By the mid-1600s, the commonsense, manifest picture of the world associated with Aristotle had been undermined by skeptical arguments on the one hand and by the rise of the New Science on the other. What would be the scientific image to succeed the Aristotelian model? Thomas Lennon argues here that the contest between the supporters of Descartes and the supporters of Gassendi to decide this issue was the most important philosophical debate of the latter half of the seventeenth century. Descartes (...) and Gassendi inspired their followers with radically opposed perspectives on space, the objects in it, and how these objects are known. Lennon maintains that differing concepts on these matters implied significant moral and political differences: the Descartes/Gassendi conflict was typical of Plato's perennial battle of the gods and giants, and the crux of that enduring philosophical struggle is the exercise of moral and political authority. Lennon demonstrates, in addition, that John Locke should be read as having taken up Gassendi's cause against Descartes. In Lennon's reinterpretation of the history of philosophy between the death dates of Gassendi and Malebranche, Locke's acknowledged opposition to Descartes on some issues is applied to the most important questions of Locke exegesis. Originally published in 1993. The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905. (shrink)
People -- Who was Huet? -- The censura : why and when? -- The birth of skepticism -- Malebranche's surprising silence -- The downfall of cartesianism -- Kinds -- Huet a cartesian? -- Descartes and skepticism : the standard interpretation -- Descartes and skepticism : the texts -- Thoughts -- The cogito : an inference? -- The transparency of mind -- The cogito as pragmatic tautology -- Doubts -- The reality of doubt -- The generation of doubt -- The response (...) to doubt -- Rules -- The criterion of truth -- The trump argument -- Circles -- The simple circularity of the meditations -- The inner circle(s) -- Gods -- Gassendist influences -- The objections of objections -- The rejection of intentionality -- Virtues -- Descartes's voice -- Betting the family farm -- The propagation of light -- The heart-beat -- The moving earth -- Faith and reason -- Descartes as methodological academic skeptic. (shrink)
Descartes’s View of the Will Has generally been found problematic and unsatisfactory, especially by those who have read it, or elements of it, in libertarian terms. Attempts to repair the theory, even by sympathetic interpreters, seem only to have aggravated the view’s putative shortcomings—again, especially among those who have read it, or part of it, in libertarian terms—which suggests that the libertarian reading itself might be unsatisfactory. The aim of this paper is to show that the linchpin text on which (...) libertarian readings have been based provides no basis for such readings. The text is the so-called letter to the Jesuit Denis Mesland of 9 February 1645. Among seminal authors—those most .. (shrink)
This paper treats a heretofore-unnoticed concept in the history of the philosophical discussion of human freedom, a kind of freedom that is not defined solely in terms of the causal power of the agent. Instead, the exercise of freedom essentially involves the non-occurrence of something. That being free involves the non-occurrence, that is, the absence, of an act may seem counterintuitive. With the exception of those specifically treated in this paper, philosophers tend to think of freedom as intimately involved with (...) volition, the judging or deciding activity of the will that votes in favor of or against a proposed action. However, there are two thinkers who endorse a view where not willing constitutes human freedom. Our analysis focuses on the views of Malebranche and Locke. Both invoke a notion dubbed here as ‘absential suspension.’ On this view, freedom is associated not with the power of volition, but rather with this kind of suspension. (shrink)
The Quietist affair at the end of the seventeenth century has much to teach us about theories of the will in the period. Although Bossuet and Fénelon are the names most famously associated with the debate over the Quietist conception of pure love, Malebranche and his erstwhile disciple Lamy were the ones who debated the deep philosophical issues involved. This paper sets the historical context of the debate, discusses the positions as well as the arguments for and against them, and (...) opens up investigation of important material that is all but ignored in the English literature and only incompletely addressed in the French. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: Indifference is a term often used to describe the sort of freedom had by the will according to the libertarian, or Molinist account. It is thought to be a univocal term. In fact, however, it is used in at least seven different ways, in a variety of domains during the early modern period. All of them have plausible roots in Descartes, but he himself uses the term in only one sense, and failure to notice this consistent use by him (...) has bedeviled interpretations of his account of the will. (shrink)
RÉSUMÉ: Moore attribuait l’idéalisme de Berkeley à sa négligence de la distinction entre l’acte d’appréhension et son objet. Bien que Berkeley ait justement tracé cette distinction dans le premier Dialogue, et l’ait rejetée, peu s’en sont aperçu, et ceux qui l’ont remarqué lui reprochent habituellement de confondre l’acte d’appréhension avec une action. La thèse ici développée est que Berkeley n’est pas coupable de cette confusion et qu’il rejette la distinction, en fait, pour de bonnes raisons à caractère empiriste, qui ont (...) à voir avec ce que l’on tient pour son argument principal. (shrink)
The expression “continental rationalism” refers to a set of views more or less shared by a number of philosophers active on the European continent during the latter two thirds of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth. Rationalism is most often characterized as an epistemological position. On this view, to be a rationalist requires at least one of the following: (1) a privileging of reason and intuition over sensation and experience, (2) regarding all or most ideas as innate (...) rather than adventitious, (3) an emphasis on certain rather than merely probable knowledge as the goal of enquiry. While all of the continental rationalists meet one or more of these criteria, this is arguably the consequence of a deeper tie that binds them together—that is, a metaphysical commitment to the reality of substance, and, in particular, to substance as an underlying principle of unity. (shrink)
