December 14, 2018

Ibn Sīnā and Descartes on the Nature of Body

Thus, a body is such an entity that, if one posits a longitude on it, another longitude will be found intersecting it at a right angle, and a third longitude of these two lengths will stand as a perpendicular on the point of the previous intersection. Whatever can be placed under these three magnitudes in the aforesaid manner and is also a substance is called a body ... But that which is in a body, such as length, width, and depth, is known to exist not in the form of the body, but as an accident to it. For instance,...
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December 13, 2018

Chillingworth on Strange Extractions in Chymistry and Logick

In your sixt parag. I let all passe saving only this, That a perswasion that men of different Religions ... may be saved, is a most pernitious heresy, and even a ground of Atheisme. What strange extractions Chymistry can make I know not, but sure I am, he that by reason would inferre this conclusion, That there is no God, from this ground, That God will save men in different Religions, must have a higher strain in Logick, then you or I have hitherto made shew of. In my apprehension, the other part of the contradiction, That there is a...
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November 5, 2018

"Berkeley's Theory of Language"

I've posted a new draft to my writings page, "Berkeley's Theory of Language". This is an invited contribution to The Oxford Handbook of Berkeley, edited by Samuel Rickless. The abstract is as follows: In the Introduction to the Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, Berkeley attacks the “received opinion that language has no other end but the communicating our ideas, and that every significant name stands for an idea” (PHK, Intro §19). How far does Berkeley go in rejecting this ‘received opinion’? Does he offer a general theory of language to replace it? If so, what is the nature...
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November 3, 2018

"William King on Free Will"

A preprint of my paper "William King on Free Will" is now available on my writings page. This paper was in fact accepted by Philosophers' Imprint in July. Since the journal is open access and has usually been very fast in my previous experience, I hadn't bothered to post a preprint in advance. However, it seems that staff turnover has resulted in substantial publication delay at the journal, so I've decided to post the preprint after all. Here is the abstract: William King's De Origine Mali (1702) contains an interesting, sophisticated, and original account of free will. King finds 'necessitarian'...
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October 30, 2018

Why Isn't God a Perfect Frankfurt-Intervener?

In a number of publications on the problem of divine foreknowledge and human freedom, Linda Zagzebski has argued that principles derived from consideration of Frankfurt cases dissolve the problem. Essentially, Zagzebski suggests, the presence of a counterfactual intervener cannot make an action unfree. If there is no interference in one's action in the actual world nothing that goes on in some other possible world can render one unfree. If, however, we accept this principle, then the fact that God foreknows one's action shouldn't render one unfree either, since God's foreknowledge does not intervene in the course of one's action. Zagzebski...
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September 15, 2018

Catharine Trotter Cockburn on Berkeley's Immaterialism

I rather think we have that idea [of space] before we have any of extension in general, or are capable of abstracting: Nor does the mind frame it to itself; it is an idea early obtruded upon by the senses, and unavoidably perceived by it, as something without itself. This is all the proof we have, that matter is any thing really existing without the mind; and if the translator [Edmund Law, translator of William King's Essay on the Origin of Evil] will not admit of this evidence in behalf of space, but require some other proof, that it is...
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September 5, 2018

Two Varieties of Occasionalism

As Elisabeth of Bohemia famously pointed out, Descartes appears to be committed to the following inconsistent triad: In every instance of causation, there is an a priori conceptual connection between cause and effect. There are no conceptual connections between mind and body. Mind and body interact causally. The most common response to this problem among Descartes's 17th century followers was occasionalism, the view that bodily phenomena do not genuinely cause mental phenomena but are merely reliably correlated with them, and vice versa, so that bodily phenomena may be called occasions of mental phenomena and mental phenomena may be called occasions...
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August 8, 2018

What is 'Acausal Thomism'?

In yesterday's post I discussed a view I called 'acausal Thomism'. I think I got the name from Tom Flint's article on divine providence in the Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology, but I don't have the book with me now and the Google and Amazon previews are being uncooperative. In any event, in the comments on yesterday's post, both Mike Almeida and Brandon Watson suggested that this view was in need of clarification. I employed it in yesterday's argument, and I also said that I lean toward endorsing the view. So here I'll try to clarify exactly what I mean...
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August 7, 2018

A Theological 'Slippery Slope' Argument for Compatibilism

When I first began studying philosophy, I was a convinced libertarian about free will. My reasons included supposed direct introspection together with what I now take to be two distinct but related intuitions, which I will now call the consequence argument intuition and the buck-stopping intuition. (I wouldn't have explained them like this back then, of course: I'm trying to do some autobiographical rational reconstruction.) The consequence argument intuition is the notion that if an event is necessitated—whether logically, metaphysically, or causally/nomologically—by factors outside my control, then that event is itself outside my control, and an event outside my control...
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July 6, 2018

Philosophy and Trust in the Senses, from Montaigne to Berkeley

I want to begin this post with a longer sequence of quotations than is usual. The reason is that simply juxtaposing the quotations goes a long way toward telling the story I want to tell. Here, then, is a sequence of comments on philosophy and trust in the senses, ranging in date from 1580 to 1713: We want to find out by reason whether fire is hot, whether snow is white, whether anything within our knowledge is hard or soft. There are ancient stories of the replies made to the man who doubted whether heat exists—they told him to jump...
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July 2, 2018

Hooker, Hobbes, and Locke on Absolute Monarchy

Hereby it is manifest, that during the time men live without a common Power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called Warre; and such a warre, as is of every man, against every man ... in such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth;...
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June 29, 2018

Richard Hooker's Influence on Locke's Epistemology

The influence of 'the judicious Hooker' (1554-1600) on Locke's political philosophy is impossible to miss: Hooker is cited by name 13 times in Locke's Second Treatise of Government, which is not a very long book and contains very few other explicit citations. However, Hooker is rarely mentioned in discussions of Locke's epistemology. I suggest that he should be. Recognizing this fact helps to strengthen the case for the unity of Locke's thought (epistemological, scientific, religious, and political) which has been made by John Rogers, Nicholas Jolley, and others. Hooker's general epistemology looks most like Locke's in this passage from book...
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May 22, 2018

Berkeley's Manuscript Introduction on Google Arts and Culture

A digital exhibition on Berkeley's Manuscript Introduction is now live on Google Arts and Culture. The exhibition provides an introduction to Berkeley's life and his connection to Trinity College, followed by a brief overview of some of the most interesting portions of the manuscript. I thank the TCD library staff (especially Greg Sheaf) for a great deal of assistance in curating this exhibition.
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May 18, 2018

Berkeley and Lokayata

Berkeley famously argues that "what is said of the absolute existence of unthinking things without any relation to their being perceived ... [is] perfectly unintelligible. Their esse is percipi, nor is it possible they should have any existence, out of the minds or thinking things which perceive them" (Principles, sect. 3). He aims to demonstrate this principle, he says, "In opposition to sceptics and atheists" (Three Dialogues, subtitle). As Berkeley saw it, human knowledge and traditional religion were under attack from 'freethinkers' and the root of this attack was the doctrine that real physical things must be something beyond or...
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May 13, 2018

Locke's Experimental Philosophy of Ideas

A post I've written on the methodology of Locke's Essay, based on a portion of my "Ideas and Explanation" paper, is now live on the Early Modern Experimental Philosophy blog.
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