March 24, 2017

Recent and Forthcoming Publications and Lecture

There's been a lot of exciting stuff going on recently! Here are a few things: The official UK release of Language and Structure was yesterday! This means that if you are in Europe and ordered direct from OUP, your copy should be on the way. Also, it means that e-book versions are now available from Amazon UK, Amazon US, Google, and Barnes and Noble. The paper book will be available in the rest of the world in May. "How Berkeley's Gardener Knows his Cherry Tree" will appear in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly. "Berkeley on Unperceived Objects and the Publicity of Language"...
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March 18, 2017

Wessling on 'Idealistic Panentheism'

The third essay in Idealism and Christian Theology is "Idealistic Panentheism: Reflections on Jonathan Edwards's Account of the God-World Relation" by Jordan Wessling. The essay is avowedly not interpretive, but rather aims at an evaluation of a certain view in philosophical theology, dubbed 'idealistic panentheism,' which has been attributed to Edwards. This view takes the whole created world—including human minds—to be ideas in the mind of God. It is idealistic insofar as it takes reality to be fundamentally mental. It is panentheistic in a literal and straightforward sense: the created world exists in God's mind. However, it is not pantheistic...
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March 16, 2017

Wainwright on Berkeley and Edwards

The second essay in Idealism and Christian Theology is "Berkeley, Edwards, Idealism, and the Knowledge of God" by William J. Wainwright. The aim of this article is to explore and explain similarities between Berkeley and Edwards in terms of the religious and cultural context in which they wrote, particularly the threat of deism and freethinking to these (relatively) traditional religious thinkers. This is an extremely interesting project, and it is for the most part well-executed, though the brevity of a single paper necessitates glossing over certain details, leaving some points underdeveloped, and so forth. Wainwright's central contention, I take it,...
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March 8, 2017

Spiegel on Berkeley and Orthodoxy

The first paper in Idealism and Christian Theology is James Spiegel's "The Theological Orthodoxy of Berkeley's Immaterialism." This piece was originally published in Faith and Philosophy in 1996, though I must confess that I had not read it before today. I found the essay rather odd, partly because I have some confusion about the nature of its project. Contrary to my expectations, it does not really address any of the questions I outlined in my last post. On the whole, I think the essay makes problematic unexamined assumptions about Berkeley's religion, and it relies on a controversial characterization of Berkeley's...
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March 3, 2017

Idealism and Christian Theology: Introduction

I have been asked to review Joshua Farris and Mark Hamilton's Idealism and Christian Theology for Faith and Philosophy. In accord with a previous practice I have found useful, I will be blogging through the book, one post per chapter, in preparation to write the review. This post will be not so much a discussion of the book's introduction as my own way of framing and approaching the issues in the book. The fundamental paradox of theological anthropology in the Abrahamic tradition is the understanding of the human being as the breath of God dwelling in the dust of the...
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January 18, 2017

"Locke, Arnauld, and Abstract Ideas"

I've posted a new draft to my writings page, "Locke, Arnauld, and Abstract Ideas". Current work in the history of philosophy mostly treats Arnauld as a footnote to other philosophers, but the fact that he's needed as a footnote in discussions of Descartes, Malebranche, Leibniz, and Locke suggests that his historical importance is greater than his 'footnote' status suggests. Further, what little English-language secondary literature on Arnauld exists is mostly divided into three categories: work on the Port-Royal Logic and Grammar (including, especially, the influence of these works on Locke), work on the controversy with Malebranche (and the direct realism...
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January 12, 2017

Berkeley and Hobbes

From a certain point of view (or perhaps several points of view), one might think that no two early modern philosophers are more opposed than Berkeley and Hobbes. True, both are empiricists, and the disagreement between rationalists and empiricists is often treated as the 'main event' of early modern philosophy. However, a comparison between Berkeley and Hobbes might well be regarded as a vivid and compelling illustration of the failings of the traditional rationalist-empiricist narrative. Note, for starters, that the ontologies of Berkeley and Hobbes are disjoint: Hobbes believes only in material substances, Berkeley believes only in spiritual (immaterial) substances....
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December 22, 2016

