereby the matter inquired after is propounded, is conducive to knowledge; the only way to know is by definition’.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    M. Robbe, ‘Zu Problemen der Sprachphilosophie bei Hobbes’, Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie vol. 8 (1960), pp. 433–450.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Hobbes’s tendency is constantly to centralize power and authority in the sovereign. Scientific or mathematical teaching seldom enters the arena of the state’s sanction — yet, even here, Hobbes is open to the force of authorization. Cf. EW III, 164–65: ‘And though in matters of doctrine, nothing ought to be regarded but the truth; yet this is not repugnant to regulating the same by peace. For doctrine is repugnant to peace, can no more be true, than peace and concord can be against the law of nature … It belongeth therefore to him who hath wovereign power, to be judge, or constitute all judges of opinions and doctrines, as a thing necessary to peace; thereby to prevent discord and civil war’. Cf. M.A. Bertman, ‘Hobbes Use of ‘Good’’, Southwestern Journal of Philosophy vol. 6 (July, 1953), pp. 59–74.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    R. Polin, Politique et Philosophie chez Hobbes (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1953), p. 7.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    R. Peters, Hobbes, (Baltimore: Penguin, 1956), p. 152.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    R. Descartes, Meditations, p. V.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    E. Cassirer, The Philosophy of Symbolic Form: Language Vol. 1 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953), p. 153.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    D. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature. Bk. III. Pt. 1. Sect. 1.Google Scholar
  9. 10a.
    A.E. Taylor tries to impute the separated existence in Hobbes of a theory of psychological egoism and a Kantian deontological ethics. Cf. ‘The Ethical Doctrines of Hobbes’, in K. Brown (ed.) Hobbes Studies (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965), p. 53:Google Scholar
  10. 10b.
    ‘And I conceive Hobbes’s religion … consisted, as Kant’s did, almost exclusively in the discharge of the duties of every day morality with an accompanying sense of their transcending obligatoriness’. Compare the more qualifying statement of the ‘Taylor Thesis’ in respect to Kant by H. Warrender, The Political Philosophy of Hobbes (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1957), pp. 222–233, passim.. Of course I disagree with this thesis, but its exponents have made as much detailed comparison between Kant and Hobbes as one might suppose they would, especially in terms of the logical basis of their argumentation.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    R. Hönigswald, ‘Uber Thomas Hobbes’s Oxforder Nominalismus’, Analysen und Problemen Band II, (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1959).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers (Kluwer Academic Publishers), Dordrecht 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin A. Bertman
    • 1
  1. 1.State University of New YorkPotsdamUSA

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