What does "fancy" mean in this context? (quoted below)

But their apparence to us is Fancy, the same waking, that dreaming. And as pressing, rubbing, or striking the Eye, makes us fancy a light; and pressing the Eare, produceth a dinne; so do the bodies also we see, or hear, produce the same by their strong, though unobserved action.

Hobbes, Thomas (1996-08-28). Hobbes: Leviathan: Revised student edition (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought) (Kindle Locations 1954-1956). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

  • It is an untimely spelling of Fantasy.
    – user9166
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 19:15
  • 1
    Fancy is being used in two different senses here. In the first, capitalized instance, it is used as in the common expression "flight of fancy" - i.e., fantasy. The second use ("...makes us fancy...") is used as in the common expression "whatever takes your fancy" - i.e., to desire.
    – nwr
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 0:24

1 Answer 1


The meaning is: "dream", "chimera".

See Primary/secondary quality distinction and Mechanism.

The idea is that our way to "see" and perceive the properties of things outside us is determined by the actions external objects elicit on our sense, but in no way we are licensed to infer from our perception that external objects are "exactly" as we perceive them.

"I think that tastes, odors, colors, and so on are no more than mere names so far as the object in which we locate them are concerned, and that they reside in consciousness." - Galileo Galilei, The Assayer (Il Saggiatore, 1623).

"[I]t must certainly be concluded regarding those things which, in external objects, we call by the names of light, color, odor, taste, sound, heat, cold, and of other tactile qualities, [...]; that we are not aware of their being anything other than various arrangements of the size, figure, and motions of the parts of these objects which make it possible for our nerves to move in various ways, and to excite in our soul all the various feelings which they produce there." - René Descartes, Principles of Philosophy (Principia philosophiae, 1644 - Les Principes de la Philosophie, 1647).

You must log in to answer this question.

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