Doubtless Descartes belongs in the rationalist tradition. Stating why is not so easy. He nowhere characterizes the view we call 'rationalism', nor does he describe himself as a rationalist. His express commitment to a doctrine of innateness is suggestive though not sufficient, for some philosophers (e.g., Kant) accept such a doctrine while rejecting rationalism. Further suggestive is that he links innateness with the achievement of knowledge: [W]e come to know them [innate truths] by the power of our own native intelligence, (...) without any sensory experience. All geometrical truths are of this sort – not just the most obvious ones, but all the others, however abstruse they may appear. Hence, according to Plato, Socrates asks a slave boy about the elements of geometry and thereby makes the boy able to dig out certain truths from his own mind which he had not previously recognized were there, thus attempting to establish the doctrine of reminiscence. Our knowledge of God is of this sort. (CSMK 222-23, AT 8b: 166-67). (shrink)
Janet Broughton’s Descartes’s Method of Doubt1 is a systematic study of the role of doubt in Descartes’s epistemology. The book has two parts. Part 1 focuses on the development of doubt in the First Meditation, exploring such topics as the motivation behind methodic doubt; the targeted audience; the method’s game-like character (on her view); its relations to ancient skepticism, its reasonableness; the method’s presuppositions relative to commonsense belief; Michael Williams’s recent criticisms of Descartes; and more. Part 2 focuses on how (...) doubt figures in the constructive epistemology of the Meditations—on how Descartes employs doubt as a tool for founding knowledge. I’ll have much more to say about part 2. A careful treatment of the topics of this book has been long overdue. Broughton’s ideas are innovative, engaging, and clearly developed at every stage. The wide-ranging issues addressed remind the reader of why Descartes’s thought is of continuing philosophical interest. Throughout, her interpretation is sensitive to the exegetical concerns of scholars. This rich book deserves the attention of every serious student of Descartes. The present paper is a critical study of part 2—the more ambitious part of this highly ambitious book. I begin with an overview of Broughton’s account. Sections 2–4 contain my analysis. (shrink)
On his interpretation, the Truth Rule is intended to provide an epistemic principle that grounds specifically existential knowledge. Vinci builds his account around Descartes' doctrine that "if we perceive the presence of some attribute, we can infer that there must also be present an existing thing or substance to which it may be attributed" (Prin. 1:51, CSM 1:210, AT 8a:25). As Vinci understands it, the Truth Rule is a principle ensuring (roughly) that whatever properties I clearly and distinctly perceive are (...) contained in a substance. (shrink)
On Descartes' account, the will is the central player in judgment, a role that this essay aims to explain. Section 1 situates the will in Descartes' broader ontology of mind. Section 2 characterizes the will's contributions to judgment. Section 3 addresses the will's voluntary control over judgment. Section 4 considers whether, on Descartes' account, our epistemic responsibility in judgment is best understood as a form of compatibilism or incompatibilism.
It is not uncommon for students to try, and indeed to succeed, in buying the course texts used. This often makes a great deal of sense. But for this course, you must buy the textbook new . Here's why. The textbook comes with software that you will use to submit all of the course homeworks. The problem is that only one student can register the software , per book — period. So, if you buy the textbook used, not only do (...) you run the risk that the software won't be intact, you will be unable to register the software and, therefore, unable to turn in your homework. (shrink)
McGraw-Hill Primis custom course pack. (Bundled with the course pack will be an Enrollment Code that you'll eventually need. Don't buy a course pack unless it is shrink-wrapped, thus including the code.) CPS remote clicker device — here's what it looks like . You may need to talk with a bookstore employee to find out where they have the remote devices, assuming information is not posted with the course packs. (NOTE: The bookstore is also selling the..
An Essay concerning Human Understanding , by John Locke ISBN: 0198245955. This is the standard scholarly edition of Locke's Essay published by Oxford and edited by Peter Nidditch. This version contains countless aids for the scholar and student and is the version of the..
Since this is a survey course (one in which we'll consider some philosophical views from a wide variety of philosophers), buying texts for a course like this one is potentially a very expensive endeavor. I have tried to keep down the costs in two kinds of ways. First, in some cases I will simply provide web readings (rather than having you buy a whole text). Second, I have ordered..
