Spinoza's Ethics is one of the most remarkable, important, and difficult books in the history of philosophy: a treatise simultaneously on metaphysics, knowledge, philosophical psychology, moral philosophy, and political philosophy. It presents, in Spinoza's famous 'geometric method', his radical views on God, Nature, the human being, and happiness. In this wide-ranging 2006 introduction to the work, Steven Nadler explains the doctrines and arguments of the Ethics, and shows why Spinoza's endlessly fascinating ideas may have been so troubling to his (...) contemporaries, as well as why they are still highly relevant today. He also examines the philosophical background to Spinoza's thought and the dialogues in which Spinoza was engaged - with his contemporaries, with ancient thinkers, and with his Jewish rationalist forebears. His book is written for the student reader but will also be of interest to specialists in early modern philosophy. (shrink)
Why was the great philosopher Spinoza expelled from his Portuguese-Jewish community in Amsterdam? Nadler's investigation of this simple question gives fascinating new perspectives on Spinoza's thought and the Jewish religious and philosophical tradition from which it arose.
"--Larry Silver, University of Pennsylvania ""The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter" is an excellent introduction for general readers to Descartes and his thought. Nadler brings the story and ideas to life.
Nicolas Malebranche's account of the nature of ideas and their role in knowledge and perception has been greatly misunderstood by both his critics and commentators. In this work, Nadler examines Malebranche's theory of ideas and the doctrine of the vision in God with the aim of replacing the standard interpretation of Malebranche's account with a new reading. He argues that Malebranche's ideas should be seen as essences or logical concepts, and that our apprehension of them is thus of a (...) purely intellectual character and serves to provide us with knowledge of eternal truths. He then shows that the visionary representationalist reading usually given to Malebranche's theory of perception simply misconstrues the nature of ideas and the role he intended them to play in perception. Nadler's discussion includes detailed analyses of Malebranche's notion of representation and of his arguments for the presence of divine ideas in knowledge and perception. These aspects of Malebranche's system are considered both in light of his Cartesian and Augustinian commitments and in the broader seventeenth-century philosophical context. (shrink)
Louis de La Forge and the Development of Occasionalism: Continuous Creation and the Activity of the Soul STEVEN NADLER THE DOCTRINE OF DIVINE CONSERVATION is a dangerous one. It is not theologi- cally dangerous, at least not in itself. From the thirteenth century onwards, and particularly with the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas, the notion of the continuous divine sustenance of the world of created things was, if not univer- sally accepted, a nonetheless common feature of theological orthodoxy, Chris- (...) tian and otherwise. Rather, the danger is philosophical in nature . The philosophical problem I am concerned with is not some logical incoherence at the heart of the doctrine; nor does it lie in any objections that can be raised against the arguments that, historically, have been given for the thesis that God, as a causa secundum esse, must continually act in order to conserve the world in being. The question I address -- and it is a pressing one for any seventeenth-century Cartesianmis whether the doctrine of divine conservation establishes too much. I believe that, under certain circumstances, it does, and that the ultimate ramifications of the doctrine for natural causality must be unacceptable to an orthodox Cartesian such as Louis de La Forge , perhaps the most strict follower of Descartes of the.. (shrink)
In this concluding chapter, Allan and Keller posit that Just Peace should be defined as a process resting on four necessary and sufficient conditions: thin recognition whereby the other is accepted as autonomous; thick recognition whereby identities need to be accounted for; renouncement, requiring significant sacrifices from all parties; and rule, the objectification of a Just Peace by a ‘text’ requiring a common language respecting the identities of each, and defining their rights and duties. This approach, based on a (...) language-oriented process amongst directly concerned parties, goes beyond liberal and culturalist perspectives. By moving beyond the idea of a peace founded on norms claiming universal scope, each side of a conflict has a place at the negotiating table to present their own perspective on what justice might entail. This inclusion into the decision-making process helps create the feeling of personal investment in the final negotiated product. In addition, negotiators need to work towards building a novel shared reality as well as a new common language to help foster an enduring harmony between previously clashing peoples. (shrink)
This chapter distinguishes Just Peace from its closest ‘moral’ neighbours — a stable peace and positive peace. Drawing on both consequentialist and deontological considerations, Allan develops an international ethical scale to evaluate different acts from a moral standpoint, with different levels of conflict as the baseline of ethical behavior. The more extreme the discord, the worse it is considered on the scale; the more harmonious, the better. Arguing that absolute unhappiness and absolute happiness are not of this world, (...) class='Hi'>Allan presents eight intermediary moral situations, each being superseded by the next one in ethical terms: genocide, war, non-war, Just War, stable peace, Just Peace, positive peace, and Global Care. He develops an ethic of ‘global care’ based on feminist theories of care, religious and secular declarations on a global ethic, evolutionary theory arguments, and a critique of a liberal human rights approach. (shrink)
This essay responds to Lewis Ford’s “Allan’s Atheism,” in which he assesses a recent essay of mine that finds God an unnecessary and indeed coherence-destroying addition to Process and Reality. I clarify my position by showing how Whitehead’s notions of physical purpose and aesthetic determination adequately account for the novelty required for an actual occasion’s concrescence and for increases in achieved value. I then criticize Ford’s claim that genuine novelties must have a divine origin and that in Adventures of (...) Ideas the Eros of the Universe refers to God. (shrink)
The Sovereignty of Law presents Trevor Allan's most recent and fully elaborated defence of common law constitutionalism - an account of the unwritten or non-codified constitution as a complex articulation of legal and moral principles, defining what in the British context are the requirements of the rule of law. The British constitution is conceived as a coherent set of fundamental principles of the rule of law, legislative supremacy, and separation of powers. These principles.
