Bayle's article on Rorarius, author of a work purporting to demonstrate that animals reason better than humans, describes and rejects all but one of the current opinions concerning the souls of animals. That survivor is Leibniz's theory of monads, but Bayle cannot accept pre-established harmony, and so Leibniz goes by the wayside too. Bayle exhibits clearly the consequences of Cartesianism for attempts to distinguish us from the animals. The alternatives are reduced to two: either we do not have an immortal (...) soul, or animals do. Both are untenable on moral grounds. The result for Bayle is that no opinion on animal souls can be stably maintained. (shrink)
Somewhere between hagiography and debunking lies truth. Or so we may think: the biographer’s sources are almost always tipped one way or the other, and it is his or her job to establish, or divine, the way of authentic fact and, if facts fall short, then of sturdy sober hypothesis. In general the debunker has more fun, especially when the weight of tradition favors the ennobling, if not the beatification, of its subject.
The notion of an automaton, as it is employed in the natural philosophy of Descartes and his closest followers, has three main components. None of them is new; what is new in early modern philosophy is the uses to which this old notion is put, and the idiosyncrasies into which its components are combined by subsequent philosophers. The thaumaturgic element is never entirely suppressed; but the more down-to-earth usage exempliﬁed in antiquity by Aristotle’s references predominates. The automaton is quite often (...) the opposite of wonderful: phenomena that might excited wonder are proved to be unworthy of it, just by showing that they are the productions of an automaton. The automaton is, ﬁrst of all, a machine, and therefore an artifact, human or (if the metaphor becomes literal) divine. It offers a model of intelligibility—to use Peter Dear’s term—for a certain class of natural phenomena, namely those we ﬁnd in living things. But Descartes wants from it something more. In Descartes’ usage, a machine is that which makes itself available not just to “mechanical” explanation, but to a complete explanation, an explanation that makes all others superﬂuous. Not all machines, of course, are automata. Two further components ﬁgure in the notion. One is that automata are typically imitative. From the automata thaumata of Aristotle’s De Motu animalium to the nymphs of Salomon de Caus’s fountains, many automata are likenesses, partaking both of the iconic (to use Peirce’s term) and the symbolic. Moving sculptures proceed moving pictures by over two thousand years. They succeeded if they convinced their audiences that they could do what their prototypes did—where the doing is typically restricted to some few sorts of act. The wind-up mouse skitters across the ﬂoor like a real mouse; but it does not eat, nor does it seek the.. (shrink)
Are the laws of nature among the eternal truths that, according to Descartes, are created by God? The basis of those laws is the immutability of the divine will, which is not an eternal truth, but a divine attribute. On the other hand, the realization of those laws, and in particular, the quantitative consequences to be drawn from them, depend upon the eternal truths insofar as those truths include the foundations of geometry and arithmetic.
Aristotle was usually thought to have given two definitions of the soul in the second book of De Anima. The second of these calls it “that by which we live, feel, and think”.1 Of the soul’s three par ts, the vegetative is that by which we live, the sensitive that by which we feel, the rational that by which we think. Human souls have all three parts; animals the vegetative and sensitive; plants only the vegetative.
A study of the problem of animal souls as treated by Pierre Bayle in his article on Rorarius in the Dictionnaire. Early modern philosophers, if they rejected dualism, tended—as Bayle shows—to be driven either to materialism or to panpsychism.
In the history of philosophy, Jacques Rohault and Pierre-Sylvain Régis bear a twofold burden. They are professed followers, epigones. Worse yet, the natural philosophy they teach has been consigned to the Tartarus of fable: not a theory that failed, but something that failed even to be a theory. In the years in which they were turning Cartesianism into a system, Newton and Huygens were preparing its demise. Its empirical claims were refuted, its mathematics was rendered obsolete by the calculus, its (...) vortices and channelled magnetic particles met with the same rough justice Descartes meted out to Scholastic forms and qualities. Canonical history has little use for such ﬁgures. It prefers originals. Yet if ideas and arguments are not to seem to pass magically from one great mind to the next, we must have some account of the channels through which what was once novel and unique sediments into cliché and common ground. Those channels are not without bias and noise. Inevitably, currents from different streams meet and mix more or less coherently in the works of secondary ﬁgures, especially in the competitive intellectual world of the later seventeenth century, with its sometimes ferocious polemics fuelled by religious and political opposition. Cartesianism became a movement and—to use Leibniz’s word—a sect, divided within by disputes over the legacy of its founder, and facing opposition without from steadfast Aristotelians, pious theologians, and the avant garde of the new science. In Régis and Rohault Descartes’ legacy took the outward form of “system”. They present themselves as reworking Cartesian concepts and arguments into something coherent and comprehensive. Rohault, the more modest of the two, aims to reform the teaching of physics, still weighed down by the dead hand of Aristotle. He retains for the old philosophy only what is true and conjoin it with the new physics of Descartes, in whom France is no less fortunate than Greece once was in Aristotle (Rohault 1718, “Præfatio”).. (shrink)
