In the Monadology Leibniz has us imagine a thinking machine the size of a mill in order to show that matter can’t think. The argument is often thought to rely on the unity of consciousness and the notion of simplicity. Leibniz himself did not see matters this way. For him the argument relies on the view that the qualities of a substance must be intimately connected to its nature by being modifications, limitations of its nature. Leibniz thinks perception is not (...) a modification of matter because it is active and matter is passive. At the same time, there are traces in Leibniz of a different argument that relies on the notion of internal action, which may involve the notion of simplicity. Critics have sometimes charged that the Mill Argument is an argument from ignorance, but Leibniz was aware of this problem and made clear that he did not make that mistake. (shrink)
Early modern philosophers rejected various important aspects of Aristotelianism. Current scholarship debates the question to what extent the early moderns rejected final causation. Leibniz explicitly endorsed it. I argue that his notion of final causation should be understood in connection with his resurrection of substantial forms and his seeing such forms on the model of the soul. I relate Leibniz’ conception of final causation to the Aristotelian background as well as Descartes’s treatment of teleology. I argue that he agreed with (...) a view found in Aristotelianism that genuine efficiently causal powers require immanent teleology and with Descartes that immanent teleology presupposes cognition in the agent. (shrink)
I argue that Descartes treated the action of body on mind differently from the action of mind on body, as was common in the period. Descartes explicitly denied that there is a problem for interaction but his descriptions of interaction seem to suggest that he thought there was a problem. I argue that these descriptions are motivated by a different issue, the seemingly arbitrary connections between particular physical states and the particular mental states they produce. Within scholasticism there was already (...) a (yet different) problem concerning action of body on mind. I offer a comparison between Descartes and the scholastics. (shrink)
The Clarke-Collins correspondence was widely read and frequently printed during the 18th century. Its central topic is the question whether matter can think. Samuel Clarke defends the immateriality of the human soul against Anthony Collins’ materialism. Clarke argues that consciousness must belong to an indivisible entity, and matter is divisible. Collins contends that consciousness could belong to a composite subject by emerging from material qualities that belong to its parts. While many early modern thinkers assumed that this is not possible, (...) this correspondence offers an unusually detailed discussion of this issue. Clarke rejects emergentism because real qualities of a composite must be homogeneous with the qualities of the parts. This rejection is based on considerations about the nature of causation. In addition, the disagreement derives in part from a disagreement between Clarke and Collins about the limits of our knowledge. (shrink)
In this paper I analyze Descartes's puzzling claim that the mind is whole in the whole body and whole in its parts, what Henry More called "holenmerism". I explain its historical background, in particular in scholasticism. I argue that like his predecessors, Descartes uses the idea for two purposes, for mind-body interaction and for the union of body and mind.
In this paper I explain several ways in which Descartes denied that the human soul or mind is composite and the role this idea played in his thought. The mind is whole in the whole and whole in the parts of the body because it has no parts. Unlike body, the mind is indivisible, and this is a different idea from the thought that mind and body are incorruptible. Descartes connects the immortality of the soul with its status as a (...) substance and as incorruptible rather than with its indivisibility. (shrink)
ABSTRACTThe most prominent early modern argument against materialism is to be found in Descartes. Previously I had argued that this argument relies crucially on a robust conception of substance, according to which it has a single principal attribute of which all its other intrinsic qualities are modes. In the present paper I return to this claim. In Section 2, I address a question that is often raised about that conception of substance: its commitment to the idea that a substance has (...) a single such principal attribute. Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra and Daniel Garber have argued that this claim relies on Descartes's identification of substance with attribute. But I argue that it relies on his view that a substance has a single, unitary nature. In Section 3, I examine the role of this conception of substance in arguments found in Malebranche and Leibniz and compare these arguments with Descartes's. (shrink)
Suárez held that the vital faculties of the soul are really distinct from the soul itself and each other and that they cannot causally interact. This means that he needed to account for the connections between the activities of the faculties: they both interfere with and contribute to each other’s activities. Suárez does so by giving the soul a direct causal role in these activities. This role requires the unity of the soul of a living being and Suárez used it (...) to argue against the view that a living being, in particular a human being, has more than one soul. This line of thought displays some affinity with arguments for the simplicity of the soul from the unity of consciousness. One important difference is that Suárez was talking not just about mental activities but about all vital activities. (shrink)
Locke claimed that God superadded various powers to matter, including motion, the perfections of peach trees and elephants, gravity, and that he could superadd thought. Various interpreters have discussed the question whether Locke's claims about superaddition are in tension with his commitment to mechanistic explanation. This literature assumes that for Locke mechanistic explanation involves deducibility. We argue that this is an inaccurate interpretation and that mechanistic explanation involves a different type of intelligibility for Locke.
