• Descartes on Universal Essences and Divine Knowledge
    In Tad Schmaltz & Stefano Di Bella (eds.), The Problem of Universals in Early Modern Philosophy, Oxford University Press. pp. 87-116. 2017.
  • Book review (review)
    with Finngeir Hiorth, Alan Nelson, Igor Primoratz, and Edward Slowik
    Philosophia 27 (3-4): 663-676. 1999.
  • Descartes' Theory of Essences
    Dissertation, University of California, Irvine. 1997.
    In the Principles of Philosophy, Descartes makes a remarkable claim that has never received the proper recognition it deserves. He asserts that there is merely a "rational distinction" between a substance and each of its attributes. I argue that, properly understood, this claim means that a substance and each of its attributes are numerically identical in reality, and distinguished only within our thought by means of reason. I then use this central insight to resolve a number of apparent inconsi…Read more
  •  84
    This long and ambitious work offers a systematic interpretation of Cartesian metaphysics and epistemology from the perspective of Descartes’s so-called founding principle, cogito ergo sum. The book is organized around the three parts of this famous dictum, though its scope is much more encompassing. Part 1 offers a careful analysis of the “formal structure” of Cartesian thought, in an effort to identify what is distinctive about the cogito and to uncover how Descartes’s theory of mind makes this…Read more
  •  87
    Descartes' Theory of Universals
    Philosophical Studies 89 (2-3): 161-180. 1998.
  •  118
    The Ontological Argument as an Exercise in Cartesian Therapy
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 35 (4). 2005.
    I argue that Descartes intended the so-called ontological "argument" as a self-validating intuition, rather than as a formal proof. The textual evidence for this view is highly compelling, but the strongest support comes from understanding Descartes's diagnosis for why God's existence is not 'immediately' self-evident to everyone and the method of analysis that he develops for making it self-evident. The larger aim of the paper is to use the ontological argument as a case study of Descartes's no…Read more
  •  145
    Proofs for the Existence of God
    In Stephen Gaukroger (ed.), The Blackwell to Descartes’ Meditations, Blackwell. pp. 104--121. 2006.
    We argue that Descartes’s theistic proofs in the ’Meditations’ are much simpler and straightforward than they are traditionally taken to be. In particular, we show how the causal argument of the "Third Meditation" depends on the intuitively innocent principle that nothing comes from nothing, and not on the more controversial principle that the objective reality of an idea must have a cause with at least as much formal reality. We also demonstrate that the so-called ontological "argument" of the …Read more
  •  586
    Malebranche on Sensory Cognition and "Seeing As"
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 50 (1): 21-52. 2012.
    Nicolas Malebranche holds that we see all things in the physical world by means of ideas in God (the doctrine of "vision in God"). In some writings he seems to posit ideas of particular bodies in God, but when pressed by critics he insists that there is only one general idea of extension, which he calls “intelligible extension.” But how can this general and “pure” idea represent particular sensible objects? I develop systematic solutions to this and two other putative difficulties with Malebranc…Read more
  •  231
    The Ontological Status of Cartesian Natures
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 78 (2). 1997.
    In the Fifth Meditation, Descartes makes a remarkable claim about the ontological status of geometrical figures. He asserts that an object such as a triangle has a 'true and immutable nature' that does not depend on the mind, yet has being even if there are no triangles existing in the world. This statement has led many commentators to assume that Descartes is a Platonist regarding essences and in the philosophy of mathematics. One problem with this seemingly natural reading is that it contradic…Read more
  •  27
    The Cambridge Descartes Lexicon (edited book)
    Cambridge University Press. 2016.
    The Cambridge Descartes Lexicon is the definitive reference source on René Descartes, 'the father of modern philosophy' and arguably among the most important philosophers of all time. Examining the full range of Descartes' achievements and legacy, it includes 256 in-depth entries that explain key concepts relating to his thought. Cumulatively they uncover interpretative disputes, trace his influences, and explain how his work was received by critics and developed by followers. There are entries …Read more
  •  34
    Malebranche's Theory of Ideas and Vision in God
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2008.
  •  13
    Review of W. J. Mander, The Philosophy of John Norris (review)
    Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2009 (3). 2009.
  •  128
    Primary and Secondary Qualities: The Historical and Ongoing Debate (edited book)
    Oxford University Press. 2011.
    The essays collected here cover a wide range of topics, including the foundation for the distinction, the question of whether or not it is metaphysical or ...