Daily Archives: February 7, 2008

Item of the Day: Hobbes Tripos (1684), part 1

Full Title:

Hobbs’s Tripos, In Three Discourses: The first, Humane Nature, Or the Fundamental Elements of Policy. Being a Discovery of the Faculties, Acts and Passions of the Soul of Man, from their Original Causes, according to such Philosophical Principles as are not commonly known, or asserted. The second, De Corpore Politico, Or the Elements of Law, Moral and Politick, with Discourses upon several Heads, as of the Law of Nature, Oaths and Covenants; several kinds of Governments, with the Changes and revolution of them. The third, Of Liberty and Necessity; Wherein all Controversie, concerning Predestination, Election, Free-will, Grace, Merits, Reprobation, is fully decided and cleared. The Third Edition.

Written by Thomas Hobbes. Printed in London for Matt. Gilliflower, Henry Rogers, Booksellers in Westminster Hall, and Tho. Fox next the Fleece Tavern in Fleetstreet, and at the Angel in Westminster-Hall, 1684.

Chap. VI.

1. Of the Two kinds of Knowledge

2. Truth and Evidence Necessary to Knowledge

3. Evidence Defined

4. Science Defined.

5. Supposition defined.

6. Opinion defined.

7. Belief Defined.

8. Conscience defined.

9. Belief, in some Cases, no less from Doubt than Knowledge.

1. There is a Story somewhere, of one that pretends to have been miraculously cured of Blindness (wherewith he was born) by St. Albane or other Saints, at the Town of St. Albans; and that the Duke of Glocester being there, to be satisfied of the Truth of the Miracle, asking the Man, What Colour is this?  Who, by answering, It was Green, discovered himself, and was punished for a Counterfeit: for though by his sight newly received he might distinguish between Green, and Red, and all other Colours, as well as any that should interrogate him, yet he could not possible know at first Sight which of them was called Green, or Red, or by any other Name.  By this we may understand, there be two Kinds of Knowledge, whereof the one is nothing else but Sense, or Knowledge original, as I have said in the Beginning of the second Chapter, and Remembrance of the same; the other is called Science or Knowledge of the Truth of Propositions, and how Things are called; and it derived from Understanding.  Both of these Sorts are but Experience; the former being the Experience of the Effects of Things that work upon us from without; and the latter Experience Men have from the proper Use of Namesin Language: and all Experience being, as I have said, but Remembrance, all Knowledge is Remembrance: and of the former, the Register we keep in Books, is called History; But the Registers of the latter are called the Sciences.

2. There are two Things necessarily implied in this Word Knowledge; the one is Truth, the other Evidence: for what is not Truth can never be known.  For, let a Man say he knoweth a Thing so well, if the same shall afterwards appear false, he is driven to Confession, that it was not Knowledge, but Opinion.  Likewise, if the Truth be not evident, though a man holdeth it, yet is his Knowledge thereof no more than theirs who hold the contrary: for it Truth were enough to make it Knowledge, all Truth were known; which is not so.

3. What Truth is, hath been defined in the precedent Chapter; what Evidence is, I nowset down: and it is the Concomitance of a Mans Conception with the Wordsthat signifie such Conception in the Act of Ratiocination; for when a Man reasoneth with his Lips only, to which the Mind suggesteth only the Beginning, and followeth not the Words of his Mouth with the Conceptions of his Mind, out of Custom of so speaking; though he begin his Ratiocination with true Propositions, and proceed with certain Syllogisms, and thereby make always true Conclusions; yet are not his Conclusions evidence to him, for want of Concomitance of Conceptionwith his Words: for if the Words alone were sufficient, a Parrot might be taught as well to know Truth as to speak it.  Evidence is to Truth, as the Sap to the Tree, which so far as it creepeth along with Body and Branches, keepeth them alive; where it forsaketh them, they die: for this Evidence, which is Meaning with our Words, is the Life of Truth.

4. Knowledge therefore which we call Science, I define to be Evidence of Truth, from some Beginning of Principle of Sense: for the Truth of a Proposition is never evident, until we conceive the Meaning of the Words or Terms whereof it consisteth, which are always Conceptions, without the Thing that produced the same by our Senses.  The first Principle of Knowledge is, that we have such and such Conceptions; the second, that we have thus and thus named the Things whereof they are Conceptions; the third is, that we have joyned those Names in such Manner as to make true Propositions; the fourth and last is, that we have joyned those Propositions in such Manner as they be concluding, and the Truth of the Conclusion said to be known.  And of these two Kinds of Knowledge, whereof the former is Experience of Fact, and the later [sic] of Evidence of Truth; as the former, if it be great, is called Prudence, so the latter, if it be much, hath usually been called, both by Ancient and Modern writers, Sapience or Wisdom: and of this latter, Man only is capable; of the former, brute Beasts also participate.  [To be continued in next Friday’s post] 


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Filed under 1680's, Philosophy, Posted by Matthew Williams