Clockwork mechanisms were the most advanced technology in the seventeenth century. Hobbes believed that muscles and organs in the body were the equivalent of these: he frequently wrote about the ‘springs’ of action and the ‘wheels’ that move us.

[A little history of philosophy - Nigel Warburton, Chapter X]

What does "Springs of action" mean in the context?

1 Answer 1


It doesn't particularly mean anything - it is a way of illustrating that he thought that our bodies worked on mechanical principles like those found in clockwork. The quotation marks around springs are showing that it is the word that Hobbes used, and it doesn't really form a proper phrase with the words around it. It just says that he spoke of springs as being involved in human action.

  • 1
    Action has most likely shifted in meaning slightly since then, but it's related. It's more that every action must be driven by something, and he characterised what drives our actions as springs. It's not describing any characteristic of the spring, but rather the purpose the springs serve.
    – SamBC
    Mar 18, 2019 at 15:15

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .