EXORCIZING DEMONS: THOMAS HOBBES AND BALTHASAR BEKKER ON SPIRITS AND RELIGION

Alissa Macmillan
2014 Philosophica   unpublished
Thomas Hobbes devotes several chapters of Leviathan to a careful critique of belief in, and the uses and abuses of, demons, ghosts, and spirits. But his broader views on religion remain one of the more contested areas of his thought, leaving his role in the 'Radical Enlightenment' unclear. A thoroughgoing opposition to demons and ghosts was also one of the primary objectives of Dutch theologian Balthasar Bekker, a figure whose central role in the historical narrative on atheism is well defended
more » ... and accounted for in Jonathan Israel's Radical Enlightenment. Bekker was loudly declared an atheist of the worst sort, that is, of the Hobbesian or Spinozist sort. This paper engages an analysis and comparison of their respective treatments of demons and ghosts, elucidating several of the real differences in their views, and arguing that Hobbes's critique of religion, one on the surface one quite similar in spirit to that of Bekker, is indeed the more 'radical' when considered in light of their distinctive epistemologies, arguments for God, and the main thrust of their projects. Alongside Bekker, the innovative elements of Hobbes's critique of religion become especially clear. 14 A. MACMILLAN
fatcat:notrzwo4sjfuboo7mpkypecbxu