• Gassendi and Hobbes
    In Stephen Gaukroger (ed.), Knowledge in Modern Philosophy, Bloomsbury. pp. 27-43. 2018.
    Gassendi and Hobbes knew each other, and their approaches to philosophy often seem similar. They both criticized the Cartesian epistemology of clear and distinct perception. Gassendi engaged at length with skepticism, and also rejected the Aristotelian notion of scientia, arguing instead for a probabilistic view that shows us how we can move on in the absence of certain and evident knowledge. Hobbes, in contrast, retained the notion of scientia, which is the best sort of knowledge and involves c…Read more
  • Review of Margaret Cavendish, Observations upon Experimental Philosophy, edited by Eugene Marshall (review)
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 26 (3): 617-9. 2018.
  • This paper considers Locke’s discussions of materialism, focusing on Essay 4.10. Here Locke – after giving a cosmological argument for the existence of God – argues that God could not be material, that matter alone could never produce thought, and that there could not have been eternal matter. The paper addresses three main questions. The first is about targets. Who, if anyone, is Locke arguing against here? The second question is about reasons. Locke argues against several materialist views her…Read more
  • Mind and Body in Modern Philosophy
    Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy Online. 2016.
    A survey of the issue. Topics include Descartes; early critics of Descartes; occasionalism and pre-established harmony; materialism; idealism; views about animal minds; and simplicity.
  • Comments on Larry May, Limiting Leviathan (review)
    Hobbes Studies 27 (2): 185-190. 2014.
    This paper discusses two aspects of Larry May's book Limiting Leviathan. First it discusses a passage in Leviathan, to which May draws attention, in which Hobbes connects obligation to "that, which in the disputations of scholars is called absurdity". Secondly it looks at the book's discussion of Hobbes and pacifist attitudes, with reference to Hobbes's contemporary critic John Eachard.
  • Debates in Modern Philosophy: Essential Readings and Contemporary Responses provides an in-depth, engaging introduction to important issues in modern philosophy. It presents 13 key interpretive debates to students, and ranges in coverage from Descartes' Meditations to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. -/- Debates include: -/- Did Descartes have a developed and consistent view about how the mind interacts with the body? Was Leibniz an idealist, or did he believe in corporeal substances? …Read more
  • This paper considers Margaret Cavendish's distinctive anti-mechanist materialism, focusing on her 1664 Philosophical Letters, in which she discusses the views of Hobbes, Descartes, and More, among others. The paper examines Cavendish's views about natural, material souls: the soul of nature, the souls of finite individuals, and the relation between them. After briefly digressing to look at Cavendish's views about divine, supernatural souls, the paper then turns to the reasons for Cavendish's dis…Read more
  • Hume and a Worry about Simplicity
    History of Philosophy Quarterly 26 (2): 139-157. 2009.
    I discuss Hume's views about whether simplicity and generality are positive features of explanations. In criticizing Hobbes and others who base their systems of morality on self interest, Hume diagnoses their errors as resulting from a "love of simplicity". These worries about whether simplicity is a positive feature of explanations emerge in Hume's thinking over time. But Hume does not completely reject the idea that it's good to seek simple explanations. What Hume thinks we need is good judgme…Read more
  • Hobbes, Universal Names, and Nominalism
    In Stefano Di Bella & Tad M. Schmaltz (eds.), The Problem of Universals in Early Modern Philosophy, Oxford University Press. 2017.
    Thomas Hobbes was, rather famously, a nominalist. The core of that nominalism is the belief that the only universal things are universal names: there are no universal objects, or universal ideas. This paper looks at what Hobbes's views about universal names were, how they evolved over time, and how Hobbes argued for them. The remainder of the paper considers two objections to Hobbes's view: a criticism made by several of Hobbes's contemporaries, that Hobbes's view could not account for people sa…Read more
  • Knowledge of God in Leviathan
    History of Philosophy Quarterly 22 (1): 31-48. 2005.
