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Thomas Hobbes on Sense

  1. Jan 20, 2005 #1

    Math Is Hard

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    Thomas Hobbes on "Sense"

    Hi, I could use a hand with this.

    I am not clear on how Thomas Hobbes (in Leviathan, Part I - Of Man) is explaining the cause of certain senses.

    My book explains it this way:

    "According to Hobbes, sensations are caused by the pressure of external objects on the sensory organs. In the case of taste and touch this pressure is direct, whereas in the case of hearing, vision and smell, the sensation is transmitted via motions in the surrounding air."

    My question is: if Hobbes is saying that motions in the air are transmitting the sensation, does he mean that the motions are pushing particles in the air around and then those particles in turn strike the sensory organs causing the sensation? Does anyone understand what is meant by "mediation" in the passage below?

    here's it is:
    Thanks,
    MIH :smile:
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 20, 2005 #2
    Mediation in this archaic context means the manner in which the nerves form the "middle man" between the exterior world and the perceptive centres of the mind.

    His notion of 'motions in the air' should not be taken literally (the writing is rather verbose and poetic after all) but rather refers to his acknowledgement of the difference in nature between things we can perceive at a distance, and those we must be in direct contact with.

    The mechanics of light and smell will not have been well known, if at all, in Hobbes' time, but in a very generalised way his manner of explaining them still holds true today.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2005
  4. Jan 20, 2005 #3

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    Thanks for your help - this is much clearer now. I had the wrong interpretation entirely.
     
  5. Jan 20, 2005 #4

    Les Sleeth

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    Hi MIH

    The only thing Hobbes was exactly correct about is sound perception, which is a vibration that communicates itself as air pressure variations. The idea of pressure seems close since sense receptors need to be stimulated. Rather than pressure dependent, I think Hobbes would have done better to generalize sense experience as vibrationally dependent.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2005
  6. Jan 20, 2005 #5

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    Thanks, Les. Hobbes is my least favorite of all the reading I've had to do.
     
  7. Jan 22, 2005 #6

    honestrosewater

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    Yeah, I couldn't stand The Leviathan. His style makes me want to :yuck: .
     
  8. Jan 22, 2005 #7

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    hee hee hee - yes, Rachel, I gotta agree. I am so OVER Hobbes. The only thing he's got going for him is that one of the "Calvin and Hobbes" characters was named for him, (I think). So he gets a "cool" point for that.
     
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