• Amo on the Heterogeneity Problem
    Julie Walsh
    Philosophers' Imprint. forthcoming.
    In this paper, I examine a heretofore ignored critic of Descartes on the heterogeneity problem: Anton Wilhelm Amo. Looking at Amo’s critique of Descartes reveals a very clear case of a thinker who attempts to offer a causal system that is not a solution to the mind-body problem, but rather that transcends it. The focus of my discussion is Amo’s 1734 dissertation: The Apathy [ἀπάθεια] of the Human Mind or The Absence of Sensation and the Faculty of Sense in the Human Mind and their Presence in ou…Read more
  • In his famous monadological metaphysics, Leibniz distinguishes between simple monads, animal monads, and rational monads or minds. This tripartite metaphysical distinction is mirrored by his discrimination between cognitive performances these three types of monads are capable of. Simple monads perceive; animal monads additionally remember, sense, and mimic reasoning by associating mental images; rational monads, furthermore, think, reflect on and know themselves, know eternal truths, and reason …Read more
  • A Very British Hobbes, or A More European Hobbes?
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 22 (2): 368-386. 2014.
    Malcolm’s English-Latin Leviathan is a marvelous technical accomplishment. My issues are with his contextualization, seeing Leviathan primarily as an advice book for Hobbes’s teenage pupil, the future Charles II. Malcolm’s localization involves minimalizing Leviathan's remoter sources, so the European Republic of Letters, for which Hobbes so painstakingly translated his works into Latin, is almost entirely missing, along with current European traditions of Hobbes scholarship. Is this very Briti…Read more
  • Spinoza’s Critique of Humility in the Ethics
    Southern Journal of Philosophy 56 (3): 342-364. 2018.
    Abstract: In the "Ethics" Spinoza denies that humility is a virtue on the grounds that it arises from a reflection on our lack of power, rather than a rational understanding of our power (Part IV, Proposition 53, Demonstration). He suggests that humility, to the extent that it involves a consideration of our weakness, indicates a lack of self-understanding. However, in a brief remark in the same demonstration he also allows that conceiving our lack of power can be conducive to self-understanding…Read more
  • In the Ethics Spinoza defines certain traditional virtues such as humility and repentance as species of sadness and denies that they are virtues. He nonetheless holds that they can turn out to be useful as a means towards virtue—in fact, the greatest virtue of blessedness—in the life of someone who is not guided by reason. In this paper, I examine Spinoza’s relatively overlooked claim regarding the usefulness of sad passions as a means towards blessedness. In taking up Spinoza’s treatment of hum…Read more
  • Consider the distinctive qualitative property grass visually appears to have when it visually appears to be green. This property is an example of what I call sensuous color. Whereas early modern mechanists typically argue that bodies are not sensuously colored, Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673) disagrees. In cases of veridical perception, she holds that grass is green in precisely the way it visually appears to be. In defense of her realist approach to sensuous colors, Cavendish argues that (i) it …Read more
  • Animal life and mind in Hobbes’s philosophy of nature
    History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 40 (4): 69. 2018.
    This paper explores Thomas Hobbes’s account of animal life and mind. After a critical examination of Hobbes’s mechanistic explanation of operations of the mind such as perception and memory, I argue that his theory derives its strength from his idea of the dynamic interaction of the body with its surroundings. This dynamic interaction allows Hobbes to maintain that the purposive disposition of the animal is not merely an upshot of its material configuration, but an expression of its distinctive …Read more
  • Conway and Charleton on the Intimate Presence of Souls in Bodies
    Journal of the History of Ideas 79 (4): 571-591. 2018.
    Little is known about the shaping and development of Anne Conway’s thought in relation to her early modern contemporaries. In one part of her only surviving treatise, The Principles, Conway criticises “those doctors” who uphold a dualist theory of soul and body, a mechanist conception of body (as dead and inert), and the view that the soul is “intimate present” in the body. In this paper, I argue that here she targets Walter Charleton, a well-known defender of Epicurean atomism in mid-seventeent…Read more
  • In February 1686, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz sent a letter to Antoine Arnauld, via their mutual friend Ernst, the Landgrave of Hessen-Rheinfels. This letter contained a short summary of Leibniz's most recent philosophical work, the Discourse on Metaphysics, and asked Arnauld for his reaction to it. Arnauld's response was extremely harsh: he called Leibniz's views shocking and useless and advised him to stop engaging in metaphysical speculations. Yet, Leibniz did not let this discourage him. In th…Read more
  • Madness as method: on Locke’s thought experiments about personal identity
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 26 (5): 871-889. 2018.
    ABSTRACTJohn Locke is famous for popularizing the method of the philosophical thought experiment in discussions of personal identity; the cases introduced in the second edition of An Essay Concerning Understanding are still employed by contemporary philosophers. Here I argue that Locke’s method is nonetheless importantly different from later efforts in ways that can help us better appreciate his larger projects. Rather than pumping the reader’s intuitions in support of his preferred account, Loc…Read more
  • Hobbes and Evil
    In Chad Meister & Charles Taliaferro (eds.), Evil in Early Modern Philosophy, Routledge. 2018.