Steven Nadler presents the first English translation of a seminal work in the history of early modern philosophy. Géraud de Cordemoy's Six Discourses on the Distinction Between the Soul and the Body offers an account of the mind and the body in a human being. Cordemoy is an unorthodox Cartesian who opts for an atomist conception of body and matter. In this groundbreaking treatise, he also presents one of the earliest arguments for an occasionalist account of causation, with God (...) serving as the true cause of bodily motions in the world and of ideas in the mind. Nadler also includes the first English translation of Cordemoy's short Treatises on Metaphysics, which were probably written soon after the Discourses, and extend his discussion of mind-body union with consideration of human freedom and happiness. The introduction provides a biographical and historical context for Cordemoy's work and a study of his main philosophical doctrines, including his influence on later thinkers. (shrink)
Most discussions of Spinoza and consciousness—and there are not many— conclude either that he does not have an account of consciousness, or that he does have one but that it is at best confused, at worst hopeless. I argue, in fact, that people have been looking in the wrong place for Spinoza's account of consciousness, namely, at his doctrine of "ideas of ideas". Indeed, Spinoza offers the possibility of a fairly sophisticated, naturalistic account of consciousness, one that grounds it in (...) the nature and capacities of the body. Consciousness for Spinoza, I suggest, is a certain complexity in thinking that is the correlate of the complexity of a body, and human consciousness, for Spinoza, is nothing but the correlate in Thought of the extraordinarily high complexity of the human body in Extension. In this respect, Spinoza anticipates the conception of mind that is presently emerging from studies in the so-called embodied mind research program. Moreover, this research program, in turn, may hold out hope for a clearer understanding of some of Spinoza's more difficult claims. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Following strict rules of interpretation, this book focuses on the ideas in Plato's early and middle dialogues that lie within the fields now called logic and methodology, specifically elenchus and dialectic and the method of hypothesis.
The French philosopher and theologian Nicolas Malebranche was one of the most important thinkers of the early modern period. A bold and unorthodox thinker, he tried to synthesize the new philosophy of Descartes with religious Platonism. This is the first collection of essays to address Malebranche's thought comprehensively and systematically. There are chapters devoted to Malebranche's metaphysics, his doctrine of the soul, his epistemology, the celebrated debate with Arnauld, his philosophical method, his occasionalism and theory of causality, his philosophical theology, (...) his account of freedom, his moral philosophy, and his intellectual legacy. (shrink)
After a brief analysis of the nature of occasional causation, distinguishing it from both efficient causation and the doctrine of occasionalism, it is argued that this model of causation informs Descartes' account of the generation of sensory ideas in the mind. It is further argued that, consequently, Descartes is not an occasionalist on this matter.
This paper examines a common misreading of the mechanics of Malebranche's doctrine of divine causal agency, occasionalism, and its roots in a related misreading of Malebranche's theories. God, contrary to this misreading, is for Malebranche constantly and actively causally engaged in the world, and does not just establish certain laws of nature. The key is in understanding just what Malebranche means by general volitions'.
In this paper, I argue that Arnauld’s conception of God is more radical than scholars have been willing to allow. It is not the case that, for Arnauld, God acts for reasons, with His will guided by wisdom (much as the God of Malebranche and Leibniz acts), albeit by a wisdom impenetrable to us. Arnauld’s objections to Malebranche are directed not only at the claim that God’s wisdom is transparent to human reason, but at the whole distinction between will and (...) wisdom in God, even if that wisdom were “hidden.” Arnauld’s God, in fact, approaches the extreme voluntarist God of Descartes, and thus transcends practical rational agency altogether. (shrink)
Whitehead’s process metaphysics, as developed in Process and Reality, is harmed by the incoherence of his notion of eternal objects as timeless and essentially unrelated entities, which therefore need a primordial agent as their ontological ground and the source of their relatedness and relevance. Such nontemporal entities undermine what is supposed to be a thoroughly temporalist metaphysics. Eternal objects can be understood solely as functions of Creativity, however, as features of a purely temporal process. A notion of God is not (...) required. Whitehead’s Categoreal Obligations specify the necessary conditions for this process, including how the novelty is possible that is needed to account for temporal change and the increased complexity that value enhancement presupposes and makes possible. Adventures of Ideas, especially through the notions of Art and Peace, develops at the level of human civilization this same secular interpretation of the capacity of entities to fashion novel and progressive outcomes. (shrink)