The first edition of Thomas Robert Malthus’ Essay on the Principle of Population is best understood as an exploration of human nature and the role of necessity in shaping the individual and society. The author’s liberal education, both from his father and his tutors at Warrington and Cambridge, is evident in his heterodox views on hell, his Lockean conceptualization of the mind, and his Foxite Whig politics. Malthus’ unpublished essay, “Crises,” his sermons, and the the last two chapters of (...) the Essay reveal a pragmatic, compassionate side of the young author that was under appreciated by both his contemporary critics and modern historians. The Essay has been mischaracterized by David McNally as a “Whig response to Radicalism” and by Patricia James as a reaction by Malthus against his father’s liberalism. This article argues that when he wrote the first edition of the Essay on the Principle of Population, Malthus was himself a liberal dissenter and Foxite Whig rather than an orthodox Anglican or a Burkean defender of traditional class relations. (shrink)
Some time in the late 1590s, the Welsh amateur mathematician John Bulkeley wrote to Thomas Harriot asking his opinion about the properties of a truly gargantuan plano-spherical convex lens, 48 feet in diameter. While Bulkeley’s original letter is lost, Harriot devoted several pages to the optical properties of “Mr Bulkeley his Glasse” in his optical papers, paying particular attention to the place of its burning point. Harriot’s calculational methods in these papers are almost unique in Harriot’s optical remains, (...) in that he uses both the sine law of refraction and interpolation from Witelo’s refraction tables in order to analyze the passage of light through the glass. For this and other reasons, it is very likely that Harriot wrote his papers on Bulkeley’s glass very shortly after his discovery of the law and while still working closely with Witelo’s great Optics; the papers represent, perhaps, his very first application of the law. His and Bulkeley’s interest in this giant glass conform to a long English tradition of curiosity about the optical and burning properties of large glasses, which grew more intense in late sixteenth-century England. In particular, Thomas Digges’s bold and widely known assertions about his father’s glasses that could see things several miles distant and could burn objects a half-mile or further away may have attracted Harriot and Bulkeley’s skeptical attention; for Harriot’s analysis of the burning distance and the intensity of Bulkeley’s fantastic lens, it shows that Digges’s claims could never have been true about any real lens. There was also a deeper, mathematical relevance to the problem that may have caught Harriot’s attention. His most recent source on refraction—Giambattista della Porta’s De refractione of 1593—identified a mathematical flaw in Witelo’s cursory suggestion about the optics of a lens. In his early notes on optics, in a copy of Witelo’s optics, Harriot highlighted Witelo’s remarks on the lens and della Porta’s criticism. The most significant problem with Witelo’s theorem would disappear as the radius of curvature of the lens approached infinity. Bulkeley’s gigantic glass, then, may have provided Harriot an opportunity to test out Witelo’s claims about a plano-spherical glass, at a time when he was still intensely concerned with the problems and methods of the Perspectivist school. (shrink)
This collection of essays by leading American philosophers honors John E. Smith, a major figure in the struggle for the American profession of philosophy to redefine itself and return to its grander traditions.
Earthcare: Readings and Cases in Environmental Ethics presents a diverse collection of writings from a variety of authors on environmental ethics, environmental science, and the environmental movement overall. Exploring a broad range of world views, religions and philosophies, David W. Clowney and Patricia Mosto bring together insightful thoughts on the ethical issues arising in various areas of environmental concern.
Each title in the "Key Issues" series aims to set the work in its historical context. In this collection of contemporary responses to "Leviathan", attention is focused on its critics who attacked Hobbes's moral, political and religious ideas in a series of pamphlets and short books.
Do our lives have meaning? Should we create more people? Is death bad? Should we commit suicide? Would it be better if we were immortal? Should we be optimistic or pessimistic? Life, Death, and Meaning brings together key readings, primarily by English-speaking philosophers, on such 'big questions.'.
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