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Sorin Sabou

Letter to the Romans, Nicomachean Ethics, and more

Hobbes On Bacon's Idols

Bacon’s Idols are referring to the way we use our minds; there are ‘four classes of idols that beset men’s minds’ (NO, 1.39): idols of the tribe, idols of the cave, idols of the market, idols of the theatre. Bacon does not use the term ‘idol’ in a religious sense (an image that represents a god), but simply as an image (from Greek eidolon).
In Leviathan Hobbes does not use the term ‘idols’ in this way; he use it in religious sense: ‘that is, consecrated, and made holy to those their idols;’ (Leviathan, 66); ‘an idol, or mere figment of the brain, may be personated; as were the gods of the heathen’ (Leviathan, 93). Even if Hobbes does not use the term ‘idol’ as Bacon does, he has something to say about people use their minds. The train of thoughts, or mental discourse, is of two sorts. The first is unguided, without design, and inconstant; the second is more constant; as being regulated by some desire, and design (Leviathan, 16).
It seems to me that he touches on some of them.
The particularities of everyones’ life are brought into play and have a saying about the way that individual interacts with the world (the idols of the cave): ‘for though the nature of that we conceive, be the same; yet the diversity of our reception of it, in respect of different constitution of body, and prejudices of opinion, gives every thing a tincture of our different passions’ (Leviathan, 25).
The idols of the marketplace are formed by men’s agreements and associations with each other; in Hobbes we see something about these when he talks about the considerations that are diversely named; the causes of absurd assertions are analyzed at page 28.
Every system leads to create a ‘fictitious staged world of its own’ (NO, 1.44).
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