Stewart Duncan University of Florida
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  • Faculty, University of Florida
  • PhD, Rutgers University, 2003.

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About me
I'm an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Florida. My research focuses on modern philosophy. I've been looking at the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, in particular his materialism, and the reactions of other modern philosophers to Hobbes's views. As the project has developed, I've been looking more at Leibniz's criticisms of materialism, and at the work of other early modern materialists, such as John Toland and Margaret Cavendish.
My works
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  1. Stewart Duncan, Comments on Larry May, Limiting Leviathan.
    Draft for a forthcoming special section of Hobbes Studies on May's book. -/- This paper discusses two aspects of Larry May's book Limiting Leviathan. First it discusses a passage in Leviathan, to which May draws attention, in which Hobbes connects obligation to "that, which in the disputations of scholars is called absurdity". Secondly it looks at the book's discussion of Hobbes and pacifist attitudes, with reference to Hobbes's contemporary critic John Eachard.
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  2. Stewart Duncan, Hobbes on Language: Propositions, Truth, and Absurdity.
    Draft for Martinich and Hoekstra (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Hobbes. -/- Language was central to Hobbes's understanding of human beings and their mental abilities, and criticism of other philosophers' uses of language became a favorite critical tool for him. This paper connects Hobbes's theories about language to his criticisms of others' language, examining Hobbes's theories of propositions and truth, and how they relate to his claims that various sorts of proposition are absurd. It considers whether Hobbes in fact means anything (...)
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  3. Stewart Duncan, Hobbes, Universal Names, and Nominalism.
    Thomas Hobbes was, rather famously, a nominalist. The core of that nominalism is the belief that the only universal things are universal names: there are no universal objects, or universal ideas. This paper looks at what Hobbes's views about universal names were, how they evolved over time, and how Hobbes argued for them. The remainder of the paper considers two objections to Hobbes's view: a criticism made by several of Hobbes's contemporaries, that Hobbes's view could not account for people saying (...)
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  4. Stewart Duncan, Leibniz on the Expression of God.
    Draft paper. Leibniz frequently uses the notion of expression, but it is not easy to see just how he understood that relation. This paper focuses on the particular case of the expression of God, which is prominent in the 'Discourse on Metaphysics'. The treatment of expression there suggests several questions. Which substances did Leibniz believe expressed God? Why did Leibniz believe those substances expressed God? And did he believe that all substances expressed God in the same way and for the (...)
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  5. Stewart Duncan, Toland and Locke in the Leibniz-Burnett Correspondence.
    Leibniz's correspondence with Thomas Burnett of Kemnay is probably best known for Leibniz's attempts to communicate with Locke via Burnett. But Burnett was also, more generally a source of English intellectual news for Leibniz. As such, Burnett provided an important part of the context in which Locke was presented to and understood by Leibniz. -/- This paper examines the Leibniz-Burnett correspondence, and argues against Jolley's suggestion that "the context in which Leibniz learned about Locke was primarily a theological one". That (...)
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  6. Stewart Duncan (2013). Materialism. In S. A. Lloyd (ed.), Bloomsbury Companion to Hobbes. Continuum.
    This is a short (1,000 word) introduction to Hobbes's materialism, covering (briefly) such issues as what the relevant notion of materialism is, Hobbes's debate with Descartes, and what Hobbes's arguments for materialism were.
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  7. Stewart Duncan & Antonia LoLordo (eds.) (2013). Debates in Modern Philosophy: Essential Readings and Contemporary Responses. Routledge.
    Debates in Modern Philosophy: Essential Readings and Contemporary Responses provides an in-depth, engaging introduction to important issues in modern philosophy. It presents 13 key interpretive debates to students, and ranges in coverage from Descartes' Meditations to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. -/- Debates include: -/- Did Descartes have a developed and consistent view about how the mind interacts with the body? Was Leibniz an idealist, or did he believe in corporeal substances? What is Locke's theory of personal identity? Could there (...)
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  8. Stewart Duncan (2012). Debating Materialism: Cavendish, Hobbes, and More. History of Philosophy Quarterly 29 (4):391-409.
    This paper discusses the materialist views of Margaret Cavendish, focusing on the relationships between her views and those of two of her contemporaries, Thomas Hobbes and Henry More. It argues for two main claims. First, Cavendish's views sit, often rather neatly, between those of Hobbes and More. She agreed with Hobbes on some issues and More on others, while carving out a distinctive alternative view. Secondly, the exchange between Hobbes, More, and Cavendish illustrates a more general puzzle about just what (...)
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  9. Stewart Duncan (2012). Leibniz's Mill Arguments Against Materialism. Philosophical Quarterly 62 (247):250-72.
