•  556
    This chapter argues that the standard conception of Spinoza as a fellow-travelling mechanical philosopher and proto-scientific naturalist is misleading. It argues, first, that Spinoza’s account of the proper method for the study of nature presented in the Theological-Political Treatise (TTP) points away from the one commonly associated with the mechanical philosophy. Moreover, throughout his works Spinoza’s views on the very possibility of knowledge of nature are decidedly sceptical (as specifie…Read more
  •  400
    Smith's Humean criticism of Hume's account of the origin of justice
    with Spencer J. Pack
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 44 (1): 47-63. 2006.
    It is argued that Adam Smith criticizes David Hume's account of the origin of and continuing adherence to the rule of law for being not sufficiently Humean. Hume explained that adherence to the rule of law originated in the self-interest to restrain self-interest. According to Smith, Hume does not pay enough attention to the passions of resentment and admiration, which have their source in the imagination. Smith's offers a more naturalistic and evolutionary account of the psychological pre-condi…Read more
  •  248
    The first two sections of this paper investigate what Newton could have meant in a now famous passage from “De Graviatione” (hereafter “DeGrav”) that “space is as it were an emanative effect of God.” First it offers a careful examination of the four key passages within DeGrav that bear on this. The paper shows that the internal logic of Newton’s argument permits several interpretations. In doing so, the paper calls attention to a Spinozistic strain in Newton’s thought. Second it sketches four in…Read more
  •  191
    My critical comments on Part I of P. J. E. Kail's Projection and Realism in Hume's Philosophy are divided into two parts. First, I challenge the exegetical details of Kail's take on Hume's important distinction between natural and philosophical relations. I show that Kail misreads Hume in a subtle fashion. If I am right, then much of the machinery that Kail puts into place for his main argument does different work in Hume than Kail thinks. Second, I offer a brief criticism of Kail's argument for…Read more
  •  188
    Hume’s attack on Newton’s philosophy
    Enlightenment and Dissent 25 167-203. 2009.
    In this paper, I argue that major elements of Hume’s metaphysics and epistemology are not only directed at the inductive argument from design which seemed to follow from the success of Newton’s system, but also have far larger aims. They are directed against the authority of Newton’s natural philosophy; the claims of natural philosophy are constrained by philosophic considerations. Once one understands this, Hume’s high ambitions for a refashioned ‘true metaphysics’ or ‘first philosophy’, that i…Read more
  •  187
    In this paper I investigate two denials in Milton Friedman's Nobel Lecture (1976). The first is [i] the denial that 'Economics and its fellow social sciences' ought to be 'regarded more nearly as branches of philosophy.' The second is [ii] the denial that economics is 'enmeshed with values at the outset because they deal with human behaviour' (267). I show that Friedman's appeal to his methodology in the Nobel lecture fails on conceptual grounds internal to Friedman's methodology. Moreover, I sh…Read more
  •  149
    Newton’s Challenge to Philosophy: A Programmatic Essay
    Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 1 (1): 101-128. 2011.
    I identify a set of interlocking views that became (and still are) very influential within philosophy in the wake of Newton’s success. These views use the authority of natural philosophy/mechanics to settle debates within philosophy. I label these “Newton’s Challenge.”
  •  141
    The Certainty, Modality, and Grounding of Newton’s Laws
    with Zvi Biener
    The Monist 100 (3): 311-325. 2017.
    Newton began his Principia with three Axiomata sive Leges Motus. We offer an interpretation of Newton’s dual label and investigate two tensions inherent in his account of laws. The first arises from the juxtaposition of Newton’s confidence in the certainty of his laws and his commitment to their variability and contingency. The second arises because Newton ascribes fundamental status both to the laws and to the bodies and forces they govern. We argue the first is resolvable, but the second is no…Read more
  •  132
    Wonder in the face of scientific revolutions: Adam Smith on Newton's ‘Proof’ of Copernicanism 1
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 13 (4): 697. 2005.
    (2005). Wonder in the face of scientific revolutions: Adam Smith on Newton's ‘Proof’ of Copernicanism. British Journal for the History of Philosophy: Vol. 13, No. 4, pp. 697-732. doi: 10.1080/09608780500293042
  •  121
    In this paper I call attention to Adam Smith’s 'Considerations Concerning the First Formation of Languages' in order to facilitate understanding Adam Smith from a Darwinian perspective. By ‘Darwinian’ I mean a position that explains differential selection over time through natural mechanisms. First, I argue that right near the start of Wealth of Nations Smith signals that human nature has probably evolved over a very long amount of time. Second, I connect this evidence with an infamous passage o…Read more
  •  108
    Newton and Spinoza: On motion and matter (and God, of course)
    Southern Journal of Philosophy 50 (3): 436-458. 2012.
