•  91
    The Idea of Power and Locke's Taxonomy of Ideas
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (1): 1-16. 2017.
    Locke's account of the idea of power is thought to be seriously problematic. Commentators allege that the idea of power causes problems for Locke's taxonomy of ideas, that it is defined circularly, and that, contrary to Locke's claims, it cannot be acquired in experience. This paper defends Locke's account. Previous commentators have assumed that there is only one idea of power. But close attention to Locke's text, combined with background features of his theory of ideas, supports the drawing of…Read more
  •  78
    Henry of Ghent’s Argument for Divine Illumination Reconsidered
    American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 89 (1): 47-68. 2015.
    In this paper I offer a new approach to Henry of Ghent's argument for divine illumination. Normally, Henry is criticized for adhering to a theory of divine illumination and failing to accept rediscovered Aristotelian approaches to cognition and epistemology. I argue that these critiques are mistaken. On my view, Henry was a proponent of Aristotelianism. But Henry discovered a tension between Aristotle's views on teleology and the nature of knowledge, on the one hand, and various components of th…Read more
  •  72
    Thinking Matter in Locke's Proof of God's Existence
    Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy 9 105-130. 2019.
    Commentators almost universally agree that Locke denies the possibility of thinking matter in Book IV Chapter 10 of the Essay. Further, they argue that Locke must do this in order for his proof of God’s existence in the chapter to be successful. This paper disputes these claims and develops an interpretation according to which Locke allows for the possibility that a system of matter could think (even prior to any act of superaddition on God’s part). In addition, the paper argues that this doe…Read more
  •  72
    Lockean superaddition and Lockean humility
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 51 53-61. 2015.
    This paper offers a new approach to an old debate about superaddition in Locke. Did Locke claim that some objects have powers that are unrelated to their natures or real essences? The question has split commentators. Some (Wilson, Stuart, Langton) claim the answer is yes and others (Ayers, Downing, Ott) claim the answer is no. This paper argues that both of these positions may be mistaken. I show that Locke embraced a robust epistemic humility. This epistemic humility includes ignorance of…Read more
  •  62
    Susanna Newcome's cosmological argument
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 27 (4): 842-859. 2019.
    Despite its philosophical interest, Susanna Newcome’s Enquiry Into the Evidence of the Christian Religion (1728, revised 1732) has received little attention from commentators. This paper seeks to redress this oversight by offering a reconstruction of Newcome’s innovative argument for God’s existence. Newcome employs a cosmological argument that differs from Thomist and kalām version of the argument. Specifically, Newcome challenges that idea that the causal chains observed in nature can exist…Read more
  •  61
    Newton and God's Sensorium
    Intellectual History Review 24 (2): 185-201. 2014.
    In the Queries to the Latin version of the Opticks Newton claims that space is God’s sensorium. Although these passages are well-known, few commentators have offered interpretations of what Newton might have meant by these cryptic remarks. As is well known, Leibniz was quick to pounce on these passages as evidence that Newton held untenable or nonsensical views in metaphysics and theology. Subsequent commentators have largely agreed. This paper has two goals. The first is to offer a clear i…Read more
  •  60
    Space Before God? A Problem in Newton's Metaphysics
    Philosophy 90 (1): 83-106. 2015.
    My goal in this paper is to elucidate a problematic feature of Newton's metaphysics of absolute space. Specifically, I argue that Newton's theory has the untenable consequence that God depends on space for His existence and is therefore not an independent entity. I argue for this conclusion in stages. First, I show that Newton believed that space was an entity and that God and space were ontologically distinct entities. Part of this involves arguing that Newton denies that space is a divine attr…Read more
  •  54
    Locke and the laws of nature
    Philosophical Studies 172 (10): 2551-2564. 2015.
