Volume 60, Issue 1, Winter 2016
The Power of the Monstrous
The Monstrosity of Matter in Motion
Galileo, Descartes, and Hobbes’s Political Epistemology
Along the path opened by Galileo’s mechanics, early modern mechanical philosophy provided the metaphysical framework in which ‘matter in motion’ underwent a process of reduction to mathematical description and to physical explanation. The struggle against the monstrous contingency of matter in motion generated epistemological monsters in the domains of both the natural and civil science. In natural philosophy Descartes’s institution of Reason as a disembodied subject dominated the whole process. In political theory it was Hobbes who opposed the artificial unity of the body politic to the monstrous multiplicity of the multitude. Through a parallel analysis of the basic structure of Descartes’s and Hobbes’s enterprises, this article explains in which sense Hobbes’s peculiar form of materialism is in fact to be considered a surreptitious reduction of materialism to its ideological counterpart, Cartesian dualism, and to its implicit political-pedagogical project.