    This study explores several arguments against Spinoza's philosophy that were developed by Henry More, Samuel Clarke, and Colin Maclaurin. In the arguments on which I focus, More, Clarke, and Maclaurin aim to establish the existence of an immaterial and intelligent God precisely by showing that Spinoza does not have the resources to adequately explain the origin of motion. Attending to these criticisms grants us a deeper appreciation for how the authority derived from the empirical success of New…Read more
  •  104
    In this paper I clarify what Newton could have meant when he insisted that gravity is a real force. I interpret Newton’s speculative treatment of gravity as a relational, accidental quality of matter that arises through what Newton calls “the shared action” of two bodies. I argue that when Newton drafted the first edition of the Principia in the mid 1680s, he thought that (at least a part of) the cause of gravity is the disposition inherent in any individual body, but that the force of gravity i…Read more
  •  101
    In this paper I offer three main challenges to James (2011). All three turn on the nature of philosophy and secure knowledge in Spinoza. First, I criticize James's account of the epistemic role that experience plays in securing adequate ideas for Spinoza. In doing so I criticize her treatment of what is known as the ‘conatus doctrine’ in Spinoza in order to challenge her picture of the relationship between true religion and philosophy. Second, this leads me into a criticism of her account of the…Read more
  •  95
    In this paper I interpret Newton’s speculative treatment of gravity as a relational, accidental property of matter that arises through what Newton calls “the shared action” of two bodies of matter. In doing so, I expand and extend on a hint by Howard Stein. However, in developing the details of my interpretation I end up disagreeing with Stein’s claim that for Newton a single body can generate a gravity/force field. I argue that when Newton drafted the first edition of the Principia in the mid 1…Read more
  •  86
    The main aim of this paper is to explore why it is so important for Hume to defi ne ‘cause’ as he does. This will shed light on the signifi cance of the natural/philosophical relation (hereafter NPR) distinction in the Treatise. Hume's use of the NPR distinction allows him to dismiss on general grounds conceptions of causation at odds with his own. In particular, it allows him to avoid having to engage in detailed re-interpretation of potentially confl icting theories formulated by natural philo…Read more
  •  85
    I call attention to Berkeley’s treatment of a Newtonian indispensability argument against his own main position. I argue that the presence of this argument marks a significant moment in the history of philosophy and science: Newton’s achievements could serve as a separate and authoritative source of justification within philosophy. This marks the presence of a new kind of naturalism. A long the way, I argue against the claim tha t there is no explicit opposition or distinction between “philosoph…Read more
  •  80
    Hume's newtonianism and anti-newtonianism
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2008.
    David Hume's philosophy, especially the positive project of his science of man, is often thought to be modeled on Newton's successes in natural philosophy. Hume's self-described experimental method (see the subtitle to Treatise) and the resemblance of his rules of reasoning (Treatise, 1.3.15)1 with Newton's are said to be evidence for this position (Noxon 1973; De Pierris 2002). Hume encourages this view of his project by employing Newtonian metaphors: he talks of an attraction in the mental wor…Read more
  •  79
    Interpreting Spinoza: Critical Essays
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 19 (4). 2011.
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy, Volume 19, Issue 4, Page 822-826, July 2011
  •  73
    In this article, the author offers a discussion of the evidential role of the Galilean constant in the history of physics. The author argues that measurable constants help theories constrain data. Theories are engines for research, and this helps explain why the Duhem-Quine thesis does not undermine scientific practice. The author connects his argument to discussion of two famous papers in the history of economic methodology, Milton Friedman's 'Methodology of Positive Economics', which appealed …Read more
  •  71
    In this essay, I use a general argument about the evidential role of data in ongoing inquiry to show that it is fruitful for economic historians and historians of economics to collaborate more frequently. The shared aim of this collaboration should be to learn from past economic experience in order to improve the cutting edge of economic theory. Along the way, I attack a too rigorous distinction between the history of economics and economic history. By drawing on the history of physics, I argue …Read more
  •  71
    The main point of this paper is to contribute to understanding Milton Friedman’s (1953) “The Methodology of Positive Economics” (hereafter F1953), one of the most influential statements of economic methodology of the twentieth century, and, in doing so, help discern the non trivial but complex role of philosophic ideas in the shaping of economic theorizing and economists’ self-conception. It also aims to contribute to a better understanding of the theoretical origins of the so-called ‘Chicago’ s…Read more
  •  70
    This paper focuses on Warren Nutter’s The Extent of Enterprise Monopoly in the United States, 1899-1939. This started out as a (1949) doctoral dissertation at The University of Chicago, part of Aaron Director’s Free Market Study. Besides Director, O.H. Brownlee and Milton Friedman were closely involved with supervising it. It was published by The University of Chicago Press in 1951. In the 1950s the book was explicitly understood as belonging to the “Chicago School” (Dow and Abernathy 1963). By …Read more
  •  68
    SOME PRINCIPLES OF ADAM SMITH’S NEWTONIAN METHODS IN THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
    Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology 23 (1): 33-74. 2005.
  •  67
    In this paper I revisit Adam Smith’s treatment of Copernicanism and Newtonianism in his essay, “The History of Astronomy” (hereafter: “Astronomy”), in light of a surprisingly ignored context: David Hume. This remark will strike most scholars of Adam Smith as unfounded—David Hume’s philosophy is often invoked as a source of Smith’s approach in the “Astronomy” or as its target. Yet, Hume’s occasional remarks on Copernicanism nor his treatment of the history of science in the History of England (17…Read more
  •  66
    In this paper I call attention to Adam Smith’s “Considerations Concerning the First Formation of Languages” in order to facilitate understanding Adam Smith from a Darwinian perspective. By ‘Darwinian’ I mean a position that explains differential selection over time through natural mechanisms. First, I argue that right near the start of Wealth of Nations Smith signals that human nature has probably evolved over a very long amount of time. Second, I connect this evidence with an infamous passage o…Read more
  •  64
    This paper is a critical response to Hylarie Kochiras’ “Gravity and Newton’s substance counting problem,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 40 267–280. First, the paper argues that Kochiras conflates substances and beings; it proceeds to show that Newton is a substance monist. The paper argues that on methodological grounds Newton has adequate resources to respond to the metaphysical problems diagnosed by Kochiras. Second, the paper argues against the claim that Newton is committed to…Read more