The Clarke-Collins correspondence was widely read and frequently printed during the 18th century. Its central topic is the question whether matter can think, or be conscious. Samuel Clarke defends the immateriality of the subject of the mental against Anthony Collins’ materialism. This paper examines important assumptions about the nature of body that play a role in their debate. Clarke argued that consciousness requires an “individual being”, an entity with some sort of significant unity as its subject. They agree that body (...) does not have this type of unity, because it consists of actually distinct parts. (shrink)
Descartes held that the human mind or soul is indivisible, unlike body. In this paper I argue that his treatment of this feature of the soul is intimately connected to his engagement with Aristotelian scholasticism. I discuss two strands in Descartes. There is a long tradition of arguing for the immortality of the human soul on the basis of this view. Descartes did use this view in defense of dualism, but I argue that he held that the soul’s immortality should (...) be established rather on the basis of its status as a substance. This line of thought, I contend, is connected to his rejection of (most) Aristotelian substantial forms. Furthermore, the indivisibility of the human soul emerges repeatedly in connection to the union and interaction of mind and body in ways that connect to Aristotelian scholastic treatments of these issues. (shrink)
Descartes argued that the eternal truths, most prominently the truths of mathematics, are created by God. He was not explicit, however, about the ontological status of these truths. Interpreters have proposed interpretations ranging from Platonism and conceptualism. I argue for an intermediate interpretation: Descartes held they have objective being in God’s mind. In this regard his view was line with a prominent view in Aristotelian scholasticism. I defend this interpretation against objections based on divine simplicity and concerns about causation. I (...) raise questions about the philosophical merit of these objections, but in addition I argue that there is good reason to think that Descartes himself did not think they were problems for the view. Seemingly conceptualist passages in the Principles, I argue, in fact address issues different from the ontological status of the eternal truths. (shrink)
Descartes's dualism, and his argument for it, are often understood in terms of the modal notion of separability. I argue that the central notions, substance and real distinction, should not be understood this way. Descartes's well-known argument for dualism relies implicitly on views he spells out in the Principles of Philosophy, where he explains that a substance has a nature that consists in a single attribute, and all its qualities are modes of that nature. The argument relies ultimately on a (...) deeply rationalistic view of substance. (shrink)
For Descartes different substances are really distinct. He frequently connects real distinction with mutual separability. I examine this connection and the notion of real distinction. I then apply the results of this analysis to the controversy over the question whether Descartes held that there is a multiplicity of corporeal substances or only one. I argue that there are several ways of defending the pluralist interpretation against the monist charge that Cartesian bodies are not separable and so not really distinct substances.
One question that has created controversy among interpreters is just how much is in doubt at the end of the Dream Argument in Meditation I. I argue that there is doubt about the existence of composite bodies not yet about the existence of a physical world. I also caution against using later parts of the Meditations to interpret the First Meditation on account of the order of reasons in this work. I connect the Omnipotent God argument to Descartes's views about (...) innate ideas and analyze the First Meditation in relation to Descartes's anti-aristotelian purposes. (shrink)
In Metaphysical Themes: 1274–1671, Robert Pasnau compares the medieval and early modern approaches to the material-immaterial divide and suggests the medievals held the advantage on this issue. I argue for the opposite conclusion. I also argue against his suggestion that we should approach the divide through the notion of a special type of extension for immaterial entities, and propose that instead we should focus on their indivisibility.
Leibniz took pride in the Pre-established Harmony as an account of mind-body union. On the other hand, he sometimes claimed that he did not have a good account of such a union. I explain the tension by distinguishing between two importantly different issues that concern the union: body-soul interaction and the per se unity of the composite. Furthermore, I argue that, contrary to R.M. Adams, Leibniz did have the philosophical resources to account for a per se unity of the body-soul (...) composite by invoking Aristolian scholastic solutions to that problem. (shrink)
IN this paper I explain how Descartes's conception of the mind was novel in relation to Aristotelian scholasticism. I also argue against the standard view that Descartes believed in transparency of the mental, the view that one cannot make mistakes about one's own mental states.
I argue that Descartes's best known argument for dualism relies on claims about intellectual activity and not on claims about mental states generally to establish dualism. I explain that this must be so give his historical context, where arguments for the immateriality of the mind on the basis of the intellect were common. But sensation and other non-intellectual states were regarded as pertaining to the body-soul composite.