Concerning "men's affections to Godward": Hobbes on the First and Eternal Cause of All Things

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Philosophy Department

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Research Article

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Journal of the History of Philosophy

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In several places Hobbes gives what appears to be a version of the cosmological argument. According to one popular interpretation, these are not actually arguments at all, but are naturalistic descriptions of a psychological process. Advocates of this interpretation see this as an ironic criticism of religion, claiming that the psychological story implies that God is a human fiction; hence, it is evidence of Hobbes's atheism. Such interpretations are unsatisfactory. I argue for a novel, non-ironic psychological interpretation. Hobbes describes a process that does not justify belief in God, but nevertheless involves rational activity. It is psychologically impossible to withhold belief in a first cause while engaged in a certain kind of activity - reasoning correctly and profoundly about the natural world. But because this process is regulated by reason and method, the natural philosopher need not have any qualms about holding the belief.

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