• Locke on the Power to Suspend
    Locke Studies 14 121-157. 2014.
    My aim in this paper is to determine how Locke understands suspension and the role it plays in his view of human liberty. To this end I, 1) discuss the deficiencies of the first edition version of ‘Of Power’ and why Locke needed to include the ability to suspend in the second edition, then 2) analyze Locke’s definitions of the power to suspend with a focus on his use of the terms ‘source’, ‘hinge’, and ‘inlet’ to describe the power. I determine from these descriptions that the ability to suspend…Read more
  • 'Things for Actions': Locke's Mistake in 'Of Power'
    Locke Studies 10 85-94. 2010.
    In a letter to William Molyneux John Locke states that in reviewing his chapter 'Of Power' for the second edition of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding he noticed that he had made one mistake which, now corrected, has put him "into a new view of things" which will clarify his account of human freedom. Locke says the mistake was putting “things for actions” on p.123 of the first edition, a page on which the word 'things' does not appear (The Correspondence of John Locke. E.S. de Beer, ed. (O…Read more
  • Malebranche, the Quietists, and Freedom
    with Thomas M. Lennon
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 20 (1). 2012.
    The Quietist affair at the end of the seventeenth century has much to teach us about theories of the will in the period. Although Bossuet and Fénelon are the names most famously associated with the debate over the Quietist conception of pure love, Malebranche and his erstwhile disciple Lamy were the ones who debated the deep philosophical issues involved. This paper sets the historical context of the debate, discusses the positions as well as the arguments for and against them, and opens up inve…Read more
  • Descartes's ballet: His doctrine of the will and his political philosophy (review)
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 47 (1). 2009.
    Richard Watson’s Descartes’s Ballet engages three main questions uncommon to traditional Cartesian scholarship: Did Descartes script La Naissance de la Paix, the ballet performed in honor of Queen Christina’s twenty-third birthday in December 1649? Did Descartes have a political philosophy? Did Descartes read the French dramatist Pierre Corneille? Watson answers no, yes, and yes.By emphasizing the complete lack of evidence that Descartes wrote La Naissance de la Paix, Watson disarms the suggesti…Read more
  • Locke’s Ethics
    Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2014.
    Locke: Ethics The major writings of John Locke are among the most important texts for understanding some of the central currents in epistemology, metaphysics, politics, religion, and pedagogy in the late 17th and early 18th century in Western Europe. His magnum opus, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding is the undeniable starting point for … Continue reading Locke’s Ethics →.
  • Malebranche on the Metaphysics and Epistemology of Particular Volitions
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 54 (2): 227-255. 2016.
    among nicolas malebranche’s most influential contributions to philosophy are his defense of occasionalism, his highly original theodicy, and his philosophical method elaborated in greatest detail in his magnum opus De la Recherche de la vérité. In his account of occasionalism, Malebranche argues that finite things have no causal power and that God is the only true causal agent. Malebranche’s theodicy—his attempt to reconcile the existence of evil in the world with the existence of an all-good and …Read more
  • Locke, the Law of Nature, and Polygamy
    Journal of the American Philosophical Association 2 (1): 91-110. 2016.
    When Locke mentions polygamy in his writings, he does not condemn the practice and, even seems to endorse it under certain conditions. This attitude is out of step with many of his contemporaries. Identifying the philosophical reasons that lead Locke to have this attitude about polygamy motivates our project. Because Locke never wrote a treatise on ethics, we look to number of different texts, but focus on An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Essays on the Law of Nature, in order to outli…Read more
  • Arnauld, Power, and the Fallibility of Infallible Determination
    History of Philosophy Quarterly 33 (3): 237-256. 2016.
