"He is too froward, that will refuse a piece of coin that is current throughout the world, because it is not stamped after his own fancy."

— Hobbes, Thomas (1588-1679)

Place of Publication
Printed for Andrew Crook
"He is too froward, that will refuse a piece of coin that is current throughout the world, because it is not stamped after his own fancy."
Metaphor in Context
(n) "My second reason against this distinction, of liberty from compulsion but not from necessitation, is new, and demonstrates clearly that to necessitate the will by a physical necessity, is to compel the will so far as the will is capable of compulsion; and that he who doth necessitate the will to evil after that manner, is the true cause of evil, and ought rather to be blamed than the will itself. But T. H., for all he saith he is not surprised, can be contented upon better advise to steal by all this in silence. And to hide this tergiversation from the eyes of the reader, he makes an empty shew of braving against that famous and most necessary distinction, between the elicite and imperate acts of the will; first, because the terms are improper; secondly, because they are obscure. What trivial and grammatical objections are these, to be used against the universal current of divines and philosophers. Verborum ut nummorum, it is in words as it is in money: use makes them proper and current. A tyrant at first signified a lawful and just prince; now, use hath quite changed the sense of it, to denote either a usurper or an oppressor. The word præmunire is now grown a good word in our English laws, by use and tract of time; and yet at first it was merely mistaken for a præmonere. The names of Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, were derived at first from those heathenish deities, the Sun, the Moon, and the warlike god of the Germans. Now we use them for distinction sake only, without any relation to their first original. He is too froward, that will refuse a piece of coin that is current throughout the world, because it is not stamped after his own fancy. So is he that rejects a good word, because he understands not the derivation of it. We see foreign words are daily naturalized and made free denizens in every country. But why are the terms improper? 'Because,' saith he, 'it attributes command, and subjection to the faculties of the soul, as if they made a commonwealth or family among themselves, and could speak one to another.' Therefore, he saith, (o) they who invented this term of actus imperatus, understood not anything what it signified. No; why not? It seemeth to me, they understood it better than those who except against it. They knew there are mental terms, which are only conceived in the mind, as well as vocal terms, which are expressed with the tongue. They knew, that howsoever a superior do intimate a direction to his inferior, it is still a command. Tarquin commanded his son by only striking off the tops of the poppies, and was by him both understood and obeyed. Though there be no formal commonwealth or family either in the body or in the soul of man, yet there is a subordination in the body, of the inferior members to the head; there is a subordination in the soul, of the inferior faculties to the rational will. Far be it from a reasonable man so far to dishonour his own nature, as to equal fancy with understanding, or the sensitive appetite with the reasonable will. A power of command there is, without all question; though there be some doubt in what faculty this command doth principally reside, whether in the will or in the understanding. The true resolution is, that the directive command or counsel is in the understanding; and the applicative command, or empire for putting in execution of what is directed, is in the will. The same answer serves for his second impropriety, about the word elicite. For saith he, 'as it is absurdly said, that to dance is an act allured, or drawn by fair means, out of the ability to dance; so is it absurdly said, that to will or choose, is an act drawn out of the power to will'. His objection is yet more improper than the expression. The art of dancing rather resembles the understanding than the will. That drawing which the Schools intend, is clear of another nature from that which he conceives. By elicitation, he understands a persuading or enticing with flattering words, or sweet alluring insinuations, to choose this or that. But that elicitation which the Schools intend, is a deducing of the power of the will into act; that drawing which they mention, is merely from the appetibility of the object, or of the end. As a man draws a child after him with the sight of a fair apple, or a shepherd draws his sheep after him with the sight of a green bough: so the end draws the will to it by a metaphorical motion. What he understands here by an ability to dance, is more than I know, or any man else, until he express himself in more proper terms; whether he understand the locomotive faculty alone, or the art or acquired habit of dancing alone, or both of these jointly. It may be said aptly without any absurdity, that the act of dancing is drawn out (elicitur) of the locomotive faculty helped by the acquired habit. He who is so scrupulous about the received phrases of the Schools, should not have let so many improper expressions have dropt from his pen; as in this very passage, he confounds the compelling of a voluntary action, with the commanding of a voluntary action, and willing with electing, which, he saith, 'are all one'. Yet to will properly respects the end, to elect the means.
Searching in Past Masters
See Thomas Hobbes and John Bramhall, The questions concerning liberty, necessity, and chance clearly stated and debated between Dr. Bramhall, Bishop of Derry, and Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury. (London: Printed for Andrew Crook, 1656). <Link to EEBO-TCP>
Date of Entry
Date of Review

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.