Berkeley subscribed to the principle of heterogeneity, that what we see is qualitatively and numerically different from what we touch. He says of this principle that it is “the main part and pillar of [his] theory.” The argument I present here is that the theory to which Berkeley refers is not just his theory of vision, but what that theory was the preparation for, which is nothing less than his idealism. The argument turns on the passivity of perception, which is (...) what is at stake in the principle of heterogeneity. The author targeted by Berkeley's theory is Descartes, who explicitly denies heterogeneity. (shrink)
Berkeley's Theory of Vision, or Visual Language Showing The Immediate Presence and Providence of A Deity, Vindicated And Explained was published in 1733, occasioned by an anonymous letter of the previous year to the London Daily Post Boy . The letter criticized Berkeley's New Theory of Vision , which had been published in 1709, but which had been appended to Berekely's Alciphron , published in 1732. No one has ever identified the author whose criticisms led Berkeley to his Theory of (...) Vision Vindicated . Circumstantial evidence presented here suggests that the author was Catherine Trotter Cockburn. Part of the evidence is the brilliance of her interpretation of Locke, whose position is defended in the letter against Berkeley. (shrink)
Peter Winch prefaced The Idea of A Social Science with the above quotation adumbrating his thesis that the rules endowing actions with their sense are, like all rules, relative to a social context. A good example, no less illustrative for being imaginary, is Wittgenstein’s of a society in which lumber is piled in arbitrarily varying heights and priced according to the area occupied by the base of the piles. When asked why they do not price the lumber according to the (...) amount, the members of this society insist that they do. Precisely what these people are doing in their commercial practice has no sense apart from the rules which define the practice itself. I shall not here directly argue for this idealistic approach to behavior, but instead exploit it to make three related points. 1) The literature discussing the extensional equivalence of act and rule utilitarianism over the past two decades has taken a different approach, one which is more congenial with realism. The result, in my view, is that this literature has contested the issue using a conception of an act which is inapplicable to rule utilitarian theories. 2) With the more appropriate idealistic conception of an act, rule utilitarianism clearly emerges as inequivalent to act utilitarianism, for they are seen to be theories about different kinds of events. When a rule utilitarian asks, what if everyone did the same, he is asking about the consequences of something which differs more than just numerically from what brings about the consequences of interest to an act utilitarian. Indeed, he must be asking about acts as we ordinarily conceive them, whereas the act utilitarian must be asking about something else. 3) Though it appeals to the consequences of the universal practice of acts so conceived, rule utilitarianism is nonetheless the deontological theory it was intended to be. This is important because, as it will be seen, its prescriptions are thus more practicable than those of the teleological act utilitarianism. (shrink)
This paper examines the function of Hume’s use of a peculiar example from A Treatise of Human Nature. The example in question is that of a burning piece of coal that is whirled around at a sufficient speed to present to a viewer an image of a circle of fire. The example is a common one; and Hume himself points to Locke as his source in this case. Hume’s reference appears accurate since both Locke and Hume seem to marshal the (...) example in order to bolster a case for an upper and lower temporal threshold for perception. But several philosophical problems inherent in Hume’s appeal to the example make the case for Locke as Hume’s sole or even primary source difficult to sustain. The paper sketches a history of uses of the example from the seventeenth century through the twentieth century. An argument is presented that Pierre Bayle’s use of the example is most in accord with Hume’s, and that for this and other reasons, Bayle is his likeliest source. Further, making sense in this way of Hume’s use of the burning coal example illuminates Hume’s interesting contributions to the notions of time, identity, and individuation. (shrink)
Despite Glouberman—s paper, I adhere to the terms I used earlier to describe the contest between Descartes and Gassendi. His attribution to me of a positivist conception of philosophical activity, I claim, better characterizes his own attitude toward evidence, truth, and the cognitive significance of metaphysical claims. Part of what was at stake between Descartes and Gassendi was a communal model of knowledge; within this context, I raise questions about standards of scholarship and their significance.
These two books on Descartes are alike only in the evident intelligence and scholarship that have gone into them. They come from very smart people who have at their disposal an impressive array of Descartes’s texts as well as other material. The result is that both books are exceedingly rich and rewarding, and are so beyond any indication possible here. Otherwise, they are very different in their scope, in their aims, in their methodology, in their style and level of difficulty, (...) in the use to which they will be put, and in their subject matter. Without knowing of Rozemond’s book, Vinci in his introduction identifies the fork that nonetheless separates his book from hers. According to Vinci, there are two divergent strains of argument to be found in Descartes’s Meditations: one is an epistemological project relating to worldviews, the other an ontological project relating to a dualism of mind and body. In dealing with the tension between them, he says, the “reconstruction” of Descartes must go beyond exegetical considerations to philosophical interest. “Different philosophers will make different assessments, but my own is that it is Cartesian epistemology rather than Cartesian theory of mind that is of more abiding philosophical interest”. Rozemond makes just the opposite assessment, at least if her book is judged by this standard. (shrink)
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