  • The status of the laws of nature in Hobbes’s Leviathan has been a continual point of disagreement among scholars. Many agree that since Hobbes claims that civil philosophy is a science, the answer lies in an understanding of the nature of Hobbesian science more generally. In this paper, I argue that Hobbes’s view of the construction of geometrical figures sheds light upon the status of the laws of nature. In short, I claim that the laws play the same role as the component parts – what Hobbes cal…Read more
  • In this new work, Richard T. W. Arthur offers a fresh interpretation of Leibniz's theory of substance. He goes against a long trend of idealistic interpretations of Leibniz's thought by instead taking seriously Leibniz's claim of introducing monads to solve the problem of the composition of matter and motion.
  • Parallel, additional or alternative histories of philosophy? Questions on the theory and methodology of the history of philosophy
    Sotiris Mitralexis
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 26 (6): 1222-1233. 2018.
    ABSTRACTMethodologies and theories for writing histories of philosophy are particularly relevant today due to the abounding challenges to the discipline that have emerged: e.g. the problem concerning the precise mode of the inclusion of non-Western philosophies in the history of philosophy, the response to postcolonial considerations at large, the transformative impact of new media and the question whether the history of philosophy is primarily a philosophical, rather than merely historical, ent…Read more
  • Shaftesbury on life as a work of art
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 26 (6): 1110-1131. 2018.
    ABSTRACTThis paper explicates Shaftesbury’s idea that we ought to live our lives as though they are works of art. I show that this idea is central to many of Shaftesbury’s most important claims, and that an understanding of this idea enables us to answer some of the most contested questions in the scholarship on Characteristics.
  • Calvinist Metaphysics and the Eucharist in the Early Seventeenth Century
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 21 (6): 1091-1110. 2013.
    This paper wishes to make a contribution to the study of how seventeenth-century scholasticism adapted to the new intellectual challenges presented by the Reformation. I focus in particular on the theory of accidents, which Reformed scholastic philosophers explored in search of a philosophical understanding of the rejection of the Catholic and Lutheran interpretations of the Eucharist. I argue that the Calvinist scholastics chose the view that actual inherence is part of the essence of accidents…Read more
  • This paper investigates aspects of the philosophy curriculum that Thomas Reid studied during his student years in Aberdeen. In order to assess the nature of philosophy teaching in early eighteenth-century Aberdeen, the graduation theses of the Scottish universities must be read with an eye to the long tradition of university teaching, which reaches back into the seventeenth century. I will seek to show how seventeenth-century Scottish Reformed scholasticism is the backdrop of the Scottish Enligh…Read more
  • In the second half of the seventeenth century, philosophy teaching in the Scottish universities gradually moved from scholasticism to Cartesianism. Robert Forbes, regent at Marischal College and King's College, Aberdeen, was a strenuous opponent of Descartes. The analysis of the philosophy of Forbes and of his teacher Patrick Gordon sheds light on the relationship between Scottish Reformed scholasticism and the reception of Descartes in Scotland
  • In 1685, during the heyday of Scottish Cartesianism, regent Robert Lidderdale from Edinburgh University declared Cartesianism the best philosophy in support of the Reformed faith. It is commonplace that Descartes was ostracised by the Reformed, and his role in pre-Enlightenment Scottish philosophy is not yet fully acknowledged. This paper offers an introduction to Scottish Cartesianism, and argues that the philosophers of the Scottish universities warmed up to Cartesianism because they saw it as…Read more
  • English Philosophers and Scottish Academic Philosophy
    Journal of Scottish Philosophy 15 (2): 213-231. 2017.
    This paper investigates the little-known reception of Thomas Hobbes, Henry More, Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, and John Locke in the Scottish universities in the period 1660–1700. The fortune of the English philosophers in the Scottish universities rested on whether their philosophies were consonant with the Scots’ own philosophical agenda. Within the established Cartesian curriculum, the Scottish regents eagerly taught what they thought best in English philosophy and criticised wha…Read more
  • Is God a Mindless Vegetable? Cudworth on Stoic Theology
    Intellectual History Review 21 (2): 121-133. 2011.
    In the sixteenth century the Stoics were deemed friends of humanist Christians, but by the eighteenth century they were attacked as atheists. What happened in the intervening period? In the middle of this period falls Ralph Cudworth’s True Intellectual System of the Universe (1678), which contains a sustained analysis of Stoic theology. In Cudworth’s complex taxonomy Stoicism appears twice, both as a form of atheism and an example of imperfect theism. Whether the Stoics are theists or atheists h…Read more
  • Stoics Against Stoics In Cudworth's A Treatise of Freewill
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 20 (5): 935-952. 2012.
    In his A Treatise of Freewill, Ralph Cudworth argues against Stoic determinism by drawing on what he takes to be other concepts found in Stoicism, notably the claim that some things are ?up to us? and that these things are the product of our choice. These concepts are central to the late Stoic Epictetus and it appears at first glance as if Cudworth is opposing late Stoic voluntarism against early Stoic determinism. This paper argues that in fact, despite his claim to be drawing on Stoic doctrine…Read more
  • Ralph Cudworth (1617-88) was one of the Cambridge Platonists. His major work, The True Intellectual System of the Universe, was completed in 1671, a year after Spinoza published (anonymously) the Tractatus Logico-philosophicus. It was published a few years later, in 1678. Cudworth offers a spirited attack against the materialism and mechanism of Thomas Hobbes. His work is couched as a search for truth among the ancient philosophers, and this paper examines his use of the Presocratics as a tool f…Read more