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Hobbes on the Reality of Time

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Hobbes insists that motion, which plays numerous important roles in his natural philosophy, presupposes time. But he seems to advance a reductionist, even idealist, conception of time itself. For example, he denies that time itself can measure motion; rather motion measures time. Indeed, time is ‘imaginary’ and only the present is strictly real. In various ways, these views of time threaten to undermine the ‘motionalist’ foundations of Hobbes’s mechanical philosophy. This paper aims to block these threats by developing a realist interpretation of Hobbesian time, analogous to his conception of ‘real space’. This real time serves as an objective framework for motion in Hobbes’s natural philosophy.

Affiliations: 1: Associate Professor of Philosophy, Macalester College, 1600 Grand Ave, St. Paul, mn USA,


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