The Fate of Nebuchadnezzar: Curiosity and Human Nature in Hobbes

Hobbes Studies 27 (1):13-34 (2014)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

This paper makes a case for the centrality of the passion of curiosity to Hobbes’s account of human nature. Hobbes describes curiosity as one of only a few capacities differentiating human beings from animals, and I argue that it is in fact the fundamen- tal cause of humanity’s uniqueness, generating other important difference-makers such as language, science and politics. I qualify Philip Pettit’s (2008) claim that Hobbes believes language to be the essence of human difference, contending that Pettit grants language too central a place in Hobbes’s psychology. Language is, for Hobbes, a tech- nology adopted on account of curiosity. Further, curiosity is necessary not only for linguistic but also for scientific activity. Only after what he calls original knowledge has been gathered are names employed to generate the conditional propositions that con- stitute science. Finally, curiosity can resolve another puzzle of Hobbesian psychology that Pettit leaves unanswered: our tendency towards strife. Hobbes believes that inso- far as human beings have an implacable hunger for knowledge of the future, we are unable to rest content with present gains and must always aspire to secure the best possible outcome for ourselves.

Similar books and articles

Hobbes, Language and Philip Pettit.Hannah Dawson - 2009 - Hobbes Studies 22 (2):219-230.
Hobbes on Language: Propositions, Truth, and Absurdity.Stewart Duncan - 2016 - In A. P. Martinich & Kinch Hoekstra (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Thomas Hobbes. Oxford University Press. pp. 57-72.
Hume on Curiosity.Axel Gelfert - 2013 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 21 (4):711-732.
Hobbes's logic: language and scientific method.Willem R. De Jong - 1986 - History and Philosophy of Logic 7 (2):123-142.
Hobbes, History, and Non-domination.Alan Cromartie - 2009 - Hobbes Studies 22 (2):171-177.
Hobbes.Aloysius Martinich - 1989 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 27 (1):636-637.
Una guía bibliográfica para el estudio de la filosofía del lenguaje en Thomas Hobbes.Carolina Rodríguez Rodríguez - 2005 - Logos. Anales Del Seminario de Metafísica [Universidad Complutense de Madrid, España] 8:101-109.
Reflections on Skinner and Pettit.Ian Shapiro - 2009 - Hobbes Studies 22 (2):185-191.

Analytics

Added to PP
2014-06-19

Downloads
1,553 (#6,793)

6 months
482 (#3,309)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Kathryn Tabb
Bard College

Citations of this work

Curiosity and fear transformed: from religious to religion in Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan.Alissa MacMillan - 2018 - International Journal of Philosophy and Theology 80 (3):287-302.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Hobbes.George Macdonald Ross - 1987 - Philosophical Books 28 (4):211-213.

Add more references