This paper examines Hume?s comments on and claims about ancient philosophy. A clear and consistent picture emerges from doing so. While Hume is a lover of ancient literature, he holds ancient philosophy in very low regard, as passage after passage discloses, with one qualification and one important exception. Hume appropriates the mantle of ?Academic? sceptic for himself; but in fact his Academic (or ?mitigated?) scepticism has only minimal affinity with the ancient school of this name, having more in common with (...) early modern sceptical positions. The exception is found in the ?painterly? depictions of character and other features of moral life, where Hume holds many of the ancients in very high regard, seeing them as superior to the moderns. The bases of these respective views of Hume?s are explored, with an interpretation which construes Hume?s ?anatomist?/?painter? contrast as meant non-ironically. On the anatomist or theoretical side, Hume nonetheless ? rightly or wrongly, and contrary to the views of a number of his prominent readers ? sees a radical, dramatic break between early modern ?scientific? philosophy, and anything which preceded it. (shrink)
In this paper we argue for the robustness of Leibniz's commitment to the reality (but not substantiality) of body. We claim that a number of his most important metaphysical doctrines — among them, psychophysical parallelism, the harmony between efficient and final causes, the connection of all things, and the argument for the plurality of substances stemming from his solution to the continuum problem— make no sense if he is interpreted as giving an eliminative reduction of bodies to perceptions.
This paper raises complication for the standard interpretive view of Liebniz's mature metaphysical system as idealist. Body-realist affirmations are found in his writings up to his death, in bulk and diversity very difficult to accommodate to phenomenalist or idealist construal. Claims of Leibnizian inconsistency and indecisiveness do not seem adequately to account for them. The view that body is real for Liebniz, though not a substance, is explored. Alternative non-idealist interpretations of the system are considered, the most plausible argued to (...) be a variety of dualism. At the same time, dialectical features of Leibnizian philosophy make it a matter of proper caution not to settle emphatically on a decided conclusion of the issue. (shrink)
Professor Adam Potkay’s interesting, wide-ranging, and well-informed book makes a case for close commonalities between two Enlightenment writers and personalities who have been usually regarded as deeply contrary, indeed, oppositional—namely, David Hume and Samuel Johnson. At places Professor Potkay appears to argue that there is essentially a single broad philosophy discernible in Johnson and Hume; in other contexts a range of striking and hitherto unsuspected similarities, only, is proposed. Methodologically, Potkay seeks to denaturalize Hume, and to naturalize Johnson, at least (...) relatively, in both instances; hence to split a difference, and find the two converging on a middle ground. His book argues that Hume and Johnson are essentially and primarily moralists, with similar analyses of human motivations and of what conduces to human flourishing. Common intellectual roots are seen, in ancient and early modern thought, and a common range of intellectual adversaries, above all, Cartesian rationalism. A broad shared vision of human history also is argued to unite the two thinkers. While differences of view are not denied, especially on religion, Potkay sees more that is common than contrary. (shrink)
One of the books submitted for review to this journal was B.?A. Scharfstein's The philosophers: their lives and the nature of their thought (1980, Oxford). Although not explicitly concerned with logic, it raised various questions for history and historiography (possibilities for psycho-history, for example). Thus I sought a review, which was written by P. Loptson and published in volume 3 (1982), 105?107. The ensuing correspondence has been edited for publication by me, with the authors? approval.
