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Several recent commentators argue that Thomas Hobbes’s account of the nature of science is conventionalist. Engaging in scientific practice on a conventionalist account is more a matter of making sure one connects one term to another properly rather than checking one’s claims, e.g., by experiment. In this paper, I argue that the conventionalist interpretation of Hobbesian science accords neither with Hobbes’s theoretical account in De corpore and Leviathan nor with Hobbes’s scientific practice in De homine and elsewhere. Closely tied to the conventionalist interpretation is the deductivist interpretation, on which it is claimed that Hobbes believed sciences such as optics are deduced from geometry. I argue that Hobbesian science places simplest conceptions as the foundation for geometry and the sciences in which we use geometry, which provides strong evidence against both the conventionalist and deductivist interpretations.


Publisher Acknowledgment

Pre-print version to be published in Hobbes Studies. The published version is available at the Hobbes Studies (Brill) online website:

Adams, Marcus P. 2014. “Hobbes, Definitions, and Simplest Conceptions,” Hobbes Studies 27 (1): 35-60 doi:10.1163/18750257-02701001