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Title: The ancient notion of self-preservation in the theories of Hobbes and Spinoza
Author: Jacobs, Justin B.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2708 2237
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2011
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Over the course of four sections this PhD examines the ways in which the Aristotelian, Stoic and Epicurean philosophers portray bodily activity. In particular, it argues that their claims regarding bodies' natural tendency to preserve themselves, and seek out the goods capable of promoting their well-being, came to influence Hobbes's and Spinoza's later accounts of natural, animal and social behaviour. The first section presents the ancient accounts of natural and animal bodily tendencies and explores the specific ways in which the Aristotelian, Stoic and Epicurean views on animal desires came to complement and diverge from each other. After investigating the perceived links between natural philosophy, psychology and ethics, the section proceeds to consider how the ancients used this 'unified' view of nature to guide their accounts of the soul's primary appetites and desires. Also examined is the extent to which civil society is portrayed as a means of securing the individual against others, and how Aristotelian philia, Theophrastian oikeiotês and Stoic oikeiōsis came to stand in opposition to the fear-driven and compact-based accounts of social formation favoured by the Epicureans. The second section considers how the ancient accounts of impulsive behaviour and social formation were received and diffused via new editions of ancient texts, eclectic readings of Aristotle, and the attempts of Neostoic and Neoepicurean authors to update and systematise those philosophies from the late sixteenth century onwards. The particular treatments of Hellenistic thought by authors such as Justus Lipsius, Hugo Grotius and Pierre Gassendi are considered in detail and are placed within the context of the growing trend to use Stoic and Epicurean thought to replace the authority of Aristotle in the areas of science, psychology, and politics. The final two sections are devoted respectively to considering the ways in which Hobbes and Spinoza encountered the Hellenistic accounts of bodies and demonstrating how these earlier accounts came to feature in each of their own discussions of bodily tendencies. Engaging with a wide range of their texts, each section develops the many nuances and contours that emerged as both writers developed and fine-tuned their accounts of bodily actions. This reveals the many ways in which the ancient accounts of self-preservation helped to unify large aspects of Hobbes's and Spinoza's own philosophical corpus, while equally showing how a well-developed account of bodily tendencies might challenge the scholastic worldview and expand further the boundaries of the so-called 'New Science'.
Supervisor: Brett, Annabel S Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Hobbes ; Spinoza ; Stoics ; Aristotle ; Grotius ; Epicureans ; Self-preservation ; Ethics ; Political thought ; State of nature ; Action ; Pleasure ; Oikeiosis ; Philia ; Love ; Self-love ; Other-love ; Seventeenth century ; Ancient philosophy ; Sixteenth