    Many commentators have argued that Locke understood laws of nature as causally efficacious. On this view the laws are causally responsible for the production of natural phenomena. This paper argues that this interpretation faces serious difficulties. First, I argue that it will be very difficult to specify the ontological status of these laws. Proponents of the view suggest that these laws are divine volitions. But I argue that this will be difficult or impossible to square with Locke’s nom…Read more
  •  46
    Berkeley and Locke
    In Samuel C. Rickless (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Berkeley, Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    This chapter revisits three key disagreements between Locke and Berkeley. The disagreements relate to abstraction, the idea of substance, and the status of the primary/secondary quality distinction. The goal of the chapter is to show that these disagreements are rooted in a more fundamental disagreement over the nature of ideas. For Berkeley, ideas are tied very closely to perceptual content. Locke adopts a less restrictive account of the nature of ideas. On his view, ideas are responsible …Read more
  •  45
    Locke's Theory of Demonstration and Demonstrative Morality
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 98 (2): 435-451. 2019.
    Locke famously claimed that morality was capable of demonstration. But he also refused to provide a system of demonstrative morality. This paper addresses the mismatch between Locke’s stated views and his actual philosophical practice. While Locke’s claims about demonstrative morality have received a lot of attention it is rare to see them discussed in the context of his general theory of demonstration and his specific discussions of particular demonstrations. This paper explores Locke’s gen…Read more
  •  43
    Locke, John
    Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2014.
    This article aims to give a broad and accessible overview of all significant aspects of the thought of John Locke, one of the most important philosophers of the 17th century.
  •  41
    Maclaurin on Occasionalism: A Reply to Ablondi
    Journal of Scottish Philosophy 14 (1): 125-135. 2016.
    In a recent article Fred Ablondi compares the different approaches to occasionalism put forward by two eighteenth-century Newtonians, Colin Maclaurin and Andrew Baxter. The goal of this short essay is to respond to Ablondi by clarifying some key features of Maclaurin's views on occasionalism and the cause of gravitational attraction. In particular, I explore Maclaurin's matter theory, his views on the explanatory limits of mechanism, and his appeals to the authority of Newton. This leads to a cl…Read more
  •  34
    Newton and Empiricism (eds. Biener and Schliesser) (review)
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 53 (2): 334-336. 2015.
  •  31
    Locke and the Methodology of Newton’s Principia
    Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 100 (3): 311-335. 2018.
    A number of commentators have recently suggested that there is a puzzle surrounding Locke’s acceptance of Newton’s Principia. On their view, Locke understood natural history as the primary methodology for natural philosophy and this commitment was at odds with an embrace of mathematical physics. This article considers various attempts to address this puzzle and finds them wanting. It then proposes a more synoptic view of Locke’s attitude towards natural philosophy. Features of Locke’s biogra…Read more
  •  27
    Thomas White on the Metaphysics of Transubstantiation
    Southern Journal of Philosophy 56 (4): 516-540. 2018.
    This article explores a previously neglected manuscript essay in which Thomas White offers an account of the metaphysics underpinning transubstantiation. White’s views are of particular interest because his explanation employs a broadly mechanist framework, rather than the hylomorphism traditionally associated with Roman Catholic discussions of the Eucharist. The manuscript helps to shed light on a number of topics of importance to early modern philosophy including the reception of Descartes’ …Read more
  •  9
    Metaphysics in Richard Bentley's Boyle Lectures
    History of Philosophy Quarterly 34 (2): 155-74. 2017.
