Hobbes, Signification, and Insignificant Names

Hobbes Studies 24 (2):158-178 (2011)
Abstract
The notion of signification is an important part of Hobbes's philosophy of language. It also has broader relevance, as Hobbes argues that key terms used by his opponents are insignificant. However Hobbes's talk about names' signification is puzzling, as he appears to have advocated conflicting views. This paper argues that Hobbes endorsed two different views of names' signification in two different contexts. When stating his theoretical views about signification, Hobbes claimed that names signify ideas. Elsewhere he talked as if words signified the things they named. Seeing this does not just resolve a puzzle about Hobbes's statements about signification. It also helps us to understand how Hobbes's arguments about insignificant speech work. With one important exception, they depend on the view that names signify things, not on Hobbes's stated theory that words signify ideas. The paper concludes by discussing whether arguments about insignificant speech can provide independent support for Hobbes's views about other issues, such as materialism
Keywords Hobbes  language  signification  materialism
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DOI 10.1163/187502511X597685
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Similar books and articles
Stewart Duncan (forthcoming). Hobbes, Universal Names, and Nominalism. In Stefano Di Bella & Tad M. Schmaltz (eds.), Universals in Modern Philosophy. Oxford University Press
Gordon Hull (2006). Hobbes's Radical Nominalism. Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy 11 (1):201-223.
Stewart Duncan (2010). Leibniz on Hobbes's Materialism. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 41 (1):11-18.
Stewart Duncan (2016). Hobbes on Language: Propositions, Truth, and Absurdity. In A. P. Martinich & Kinch Hoekstra (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Hobbes. Oxford University Press 57-72.
Walter R. Ott (2002). Locke and Signification. Journal of Philosophical Research 27:449-473.
Stewart Duncan (2005). Hobbes's Materialism in the Early 1640s. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 13 (3):437 – 448.

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