In the Ethics, Spinoza is not expressly concerned with skepticism and the possibility envisaged by Descartes that clear and distinct ideas or conceptions may not be true. There is reason for this, as he was of the opinion that, if as in the Ethics we proceed in our thinking in the right order, doubt will not arise. In his earlier works, however, he is concerned with skepticism and, in particular, with the questioning of clear and distinct ideas. In the Prolegomenon (...) in Part One of Descartes’ Principles, he sets forth what he takes to be Descartes’ attempt to allay doubts about clear and distinct perceptions. He finds there that Descartes does not succeed in answering an objection to his procedure, and he proposes an alternative way of escape from doubt. This alternative is also stated in the Improvement of the Understanding in the section on doubt or idea dubia ; and considerable light is cast upon it by his discussion in this section of the nature of doubt. Distinguishing genuine doubt and merely verbal doubt, i.e. professions of doubt when “the soul does not doubt,” he explains what leads to genuine doubt and how such doubt is to be removed. In my paper, I shall explicate the view stated in these passages and raise questions about the relations of this view to other views of Spinoza’s. I shall also be concerned with a short and cryptic passage earlier in the Improvement of the Understanding in which he deals with professions of doubt that, farther on, he deems merely verbal. In a final section, I shall assemble the views about skeptical doubt stated in the various places and give a summary statement of Spinoza’s attitude toward philosophical skepticism. (shrink)
In my critique of professor mandelbaum's "the historiography of the history of philosophy," i raise three queries. the first is about a "methodological" question, roughly, "what is to count as philosophy?" the second concerns a part of the central thesis, namely, that (for the most part) a major philosopher's "primary beliefs" do not derive from his criticism of other philosophers. third, i raise some questions which appear to lie behind mandelbaum's proposal regarding what is to count as history of philosophy. (...) my conclusion is that his proposal is both ill-founded and excessively restrictive. (shrink)
In Descartes; A Collection of Critical Essays, I published a bibliography of works in English relating to Descartes. This is a Supplement to that bibliography and contains references to works in English that have appeared since 1966 through 1975 or that inadvertently were not included in the original bibliography. The Supplement is in three parts: Translations and Reference Works, Books, and Articles. In, I have also included chapters of books that can be read independently and that may be of interest (...) to students of Descartes. There were of course borderline cases in which I had to decide whether an article contained enough material about Descartes to be included in the bibliography. On the whole, I believe I have followed a rather liberal policy in making these decisions. (shrink)
This book brings together Spinoza's fundamental philosophical thinking with his conclusions about God and religion. Spinoza was born a Jew but chose to live outside any religious community. He was deeply engaged both in traditional Hebrew learning and in contemporary physical science. He emerges not as a rationalist precursor of the Enlightenment but as a thinker of the highest importance in his own right, both in philosophy and in religion.
In the first premiss, how is the word 'different' used? If we are prepared to say that, in certain areas of discourse, the word 'different,' like the word 'same,' has two uses and that there are two senses of the word, there seem to be two ways of interpreting the first premiss. On the one hand, we can take the word 'different' to be used in the way in which it would be used if someone wished to point out that (...) the table that was in this room was replaced by another very similar table and, to point this out, said that the table that is here now is different from—or is a different table from—the one that was here a week ago. If in the first premiss we take the word 'different' to be used in this way, the premiss can be read: "Everything is numerically different from everything else." On the other hand, we can take the word 'different' to be used in the way in which it would be used if someone were to say, about two tables that were in front of him, that one is different from the other, and elaborate on his remark by saying that the one is a darker brown than the other. If we take the word 'different' to be used in this way, the first premiss can be read: "Everything is qualitatively different from everything else." Which of the two interpretations is correct? It seems that both are, for, although Mr. Blanshard purports to be discussing one argument, what he says in reply to Nagel's objections supports the second interpretation; whereas his statement of the argument at the outset supports the first interpretation. When he answers Nagel's objections, he considers the case of two "patches." A is a circular patch on the earth, and B a triangular patch on Mars. Maintaining against Nagel that A and B are internally related, the relation between A and B that he contends is internal is their difference in shape. And the argument that he seems to be defending here would have as its first premiss that everything differs qualitatively from every other thing. Yet, when he presents the argument on p. 229, he seems to have a different argument in mind. To show that two seemingly unrelated things are related, he says that a farmer in Iowa and a ballet dancer in Moscow are "different individuals," and the point that I take him to be making here is that, from the proposition that the farmer in Iowa and the dancer in Moscow are two individuals, it follows that the one is different from the other and hence that the two are related. This favors the first interpretation, viz., that in the first premiss the word 'different' is to be understood as in the remark that the table that is here now is different from—is a different table from—the table that was here a week ago. (shrink)
COMPARING E M CURLEY'S "DESCARTES AGAINST THE SKEPTICS" AND MARGARET DAULER WILSON'S "DESCARTES", I POINT OUT A SEEMING INCOMPATIBILITY BETWEEN THE CENTRAL THESES OF THE TWO BOOKS AND AN UNCLARITY IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CENTRAL THESIS IN EACH BOOK. MORE PARTICULARLY, I EXAMINE AND CRITICIZE TWO OF PROFESSOR CURLEY'S "RECONSTRUCTIONS" OF ARGUMENTS IN THE "MEDITATIONS": THE ARGUMENT FROM DREAMING IN MEDITATION I AND THE ONTOLOGICAL PROOF IN MEDITATION V. IN PROFESSOR WILSON'S BOOK, I RAISE QUESTIONS ABOUT HER INTERPRETATION OF (...) THE PASSAGES ABOUT THE WAX IN MEDITATION II AND THE ATTRIBUTION TO DESCARTES OF A "NON-PLATONIC" THEORY OF MATHEMATICS ON THE BASIS OF PASSAGES IN MEDITATIONS V AND VI. (shrink)