In mainstream Anglo-American philosophy, the relation between cognition and community has been defined primarily in terms of the generalization of the mathematical function, especially as a model for the nature of rules, which thus come to be under-stood as algorithms. This leads to the elimination of both the reflexive, synthesizing subject, and the intrinsic communal-historical nature of argumentation and belief-formation. Against this approach, I follow R.G. Collingwood’s hitherto unrecognized strategy in his Essay on Metaphysics and argue that the relation of (...) cognition and community is better understood by way of the ancient and forgotten model of creedal rules of faith or trust. These will be shown to have the logical form of first person performative rules of faith or trust that generate third person declaratives or proposi-tions, and so constitute the possibility conditions for an argumentational logic of question and answer. They restore the synthetic subject, for they are not algorithms but reflexive and interpretive formulae; they are communally constituted and so historically saturated; and they reinstate an ontological theory of truth as disclosure, with coherence and comprehensiveness as its criteria. In these respects, as Collingwood saw, the creedal model provides a fresh interpretation of the historicality of argumentation and redefines the relation of cognition and community in terms of the interdependence of faith and reason. (shrink)
It is a pleasure to be able to pay tribute to Adam Potkay’s interesting and impressive book on two of the most important figures in the eighteenth century. It brings together the philosophical and the literary, the “anatomist” and the “painter” of the passions and the moral life, integrating worlds that, however isolated they may have become in the twentieth century, were not seen as all that distinct in the eighteenth. Having said this, the most remarkable feature of Potkay’s book (...) is that it unites two figures usually thought to be opposed—the irascible, domineering, and deeply Christian Johnson and the dispassionate, moderate, and pagan Hume. (shrink)
I want to suggest in this essay that there are some problems in the interpretation of Descartes’ views about persons, minds, the mental, and the physical—about so-called “Cartesian dualism” in general—which have not been in any explicit or systematic way noticed or confronted. There are two primary problems I shall explore. They are both at least apparent inconsistencies in Descartes’ views. The first of them may be only a terminological inconsistency, and fairly easily resolved. The second is far more crucial, (...) and not merely terminological. If it really is an inconsistency, then we must either abandon Cartesian dualism as hopelessly confused, or give up at least one of the Cartesian assertions that leads to the contradiction. I shall argue that there is a real inconsistency between a claim Descartes on one occasion makes and the rest of what he says or seems to say about persons, minds, the mental, and the physical—“Cartesian dualism”—but that this inconsistency is not fatal to Cartesian dualism. It is removed by suppressing the single isolated statement, and what remains is a coherent, consistent, and highly plausible view about persons and their states. (shrink)
This is an edition of what are arguably Leibniz's three most important presentations of his metaphysical system: the Discourse on Metaphysics, from 1686, and The Principles of Nature and of Grace and The Monadology, from 1714. Based on the Latta and Montgomery translations and revised by the editor, these texts set out the essentials of Leibniz's mature metaphysical views. The edition includes an introductory essay and a set of appendices of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century texts, which help illuminate and contextualize Leibniz's (...) ideas. Among these are extensive passages from Leibniz's Theodicy, many of which are cited in The Monadology. (shrink)
This paper identifies a thesis held widely in contemporary empiricist and naturalist metaphysics, viz., causalism — the view that to be is to be part of the causal structure of the world. I argue against this thesis, defending what I call extra-causalism. Claims that entities with no obvious causal role, like unexemplified properties and points of space, are unreal, or, if they are accorded reality, that they must have some discoverable — perhaps merely counter-factual — causal significance, are dogmatic and (...) ad hoc. Another view logically independent of causalism, but often held by its advocates, is what may be called the thesis of ontic levels, the idea that there is a primary or basic sort of being, and at least one derivative or non-basic kind of being. I argue against this as well, claiming that extra-causalism and the unity of being are compatible with a fully naturalist and empiricist view of the world. Metaphysical causalism appears to involve misunderstanding the actual character and aims of natural science. (shrink)
Among the great western philosophers, David Hume enjoys at present as high and honoured a position as any, especially with the attention he has drawn in 2011, which marked the three-hundredth anniversary of his birth. The general drift of the accounts of Hume?s philosophical ideas has tended over the past few dozen years and more to be extremely positive and typically celebratory. Admirers of the man?widely regarded as the very model of the philosophical life?and of his philosophical views, are legion. (...) Hume?s works are pored over endlessly, and his interpreters generally vie with one another for the degrees of subtlety and acuity which they elaborate from those texts. At earlier times, Hume was often read and assessed much more negatively. In his own day, primary focus was on his scepticism and irreligion. Several nineteenth-century critics, including John Stuart Mill, T. H. Green, and L. A. Selby-Bigge, saw a brilliant, yet massively inconsistent, Hume. I this essay I review and discuss their criticism of Hume, from which he emerges, nonetheless, a philosophical giant. (shrink)