    This paper explores the metaphysical system developed in Richard Bentley’s 1692 Boyle Lectures. The lectures are notable for their attempt to argue that developments in natural philosophy, including Newton’s Principia, could bolster natural theology. The paper explores Bentley’s matter theory focusing on his commitment to a particular form of mechanism and his rejection of occult qualities. It then examines his views on the nature of divine omnipotence. Finally, it turns to his understanding…Read more
  •  6
    Locke had a lifelong love of travel literature. He was also a proponent of the construction of natural histories. Many commentators have noted that there is a close link between these two interests. They suggest that data gleaned from travel literature was used in the construction of natural histories. This paper uses Locke’s reading of François Pyrard’s Voyage to argue that the relationship between the two genres was closer than has been realized. Specifically, it is argued that Pyrard’s d…Read more
  •  6
    This paper provides the first systematic interpretation of the moral theory developed in Newcome’s Enquiry Into the Evidence of the Christian Religion (1728, revised 1732). More importantly, it shows that Newcome’s views constitute a valuable but overlooked contribution to the development of utilitarianism. Indeed, she is arguably the first utilitarian. Her ethical views are considered in two stages. The paper first explores her hedonist approach to the good and then turns to her consequenti…Read more
  •  5
    Causation and gravitation in George Cheyne's Newtonian natural philosophy
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 85 145-154. 2021.
    This paper analyzes the metaphysical system developed in Cheyne’s Philosophical Principles of Religion. Cheyne was an early proponent of Newtonianism and tackled several philosophical questions raised by Newton’s work. The most pressing of these concerned the causal origin of gravitational attraction. Cheyne rejected the occasionalist explanations offered by several of his contemporaries in favor of a model on which God delegated special causal powers to bodies. Additionally, he developed an…Read more
  •  5
    A Puzzle in the Print History of Locke's Essay
    Locke Studies 17 49-60. 2017.
    This short essay analyzes an unusual typographical feature in the Epistle to the Reader that precedes Locke’s Essay. Specifically, it asks why there is a line prior to Christiaan Huygens’ name in the famous Underlaborer Passage. The paper provides a thorough look at the line’s longevity through early editions of the Essay and considers a number of possible explanations for the line’s presence. It is argued that the line may well have held some meaning for early readers; contemporary scholars …Read more
  •  3
    Locke and Wilkins on Inner Sense and Volition
    Locke Studies 14 239-259. 2014.
    The purpose of this paper is to elucidate two interesting parallels between views discussed in John Wilkins’ Of the Principles and Duties of Natural Religion and positions developed by John Locke in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding. The first parallel pertains to a faculty of inner sense. Both authors carve out a central role for this introspective perceptual modality. The second parallel pertains to volition and free will. Both authors employ an investigative methodology which privi…Read more
  •  3
    Travel Literature, the New World, and Locke on Species
    Society and Politics 7 (1): 103-116. 2013.
    This paper examines the way in which Locke's deep and longstanding interest in the non-European world contributed to his views on species and their classification. The evidence for Locke's curiosity about the non-European world, especially his fascination with seventeenth-century travel literature, is presented and evaluated. I claim that this personal interest of Locke's almost certainly influenced the metaphysical and epistemological positions he develops in the Essay. I look to Locke's theor…Read more
  •  1
    Locke and Sergeant on Syllogistic Reasoning
    In Shelley Weinberg & Jessica Gordon-Roth (eds.), The Lockean Mind, Routledge. forthcoming.
    This paper explores Locke’s thinking specifically about syllogisms and more generally about logic and proper logical method. Locke’s texts display a mixed attitude toward syllogisms. On the one hand, he was highly critical of syllogisms and their central role in Scholastic disputation. On the other hand, he sometimes allowed that syllogisms could effectively capture valid forms of inference and could be useful in certain contexts. This paper seeks to explain Locke’s mixed attitude by showing…Read more
  • Quantity and Place in Thomas White's Eucharistic Metaphysics
    History of Philosophy Quarterly. forthcoming.
    Thomas White’s views on transubstantiation have been the focus on a recent article that analyzes his manuscript essay “Of Transubstantiation.” This paper sheds further light on White’s views by exploring a second manuscript essay: “A Discourse Concerning the Eucharist”. This second essay seeks to make transubstantiation rationally comprehensible through an analysis of philosophical topics such as quantity, place, and change. While “Of Transubstantiation” draws on elements of the mechanical ph…Read more