    Leibniz's mill argument in 'Monadology' 17 is a well-known but puzzling argument against materialism about the mind. I approach the mill argument by considering other places where Leibniz gave similar arguments, using the same example of the machinery of a mill and reaching the same anti-materialist conclusion. In a 1702 letter to Bayle, Leibniz gave a mill argument that moves from his definition of perception (as the expression of a multitude by a simple) to the anti-materialist conclusion. Soon afterwards, in (...)
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  10. Stewart Duncan (2012). Toland, Leibniz, and Active Matter. Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy 6:249-78.
    In the early years of the eighteenth century Leibniz had several interactions with John Toland. These included, from 1702 to 1704, discussions of materialism. Those discussions culminated with the consideration of Toland's 1704 Letters to Serena, where Toland argued that matter is necessarily active. In this paper I argue for two main theses about this exchange and its consequences for our wider understanding. The first is that, despite many claims that Toland was at the time of Letters to Serena a (...)
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  11. Stewart Duncan (2011). Hobbes, Signification, and Insignificant Names. Hobbes Studies 24 (2):158-178.
    The notion of signification is an important part of Hobbes's philosophy of language. It also has broader relevance, as Hobbes argues that key terms used by his opponents are insignificant. However Hobbes's talk about names' signification is puzzling, as he appears to have advocated conflicting views. This paper argues that Hobbes endorsed two different views of names' signification in two different contexts. When stating his theoretical views about signification, Hobbes claimed that names signify ideas. Elsewhere he talked as if words (...)
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  12. Stewart Duncan (2010). Leibniz on Hobbes's Materialism. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 41 (1):11-18.
    I consider Leibniz's thoughts about Hobbes's materialism, focusing on his less-discussed later thoughts about the topic. Leibniz understood Hobbes to have argued for his materialism from his imagistic theory of ideas. Leibniz offered several criticisms of this argument and the resulting materialism itself. Several of these criticisms occur in texts in which Leibniz was engaging with the generation of British philosophers after Hobbes. Of particular interest is Leibniz's correspondence with Damaris Masham. Leibniz may have been trying to communicate with Locke, (...)
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  13. Stewart Duncan (2010). Review of Perez Zagorin, Hobbes and the Law of Nature. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2010 (5).
  14. Stewart Duncan (2009). Hume and a Worry About Simplicity. History of Philosophy Quarterly 26 (2):139-157.
    I discuss Hume's views about whether simplicity and generality are positive features of explanations. In criticizing Hobbes and others who base their systems of morality on self interest, Hume diagnoses their errors as resulting from a "love of simplicity". These worries about whether simplicity is a positive feature of explanations emerge in Hume's thinking over time. But Hume does not completely reject the idea that it's good to seek simple explanations. What Hume thinks we need is good judgment about when (...)
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  15. Stewart Duncan (2009). Review of James R. Martel, Subverting the Leviathan. [REVIEW] Restoration, Studies in English Literary Culture, 1660-1700 33:57-9.
  16. Stewart Duncan, Thomas Hobbes. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), whose current reputation rests largely on his political philosophy, was a thinker with wide ranging interests. In philosophy, he defended a range of materialist, nominalist, and empiricist views against Cartesian and Aristotelian alternatives. In physics, his work was influential on Leibniz, and lead him into disputes with Boyle and the experimentalists of the early Royal Society. In history, he translated Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War into English, and later wrote his own history of the Long Parliament. (...)
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  17. Stewart Duncan (2008). Review of Samantha Frost, Lessons From a Materialist Thinker: Hobbesian Reflections on Ethics and Politics. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2008 (8).
  18. Stewart Duncan (2006). Review of Tom Sorell and Luc Foisneau (Ed.), Leviathan After 350 Years. [REVIEW] Philosophical Quarterly 56:614-6.
  19. Stewart Duncan (2005). Hobbes's Materialism in the Early 1640s. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 13 (3):437 – 448.
    I argue that Hobbes isn't really a materialist in the early 1640s (in, e.g., the Third Objections to Descartes's Meditations). That is, he doesn't assert that bodies are the only substances. However, he does think that bodies are the only substances we can think about using imagistic ideas.
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  20. Stewart Duncan (2005). Knowledge of God in Leviathan. History of Philosophy Quarterly 22 (1):31-48.
    Hobbes denies in Leviathan that we have an idea of God. He does think, though, that God exists, and does not even deny that we can think about God, even though he says we have no idea of God. There is, Hobbes thinks, another cognitive mechanism by means of which we can think about God. That mechanism allows us only to think a few things about God though. This constrains what Hobbes can say about our knowledge of God, and grounds (...)
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  21. Stewart Duncan, The Letters in the Philosophical Letters.
    This document gives some information about the letters that make up Margaret Cavendish's Philosophical Letters (London, 1664). The descriptions of each letter are in a small number of categories: number, topic, reference, and note.
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