Early Modern Philosophy

Thomas Hobbes

What was Hobbes’ solution to Descartes’ mind-body problem?

Hobbes played tennis until he was 75, rewrote his autobiography in Latin verse at the age of 84, and at 86 published translations of the Iliad and Odyssey in verse.

Hobbes could not make sense of René Descartes’ (1596–1650) idea of a thinking substance. He first criticized Descartes for confusing the thing that thinks with the action of thinking. And then, concerning the thing that thinks, Hobbes wrote that “a thinking thing is something corporeal. This is because it seems that the subjects of all actions are comprehensible only if they are conceived as corporeal or material.” What this amounted to in the history of metaphysics was that Hobbes solved the mind-body problem by denying that there existed a non-material substance of mind, because everything that existed had to be material.


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