Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Hobbes: Ordinary Language Philosopher

"There is yet another fault in the discourses of some men; which may also be numbered amongst the sorts of madness; namely, that abuse of words, whereof I have spoken before in the fifth chapter, by the name of absurdity. And that is, when men speak such words, as put together, have in them no signification at all; but are fallen upon by some, through misunderstanding of the words they have received, and repeat by rote; by others from intention to deceive by obscurity. And this is incident to none but those, that converse in questions of matters incomprehensible, as the schoolmen, or in questions of abstruse philosophy. The common sort of men seldom speak insignificantly, and are therefore by those other egregious persons are counted idiots. But to be assured, their words are without anything correspondent to them in the mind, there would need some examples; which if any man require, let him take a schoolman in his hands and see if he can translate any one chapter concerning any difficult point, as the Trinity; the Deity; the nature of Christ; transubstantiation; free-will, &c., into any of the modern tongues, so as to make the same intelligible; or into any tolerable Latin, such as they were acquainted withal, that lived when the Latin tongue was vulgar. What is the meaning of these words, "The first cause does not necessarily inflow anything into the second, by force of the essential subordination of the second causes, by which it may help to work?" They are the translation of the title of the sixth chapter of Suarez' first book, "Of the concourse, motion, and help of God." When men write whole volumes of such stuff, are they not mad, or intend to make others so? " (From the Leviathan)

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