July 14, 2016

On Christianity and Donald Trump

It's been a long time since I've written anything about politics, religion, or the intersection of the two that was not directly connected to my philosophical work, but I feel the need to say something about the present US election. Perhaps I should have overcome my reluctance to say this during the primary season, but I didn't, so here it is now. Years ago, when I was a student leader of a campus Christian group back at Penn, I was constantly fighting against the idea, held by a certain vocal group of my peers, that being a Christian meant supporting...
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May 3, 2016

Two Definitions of 'Empiricism'

In traditional tellings of the history of early modern philosophy, the school of British empiricists - the Locke-Berkeley-Hume triumvirate - is seen as according foundational status to the Aristotelian principle, "nothing in the intellect which was not first in the senses." This is, of course, given new formulations in terms of the modern 'Way of Ideas'. Their philosophical systems, so the story goes, are built on this foundation. However, there is another meaning of 'empiricism' that is more common in the early modern period. This notion goes back to the ancient 'empirics,' a school of physicians who eschewed theorizing in...
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May 2, 2016

Philosophy and 'Depth'

There is a kind of philosophy, or pseudo-philosophy, whose principal aim is to create a certain feeling of 'depth,' often without very much real content. Of course, this phenomenon is hardly restricted to philosophy, nor is it even, I think, a very widespread feature of the academic discipline of philosophy. Still, I call it a kind of philosophy or pseudo-philosophy because this feeling of 'depth' or profundity is very closely connected to how the words 'philosophy' and 'philosophical' are often used in common (i.e., non-academic) parlance. But is this feeling of 'depth' always purely illusory? Can there be something genuinely...
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April 30, 2016

Quote of the Day: Mechanical Observations? Yum!

Hydrophilus. Mechanical Observations (said you Pyrophilus?) yea that's your Diana, you and the world of late so much admire: your Bacon and your Boyle, or your Bacon well boil'd is so much in fashion with you, that scarce any other Dish (although never so good) prepared after an old fashion, will go down with you. - W. Simpson, Philosophical Dialogues Concerning the Principles of Natural Bodies: Wherein the Principles of the Old and New Philosophy are Stated, and the New Demonstrated, More Agreeable to Reason, From Mechanical Experiments and its Usefulness to the Benefit of Man-kind (1677), 5 I was...
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April 29, 2016

Quote of the Day: The Tale of the Aristotelian Clock-Mender

I will not undertake to compare the new Philosophy with the old, but instead thereof will tell you a tale. There was a certain Husbandman who occupied a Farme with an antient mansion-house standing in the fields remote from any Town, where there was an old iron Clock in a large wooden frame, which had been a long while out of kelter, and because he was much troubled to know how the time passed, that he might order his business accordingly, he resolved to get his Clock repaired, and while he was considering where to finde a man able...
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April 23, 2016

Quote of the Day: Materialist Poetry

as for my opinion of Atoms, their figures and motions, (if any such things there be) I will refer you to my Book of Poems, out of which give me leave to repeat these following lines, containing the ground of my opinion of Atomes: All Creatures, howsoe're they may be nam'd Are of long, square, flat, or sharp Atomes fram'd Thus several figures several tempers make, But what is mixt, doth of the four partake. The onely cause, why things do live and die, 'S according as the mixed Atomes lie. Thus life, and death, and young, and old, Are...
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April 9, 2016

Quote of the Day: Cavendish on Philosophical Disagreement

I have not contradicted those Authors [modern philosophers] in any thing, but what concerns and is opposite to my opinions; neither do I any thing, but what they have done themselves, as being common amongst them to contradict each other: which may as well be allowable, as for Lawyers to plead at the Barr in opposite Causes. For as Lawyers are not Enemies to each other, but great Friends, all agreeing from the Barr, although not at the Barr: so it is with Philosophers who make their Opinions as their Clients, not for Wealth, but for Fame, and therefore have...
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March 30, 2016

"Arnauld's Verbal Distinction" in History and Philosophy of Logic

I've just heard that "Arnauld's Verbal Distinction between Ideas and Perceptions" will appear in History and Philosophy of Logic. It is unfortunate that Arnauld doesn't get more attention; I'm trying to do something about that!
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March 8, 2016

Trinity College Dublin

I am most pleased to announce that, beginning in the fall, I will be Ussher Assistant Professor in Berkeley Studies (Early Modern Philosophy) at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. I do believe I will be the only professor of Berkeley Studies in the world (fittingly at Trinity: Berkeley's alma mater.
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January 8, 2016

Language and Structure to be Published by OUP

I am most pleased to announce that I today received a contract from Oxford University Press for my monograph, Language and the Structure of Berkeley's World. I've agreed to deliver the final version by mid-October (at the latest), so I am hopeful that the book will appear sometime in 2017. A detailed abstract is available here.
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December 19, 2015

REP Article on Port-Royal

My article on Port-Royal for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy is now available here. (Unfortunately, a subscription is required to see the complete article; only the opening summary is freely available.) The article focuses primarily on the theory of mind and language in the Port-Royal Grammar (1660) and Logic (1662).
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November 27, 2015

Deism, Anthropomorphism, and Religion

I'm just beginning to think about a reference article on deism that I'm writing for the Ian Ramsey Centre's Special Divine Action Project and it has me thinking about a rather curious phenomenon in early modern philosophy and religion: the complex interplay between deism and theological anthropomorphism. Presently, the term 'deism' is associated with the 'absent watchmaker' picture of God: a highly anthropomorphic conception of a divine engineer whose prime concern is the elegant mechanical design of the universe rather than moral qualities. This is a conception shaped by 18th century Anglophone deists. However, in his large and extremely carefully...
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November 21, 2015

"Counteressential Conditionals" in Thought

My paper "Counteressential Conditionals" has just been accepted (conditional on further revisions) by Thought. This is a revised and expanded version of a paper that I will be presenting at the Central APA in Chicago on March 3. The journal's self-archiving policy does not permit me to post the final version, so you'll have to wait on that, but the short version that will be presented at the APA is available here. This is a more or less straight metaphysics paper (my first!), but it fits in with my work in philosophy of religion/philosophical theology. These kind of conditionals play...
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November 10, 2015

"Leibniz and the Veridicality of Body Perceptions" in Philosophers' Imprint!

I've just received word that my paper, "Leibniz and the Veridicality of Body Perceptions," will be appearing in the (open access) journal Philosophers' Imprint!
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October 20, 2015




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