In my essay I look at the specifics of the dispute between the Scottish metaphysician Andrew Baxter and the mathematician Colin MacLaurin in an attempt to identify the source or sources of their contradictory, yet in both cases Newtonian, positions regarding occasionalism. After some general introductory remarks about each thinker, I examine the metaphysical implications that Baxter sees as following from Newton's concept of vis inertiæ. Following this, I look at MacLaurin's commitment to the role of sense experience in natural (...) philosophy. Finally, I discuss the different passages from Newton's Opticks on which the two thinkers focus. (shrink)
Francis Hutcheson's theory of perception, as put forth in his Synopsis of Metaphysics, bears a striking similarity to that of John Locke. In particular, Hutcheson and Locke both have at the centre of their theories the notion of ideas as representational entities acting as the direct objects of all of our perceptions. On first consideration, one might find this similarity wholly unremarkable, given the popularity of Locke's Essay. But the Essay was published in 1689 and the Synopsis in 1742, and (...) during these years Berkeley had published a substantive attack on Locke's representative realism and the sceptical conclusions he saw it implying. Further, Hume had argued in 1739 that in accepting a Lockean account of perception, we (at least when thinking as philosophers in our studies) are left without any sure knowledge of external objects, even their existence. Despite this, Hutcheson apparently feels no obligation to address either Berkeley's idealism or Hume's scepticism in the Synopsis. The question addressed in this article is, Why did he not see any force to such arguments, and thus why did he feel no onus to attempt to offer an explicit refutation of Berkeley and Hume? (shrink)
This article begins by examining James Beattie's conception of speculative ethics, which he regards as the study of the foundation and nature of virtue. This leads to a discussion of the moral sense, or conscience, which Beattie claims is part of the nature of every rational being and which is designed to lead us to a virtuous life. Given this, I ask why Beattie thought himself warranted, or even needed, to dispense practical ethical advice. Answering this involves looking at Beattie's (...) views on the importance of proper education, as well as the role played by his acceptance of providential naturalism. Beattie's answer is not only consistent with his ‘lecturing others’ as to their practical duties, his understanding of the relation between the speculative and the practical also allows him to respond to what contemporary ethicists call the Application Problem. A comparison with Reid's ethical thought will help bring out this latter point. (shrink)
On the ghosts of departed quantities Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 1-3 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9606-5 Authors Fred Ablondi, Department of Philosophy, Hendrix College, Conway, AR, USA Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
By carefully considering Galileo’s letters to Castelli and Christina, we argue that his position regarding the relationship between Scripture and science is not only of historical importance, but continues to stand as a perspective worth taking seriously in the context of contemporary philosophical debates. In particular, we contend that there are at least five areas of contemporary concern where Galileo’s arguments are especially relevant: (1) the supposed conflict between science and religion, (2) the status and stakes of evidence, (3) the (...) question of biblical infallibility in light of scientific progress, (4) metaphorical approaches to biblical hermeneutics, and (5) possible dialogical constraints on public discourse. (shrink)
John Millar's The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks is best known for its first chapter in which Adam Smith's favorite student traces the social status of women as it changed at various historical stages. Millar's concern is strictly with description and explanation. In the less discussed final chapter he examines the authority of a master over his servants. His treatment of slavery differs from the account of the rank of women in several notable ways, most significantly, perhaps, by including (...) normative judgments on the immorality of slavery. This article begins with Millar's examination of the master-servant/slave relation, and then turns to his arguments against slavery. These arguments go substantially beyond those of his mentor Smith, and there are several particular points regarding slavery on which they disagreed. The paper concludes with a discussion of these contrasts. (shrink)
There is a long-standing view that Malebranche and his fellow occasionalists accepted occasionalism to solve the problem of interaction between immaterial souls and extended bodies. Recently, however, scholars have shown this story to be a myth. Malebranche, Geulincx, La Forge, and Cordemoy adopted occasionalism for a variety of reasons, but none did so because of a need to provide a solution to a perceived mind-body problem. Yet there is one Cartesian for whom the “traditional” reading is largely on the mark. (...) François Lamy argues in the second volume of his De la Connoissance de Soi-Meme much as the standard story has it. In this article I discuss and analyze Lamy’s argument, showing how he deals with some of the many concerns that made occasionalism attractive, and how he brings out some of the thorny questions that an occasionalist must face. (shrink)
Descartes’s First Meditation employs a series of arguments designed to generate the worry that the senses might not provide sufficient evidence to justify one’staking as certain one’s beliefs about the way the world is. As the meditator considers what principle describes the conditions under which it is possible to attain certain knowledge, one after another doubt-generating device is ushered in, until at last he finds himself like someone caught in a whirlpool, able neither to stand firm nor to swim out. (...) In this paper, I examine one of those devices, namely, what is often referred to as the Madness Argument. In particular, I want to discuss its relation to the Dream Argument and its function in the Meditations as a whole. My position stands in contrast to the interpretations of Anthony Kenny, Margaret Wilson, Michael Williams, and, more recently, Janet Broughton and Catherine Wilson. (shrink)
The answer which Joseph Almog gives to the question which serves as the title of his recent book What Am I? (subtitled: Descartes and the Mind-Body Problem) is based upon his interpretation of (1) and objection to Descartes' argument for the distinction of the mind and the body raised by Antoine Arnauld, as well as Descartes' response to it, and (2) Descartes' letters of 9 February 1645 to Denis Mesland. I will argue that both of these interpretations are incorrect, and (...) as such do not support the conclusions which Almog claims to draw from them. The answer, then to the question of what I am which Almog provides is, I believe, not one Descartes would have held, nor one which his writings support. (Published Online October 13 2005). (shrink)
Hans Hahn, mathematician, philosopher and co-founder of the Vienna Circle, attempted to reconcile the validity and applicability of both logic and mathematics with a strict empiricism. This article begins with a review of this attempt, focusing on his view of the relation of language to logic and his answer to the question of why we need logic. I then turn to some recent work by Stephen Yablo in an attempt to show that Yablo's fictionalism, and in particular his use of (...) metaphor, can shed light on Hahn's philosophy of logic. (shrink)
 In a recent issue of _EJAP_, Sean Kelly  defended the position that perceptual content is non-conceptual. More specifically, he claimed that John McDowell's view that concepts involved in perception can be understood as expressible through the use of demonstratives is ultimately untenable. In what follows, I want to look more closely at Kelly's position, as well as suggest possible responses one could make on McDowell's behalf.
Despite holding to the essential distinction between mind and body, Descartes did not adopt a life-body dualism. Though humans are the only creatures which can reason, as they are the only creatures whose body is in an intimate union with a soul, they are not the only finite beings who are alive. In the present note, I attempt to determine Descartes'' criteria for something to be ''living.'' Though certain passages associate such a principle with the presence of a properly functioning (...) heart, I show that there are important reasons for also understanding life in terms of a degree of complexity of design. (shrink)
In that it holds God to be the only true efficient cause, Malebranche’s occasionalism would seem to deny human freedom and to make God responsible for our sins. I argue that Malebranche’s occasionalism must be considered within its Cartesian framework; once one understands what it is to be an occasional cause in this context, Malebranche can be seen as saving a place for human freedom, and he can consistently hold that we are morally responsible for our actions.