What drives the Systems? From Conatus to Dynamics -Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Kant


  • Kazuyuki Ikko Takahashi Meiji University


conatus, dynamics, systems theory, Hobbes, Kant


   I will highlight the concepts of conatus and dynamics in Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Kant. These philosophers’ ideas are sometimes referred to as precursors of modern systems theories, or cybernetics.

   First, I will analyse the idea of conatus in Hobbes’s theory, comparing it with those of Descartes and Spinoza. For Hobbes, conatus is motion through the length of a point and a small beginning, which causes interaction between matter. All natural and social systems then begin to move automatically. Conatus is thus just a trigger of motion.

   After I discuss the transition from the notion of conatus to that of dynamics in Leibniz’s thought, I will illuminate Kant’s in both his pre-Critical and mature philosophical works. His idea is that the soul has a dynamical relation with the body, making it the prime power to move the body. Kant then examines the phenomena of the world from this viewpoint of dynamical interrelation. Thus, it lies behind the systems of recognition, which is formed simultaneously with the natural and social systems, according to Kant’s philosophy.

   The interaction between elements in systems is essential to modern complex systems theory. I would like to say that these philosophers, especially Hobbes and Kant, are pioneers of complex systems theory.

Author Biography

Kazuyuki Ikko Takahashi, Meiji University


School of Political Science and Economics

Meiji University



How to Cite

Takahashi, K. I. (2019). What drives the Systems? From Conatus to Dynamics -Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Kant. Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2017 Vienna, Austria, 2017(1). Retrieved from https://journals.isss.org/index.php/proceedings61st/article/view/3209