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Title: Mechanicism as science and ideology: Hobbe's epistemological revolution in civil science
Authors: Bardin, Andrea
Advisors: Del Lucchese, Filippo
Keywords: Materialism and political theory;Hobbes and Descartes;Hobbes and Plato;Liberty, determinism and sovereignty;Hobbes politics and rhetoric
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Brunel University London
Abstract: In the seventeenth century a new science of motion emerged that later developed into what we call today classical mechanics. The epistemology of early modern mechanics was split between technical experimentation and mathematical formalisation. ‘Mechanicism’, Cartesianism in primis, was a philosophical project to both preserve the theoretical and technical efficacy of this science and integrate it into a new world picture. In this historical context mechanical philosophy therefore played a double role. On the one hand it was part of a revolutionary event opening new frontiers for materialist thought. On the other hand, as a world picture, it originated a new ideological framework for metaphysical dualism. This thesis uses this historical and philosophical background to radically reconsider the political theory of Thomas Hobbes. During the 1640s Hobbes’s scientia civilis progressively incorporated the dualistic epistemology of Descartes’s mechanicism into materialist philosophy by privileging one of the two structural features of modern science: the tendency towards ‘deduction’ rather than experimentation. This philosophical gesture, simultaneously epistemological and ideological, had considerable political consequences. For this reason Hobbes’s political theory will be read as an ideological response to the non-geometrical and non-mechanical functioning of ‘matter’, including ‘human matter’, evidenced by the threatening experimental practices carried on during the first half of the seventeenth century in both the Galilean science of nature and the English Civil War. My wider hypothesis is that this profoundly idealistic agenda still informs our understanding of nature and of the body politic. It reduces the open method of science to the outdated metaphysical picture of it provided by Descartes, and suffocates politics itself by neutralising the emergence of political conflict and experimentation, labelling them as not only inessential but also dangerous to the body politic. On the contrary, philosophical materialism invites us to understand the self-organising tendency of matter as an undeniable risk implicit in the functioning of all systems, the social system included.
Description: This thesis was submitted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy and was awarded by Brunel University London
Appears in Collections:History
Dept of Politics, History and Law Theses

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