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Passion's Triumph over ReasonA History of the Moral Imagination from Spenser to Rochester$
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Christopher Tilmouth

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199212378

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199212378.001.0001

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Hobbes: Fear, Power, and the Passions

Hobbes: Fear, Power, and the Passions

(p.213) 6 Hobbes: Fear, Power, and the Passions
Passion's Triumph over Reason

Christopher Tilmouth (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents Hobbes as a philosopher who overturned prevailing assumptions about the passions, abandoning, in particular, the ideals on which psychomachia was based. Hobbes casts the passions as natural and thus proper determinants of behaviour, measures of self-interest which (rather than eschewing) man should rightfully embrace. These passions are related to a kinetic idea of happiness, the precept that felicity consists in a constant motion from one appetite to the next. Hobbes conceives of reason, not as a transcendent faculty, policing actions in the light of absolute moral principles, but as an instrumental faculty, the function of which is to optimize the fulfilment of as many appetites as possible. The alleviation of fear of others' random aggression is critical to this process, which is why instrumental reason advocates the creation of a civil society headed by a sovereign so terrifying that none will disobey his laws.

Keywords:   passions as natural, self-interest, felicity, motion, instrumental reason, sovereign

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