How are we to understand philosophical claims about sense perception being direct versus indirect? There are multiple relevant notions of perceptual directness, so I argue. Perception of external objects may be direct on some notions, while indirect on others. My interest is with the sense in which ideas count as perceptual mediators in the philosophy of Descartes and Locke. This paper has two broader aims. The first is to clarify four main notions of perceptual directness. The second is to support (...) my contention that in the texts characterizing ideas as immediate objects of perception, Descartes and Locke are invoking the notion of directness I call 'objectual'. This notion is modeled on the way a picture mediates perception of the pictured object. The upshot of my account is that – with respect to the objectual notion of directness – Descartes and Locke each hold an indirect theory of perception. (shrink)
René Descartes (1596-1650) is widely regarded as the father of modern philosophy. His noteworthy contributions extend to mathematics and physics. This entry focuses on his philosophical contributions in the theory of knowledge. Specifically, the focus is on the epistemological project of Descartes' famous work, Meditations on First Philosophy.
The primary aim of this essay is to explain the central elements of Locke's theory of knowledge. A secondary aim arises from the official definition of knowledge introduced in the opening lines of book IV. Though Locke's repeated statements of the definition are consistent with the initial formulation, the consensus view among commentators is that that official definition is in tension with other book IV doctrines. My broader interpretation involves an effort to render the various doctrines consistent with the official (...) definition. The order of discussion: Section 1 explicates the definition of knowledge. Section 2 explains two main divisions of knowledge – namely, its three degrees, and the four sorts of knowable truths. In Section 3, I consider whether Locke understands knowable truths on a model of analyticity. Section 4 addresses potential problems about the objectivity of knowledge, given Locke's account. Section 5 focuses on external world knowledge – Locke calls this "sensitive knowledge" and it poses special difficulties for the official definition of knowledge. (shrink)
First published in 1689, John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding is widely recognised as among the greatest works in the history of Western philosophy. The Essay puts forward a systematic empiricist theory of mind, detailing how all ideas and knowledge arise from sense experience. Locke was trained in mechanical philosophy and he crafted his account to be consistent with the best natural science of his day. The Essay was highly influential and its rendering of empiricism would become the standard for (...) subsequent theorists. This Companion volume includes fifteen new essays from leading scholars. Covering the major themes of Locke's work, they explain his views while situating the ideas in the historical context of Locke's day and often clarifying their relationship to ongoing work in philosophy. Pitched to advanced undergraduates and graduate students, it is ideal for use in courses on early modern philosophy, British empiricism and John Locke. (shrink)
Interpreters of Locke’s Essay are divided over whether to attribute to him a Representational Theory of Perception (RTP). Those who object to an RTP interpretation cite (among other things) Locke’s Book IV account of sensitive knowledge, contending that the account is incompatible with RTP. The aim of this paper is to rebut this kind of objection – to defend an RTP reading of the relevant Book IV passages. Speciﬁcally, I address four inﬂuential assumptions (about sensitive knowledge) cited by opponents of (...) an RTP interpretation and argue that in each case the assumption is false. (shrink)
Among the more notorious of Cartesian doctrines is the bête machine doctrine – the view that brute animals lack not only reason, but any form of consciousness (having no mind or soul). Recent English commentaries have served to obscure, rather than to clarify, the historical Descartes' views. Standard interpretations have it that insofar as Descartes intends to establish the bête machine doctrine his arguments are palpably flawed. One camp of interpreters thus disputes that he even holds the doctrine. As I (...) shall attempt to show, not only does Descartes affirm the doctrine, his supporting arguments are not palpably flawed – even if they ultimately come up short. It will indeed emerge that, in making his case, Descartes employs interesting argumentative strategies that have not been duly appreciated. (shrink)
How are we to understand philosophical claims about sense perception being direct versus indirect? There are multiple relevant notions of perceptual directness, so I argue. Perception of external objects may be direct on some notions, while indirect on others. My interest is with the sense in which ideas count as perceptual mediators in the philosophy of Descartes and Locke. This paper has two broader aims. The first is to clarify four main notions of perceptual directness. The second is to support (...) my contention that in the texts characterizing ideas as immediate objects of perception, Descartes and Locke are invoking the notion of directness I call ‘objectual’. This notion is modeled on the way a picture mediates perception of the pictured object. The upshot of my account is that – with respect to the objectual notion of directness – Descartes and Locke each hold an indirect theory of perception. (shrink)