    Antoine Arnauld is well known as a passionate defender of Jansenism, specifically Jansen’s view on the relation between freedom and grace. Jansen and, early in his career Arnauld, advance compatibilist views of human freedom. The heart of their theories is that salvation depends on both the irresistible grace of God and the free acts of created things. Yet, in Arnauld’s mature writings, his position on freedom seems to undergo a significant shift. And, by 1689, his account of freedom no longer s…Read more
  • Locke’s Last Word on Freedom
    Res Philosophica 95 (4): 637-661. 2018.
    JohnLocke’s 1700–1702 correspondencewith Dutch Arminian Philippus van Limborch has been taken by commentators as the motivation for modifications to the fifth edition of “Of Power,” the chapter in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding that treats freedom. In this paper, I offer the first systematic and chronological study of their correspondence. I argue that the heart of their disagreement is over how they define “freedom of indifference.” Once the importance of the disagreement over indiffer…Read more
  • Toleration and Understanding in Locke by Nicholas Jolley
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 56 (2): 374-375. 2018.
    Jolley argues that paying close attention to Locke’s Epistola de Tolerentia, as well as the later letters on toleration occasioned by Jonas Proast’s response to the Epistola, reveals that “a different Locke emerges from the one who is familiar to us today; it is a Locke who is more single-mindedly devoted to the project of promoting the cause of religious toleration than has been realized”. Jolley argues that Locke is a more systematic thinker than we think, and that the theme that unites his th…Read more
  • Continental Rationalism
    with Shannon Dea and Thomas M. Lennon
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2018.
    The expression “continental rationalism” refers to a set of views more or less shared by a number of philosophers active on the European continent during the latter two thirds of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth. Rationalism is most often characterized as an epistemological position. On this view, to be a rationalist requires at least one of the following: (1) a privileging of reason and intuition over sensation and experience, (2) regarding all or most ideas as innate…Read more
  • Nicolas Malebranche
    In H. LaFollette (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Ethics, Wiley-blackwell. 2013.
  • When we consider early modern philosophers who engage with sceptical arguments, Nicolas Malebranche is not usually among the first names to come to mind. But, while Malebranche does not spend much time with this topic, the way in which he responds to it when he does is nevertheless valuable. This is because his response underlines the central role of a particular principle in his system: the utter dependence of all created things on God. In this paper, I argue that the end of Malebranche’s engag…Read more
  • Espace et métaphysique de Gassendi à Kant: Anthologie (review)
    Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 140 (2): 246-248. 2015.
  • Malebranche on Mind
    In Rebecca Copenhaver & C. Shields (eds.), The History of the Philosophy of Mind, 6 Volumes. 2018.
    This chapter analyses Malebranche’s theory that the human, finite mind participates in two separate and, at least prima facie, incompatible unions: one with the body to which it is joined and one with God. By looking at the way that Malebranche borrows from both the mechanical philosophy as articulated by Descartes and Augustine’s dictum that we are not “lights unto” ourselves, the unique, difficult, and at times problematic Malebranchean philosophy of mind is revealed. This discussion is divide…Read more
  • Malebranche, Freedom, and the Divided Mind
    In P. Easton & K. Smith (eds.), Gods and Giants in Early Modern Philosophy, Brill. pp. 194-216. 2015.
    In this paper I argue that according to Malebranche mental attention is the corrective to epistemic error and moral lapse and constitutes the essence of human freedom. Moreover, I show how this conception of human freedom is both morally significant and compatible with occasionalism. By attending to four distinctions made by Malebranche throughout his writings we can begin to understand first, what it means for human beings to exercise their freedom in a way that has some meaningful consequence,…Read more
  • The Protestant and the Pelagian: Arnauld and Malebranche on Grace and Power
    American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly. forthcoming.
    One of the longest and most acrimonious polemics in the history of philosophy is between Antoine Arnauld and Nicolas Malebranche. Their central disagreements are over the nature of ideas, theodicy, and, the topic of this paper, grace. We offer the most in-depth English language treatment of their discussion of grace to date. Our focus is one particular aspect of the polemic: the power of finite agents to assent to grace. We defend two theses. First, we show that as the debate progresses, the dif…Read more