: From the topics discussed by Hattab and Menn, I examine two of special importance. The first is that of active powers: does the Cartesian natural world contain any, or is the apparent efficacy of natural agents always to be referred to God? In arguing that it is, I consider, following Hattab, Descartes' characterization of natural laws as "secondary causes." The second topic is that of ends. Menn argues, and I agree, that in late Aristotelianism Aristotle's own conception of an (...) "art in things" has been abandoned. The point is reinforced when one considers the general divine ends which must be invoked in cases of aborted action. In them no individual agent attains its end. Yet Nature as a whole continues to act toward ends. I suggest that those general ends, to which Suárez, for example, refers, may have served later philosophers, especially Malebranche, in combining the Cartesian notion of law with a teleological interpretation of nature that Descartes, for his part, rejected. (shrink)
My title, of course, is an exaggeration. The world no more became mathematical in the seventeenth century than it became ironic in the nineteenth. Either it was mathematical all along, and seventeenth-century philosophers discovered it was, or, if it wasn’t, it could not have been made so by a few books. What became mathematical was physics, and whether that has any bearing on the furniture of the universe is one topic of this paper. Garber says, and I agree, that for (...) Descartes bodies are the things of geometry made real ( Ref). That is a claim about the world: what God created, and what we know in physics, is nothing other than res extensa and its modes. Others, including Marion, hold that in modern science, here represented at its origins by Descartes, representation displaces beings: the knower no longer confronts Being or beings but rather a system of signs, a “code” as Marion calls it, to which the knower stands in the relation of subject to object. The Meditations, or perhaps even the Regulæ, are the ﬁrst step toward the transcendental idealism of Kant. Most of this paper will be devoted to a more concrete question. Physics in the seventeenth century increasingly became a matter of applying mathematical knowledge to the solution of physical problems. The “mixed sciences” of astronomy, optics, and music, sciences then distinct from physics, became models of understanding for all of natural philosophy. My interest here is in one aspect of that development: how particular physical situations are transformed into mathematical. I will look at the work of Descartes and Isaac Beeckman, contrasting their visions of “physico-mathematics”. (shrink)
It is a commonplace that one of the primary tasks of natural science is to discover the laws of nature. Those who don’t think that nature has laws will of course disagree; but of those who do, most will be in accord with Armstrong when he writes that natural science, having discovered the kinds and properties of things, should “state the laws” which those things “obey” (Armstrong What is a law 3). No Scholastic philosopher would have included the discovery of (...) the laws of nature among the aims of natural philosophy. Regularities there may be in an Aristotelian world, but the focus of inquiry is elsewhere —on natural kinds, powers, qualities, temperaments. There must have been a change of view at some point. The obvious period in which to look for that change is that period in which the notion of law came to the fore in natural philosophy: the seventeenth century. Though there has been occasional dissension, that notion has been with us ever since. Scientists are quite happy to talk about all sorts of laws, from the basic laws of conservation to “phenomenological” and statistical laws. Philosophers, on the other hand, have found them puzzling. The character attributed to laws seems to be in need of explanation, and yet no convincing explanation is at hand; indeed, as I have mentioned, some philosophers think that natural science has no laws, or at least that it doesn’t need to appeal to them to accomplish its ends. My suggestion will be that the configuration of features characteristic.. (shrink)
Seventeenth-century philosophers searched not only for truth, but for wisdom, for a sure guide in all the acts of life. This guide was supposed to be based on metaphysical and physical principles; it was to offer an account of virtue, and in particular of the use of the passions. In more ambitious works, the treatment of the passions is preceded by a more or less extensive physiology, which, being the study of the body, its organs, their powers, including most pertinently (...) sensation and its effects on the animal spirits, was part of natural philosophy. The passions, at least as they depend on the body, or the inferior parts of the soul, fall, therefore, within its purview. But their use does not. One is therefore led to wonder what relation the physiology of the passions bears to the moral philosophy of their use. Though it would be anachronistic to ask how Descartes or Spinoza dealt with “the fact-value distinction”, it is not anachronistic to ask how the natural philosophy of the Passions or the Ethics is brought to bear on their accounts of virtue. Consider the tree of knowledge in the Preface to the French edition of Descartes’ Principles. The root of the tree is metaphysics, the trunk physics (i.e., natural philosophy), the three branches are mechanics, medicine, and morale, that is, moral philosophy. The three branches have in common a reference to human needs and desires. Mechanics has as its subject-matter the design of useful machines; medicine preserving the health of the human body, and morale the acquisition and exercise of virtue. The three branches are distinct from the trunk (and from each other), and yet continuous with it, just as physics is continuous with metaphysics. The continuity of moral with natural philosophy is conﬁrmed by the design of the Passions, which was published two years after the.. (shrink)