Hobbes and the matter of self-consciousness

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Observing that René Descartes's dualistic philosophy haunts our conceptualization of matter, this essay argues that Thomas Hobbes develops a non-Cartesian materialism, which is to say that he articulates a materialism in which matter is not construed as essentially unthinking. Tracing his accounts of sense, perception, and thinking, this essay reconstructs Hobbes's account of self-consciousness and proposes that in a subject conceived as wholly embodied, self-knowledge or self-awareness takes the form of memory. The essay elaborates how Hobbes's account of self-consciousness as memory transforms our understanding both of the form taken by the subject's self-mastery and of the relationship between the individual and the collective. It concludes by speculating about the implications of this account for our understanding of Hobbes's theories of ethics and politics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)495-517
Number of pages23
JournalPolitical Theory
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2005


  • Descartes
  • Hobbes
  • Materialism
  • Memory
  • Self-consciousness
  • Subjectivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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