Berkeley's Manuscript Introduction Digitized

This morning the digitization team at the Trinity College Library provided me with scans of the manuscript version of the Introduction to Berkeley's Principles. The manuscript is significantly longer than the published version and contains some important material, as I discuss at some length in my book. However, it has been widely known for some time that the transcription of the manuscript in the Luce and Jessop edition of Berkeley's Works is unreliable. The excellent diplomatic edition prepared by Bertil Belfrage was printed in a run of only 500 copies in 1987, and hence is not widely available. In the coming months, I will be working to prepare a permanent online home for the manuscript. In the meantime, I am pleased to make it available here.
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December 5, 2016

Princess Elisabeth's Refutation of Descartes

I also find that the senses show me that the soul moves the body, but they teach me nothing (no more than do the understanding and the imagination) of the way in which it does so. For this reason, I think that there are some properties of the soul, which are unknown to us, which could perhaps overturn what your Metaphysical Meditations persuaded me of by such good reasoning: the nonextendedness of the soul. This doubt seems to be founded on the rule that you give there, in speaking of the true and the false, that all error comes to...
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November 15, 2016

Language and Structure Available for Pre-Order!

I am most pleased to announce that Language and the Structure of Berkeley's World is now available for pre-order through Amazon UK or direct from Oxford University Press! It has not yet appeared on the US Amazon site. UK release is scheduled for March; US release for May. In addition to the information available on the Amazon and OUP sites, a detailed abstract can be found here.
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October 7, 2016

Becoming a Political Kantian

This morning I've decided to take a break from contemplating the fact that my country is seriously considering giving the nuclear codes to a narcissistic, incompetent, hateful, con artist orangutang to contemplate politics in a more theoretical fashion, without reference to the present election. I've always had strongly deontological moral intuitions—that is, I find it most natural to think of ethics as primarily involving rules we have to follow rather than outcomes we have to promote. Further, before I started studying philosophy, I had broadly libertarian political views. It's not surprising, then, that when I first encountered Nozick's Kantian defense...
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September 30, 2016

"Berkeley on Unperceived Objects and the Publicity of Language"

Completing my summer research goals (only slightly late!), I've posted another new draft to my writings page, "Berkeley on Unperceived Objects and the Publicity of Language". The paper argues that when Berkeley's language of nature theory is interpreted in light of his own philosophy of language it produces a solution to the notorious problem of the existence of objects presently unperceived by humans.
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September 29, 2016

Teaching Like Socrates?

The Daily Nous heap of links today contained the image to the right (click for a larger view) which appears to be a letter to the editor of some newspaper by Simon Blackburn. I found the letter interesting and amusing, and it has something of a point, but it would be a big mistake to use this point to exempt philosophy departments from broader university conversations about pedagogy. The fact is, first, although the central pedagogical idea most associated with Socrates—that we teach by raising questions that cause students to re-examine their views—is certainly sound, this is really only the...
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September 28, 2016

"What Descartes Doubted, Berkeley Denied, and Kant Endorsed"

I've posted a new draft, "What Descartes Doubted, Berkeley Denied, and Kant Endorsed," to my writings page. This is actually a rewrite of a much older paper; the original idea pre-dates my dissertation. In it, I argue (among other things) that Kant's fundamental complaint against Berkeley is that Berkeley's empiricism leaves him with cognitive resources too sparse for the construction of a genuine world. In particular, Kant targets Berkeley's rejection of the application of the concept of substance to perceived objects. Of course, in Language and Structure I argue that Berkeley is aware of these sorts of problems and develops...
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September 15, 2016

"Counterpossible Dependence" in Faith and Philosophy

My paper, "Counterpossible Dependence and the Efficacy of the Divine Will" has been accepted by Faith and Philosophy. This paper is a sort of companion to my Sanders prize essay: it applies the ideas about God and grounding in that essay to solve some problems about divine omnipotence. The preprint is available here.
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