Agents, Objects and Their Powers in Suarez and Hobbes

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8 Citations (Scopus)


The paper examines the place of power in the action theories of Francisco Suarez and Thomas Hobbes. Power is the capacity to produce or determine outcomes. Two cases of power are examined. The first is freedom or the power of agents to determine for themselves what they do. The second is motivation, which involves a power to which agents are subject, and by which they are moved to pursue a goal. Suarez, in the Metaphysical Disputations, uses Aristotelian causation to model these two forms of power. Freedom is efficient causation, but in a special form that I explain as involving something that ordinary causation does not–the contingent determination of outcomes. Motivating power is final causation, which Suarez characterizes as the power of a goal or end to move us to attain it through its goodness or desirability. Suarez regards these two forms of power as consistent–we can be moved by the goodness of a goal freely to determine for ourselves that we act in order to attain it. Hobbes denied the existence of all forms of power beyond ordinary causation, the power of one motion in matter to determine another. So he denied the very existence both of freedom and of any form of motivating power beyond the ordinary causal power of desires as materially based psychological states to produce actions. The goodness itself of a goal never moves us, whether to desire the goal in the first place or to act in order to attain it. The paper examines Hobbes’s arguments and their consequence–establishing the foundations for Hume’s scepticism about practical reason.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhilosophy of Action from Suarez to Anscombe
EditorsConstantine Sandis
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9780367510220
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2020

Publication series

NamePhilosophical Explorations
ISSN (Print)1386-9795


  • Hobbes
  • Suarez
  • agency
  • efficient causation
  • final causation
  • freedom
  • motion
  • motivation
  • power


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