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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 17, 2001

Communication, Conflict, and Reconciliation

Stephen Finn
Pages 57-66

Geometry and the Science of Morality in Hobbes

In the central chapters of Leviathan, Hobbes offers a demonstration of the "true doctrine of the laws of nature," which is identified with the "science of virtue and vice" and the "true moral philosophy." In his deduction of the laws of nature, Hobbes attempts to mimic the science of geometry, which he says is the "only science God had hitherto bestowed on mankind. "In this paper, I discuss some of the problems associated with Hobbes's application of the method of geometry to civil philosophy. After locating the root of these problems in Hobbes's in ability to recognize the distinction between formal and applied sciences, I discuss a possible solution. According to this solution, Hobbes's "science of morality" is considered to be a formal science that is applied to the world by an act of human creation.

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