    Hobbes denies in Leviathan that we have an idea of God. He does think, though, that God exists, and does not even deny that we can think about God, even though he says we have no idea of God. There is, Hobbes thinks, another cognitive mechanism by means of which we can think about God. That mechanism allows us only to think a few things about God though. This constrains what Hobbes can say about our knowledge of God, and grounds his belief in a fairly strong version of the thesis that God is inc…Read more
  • Early modern debates about the nature of matter interacted with debates about whether matter could think. In particular, some philosophers (e.g., Cudworth and Leibniz) objected to materialism about the human mind on the grounds that matter is passive, thinking things are active, and one cannot make an active thing out of passive material. This paper begins by looking at two seventeenth-century materialist views (Hobbes’s, and one suggested but not endorsed by Locke) before considering that objec…Read more
  • Debating Materialism: Cavendish, Hobbes, and More
    History of Philosophy Quarterly 29 (4): 391-409. 2012.
    This paper discusses the materialist views of Margaret Cavendish, focusing on the relationships between her views and those of two of her contemporaries, Thomas Hobbes and Henry More. It argues for two main claims. First, Cavendish's views sit, often rather neatly, between those of Hobbes and More. She agreed with Hobbes on some issues and More on others, while carving out a distinctive alternative view. Secondly, the exchange between Hobbes, More, and Cavendish illustrates a more general puzzle…Read more
  • Hobbes: Metaphysics and Method
    Dissertation, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick. 2003.
    This dissertation discusses the work of Thomas Hobbes, and has two main themes. The first is Hobbes's materialism, and the second is Hobbes's relationships to other philosophers, in particular his place in the mechanist movement that is said to have replaced Aristotelianism as the dominant philosophy in the seventeenth century. I argue that Hobbes does not, for most of his career, believe the general materialist view that bodies are the only substances. He believes, rather, that ideas, which ar…Read more
  • Leibniz's Mill Arguments Against Materialism
    Philosophical Quarterly 62 (247): 250-72. 2012.
    Leibniz's mill argument in 'Monadology' 17 is a well-known but puzzling argument against materialism about the mind. I approach the mill argument by considering other places where Leibniz gave similar arguments, using the same example of the machinery of a mill and reaching the same anti-materialist conclusion. In a 1702 letter to Bayle, Leibniz gave a mill argument that moves from his definition of perception (as the expression of a multitude by a simple) to the anti-materialist conclusion. Soo…Read more
  • Thomas Hobbes
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2009.
    Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), whose current reputation rests largely on his political philosophy, was a thinker with wide ranging interests. In philosophy, he defended a range of materialist, nominalist, and empiricist views against Cartesian and Aristotelian alternatives. In physics, his work was influential on Leibniz, and lead him into disputes with Boyle and the experimentalists of the early Royal Society. In history, he translated Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War into English, and…Read more
  • Leibniz on Hobbes's Materialism
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 41 (1): 11-18. 2010.
    I consider Leibniz's thoughts about Hobbes's materialism, focusing on his less-discussed later thoughts about the topic. Leibniz understood Hobbes to have argued for his materialism from his imagistic theory of ideas. Leibniz offered several criticisms of this argument and the resulting materialism itself. Several of these criticisms occur in texts in which Leibniz was engaging with the generation of British philosophers after Hobbes. Of particular interest is Leibniz's correspondence with Damar…Read more
  • Margaret Cavendish (1623-73) held a number of surprising philosophical views. These included a materialist panpsychism, and some views in what we might call environmental ethics. Panpsychism, though certainly not unheard of, is still often a surprising view. Views in environmental ethics - even just views that involve a measure of environmental concern - are unusual to find in early modern European philosophy. Cavendish held both of these surprising views. One might suspect that panpsychism prov…Read more
  • Hobbes on Language: Propositions, Truth, and Absurdity
    In A. P. Martinich & Kinch Hoekstra (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Hobbes, Oxford University Press. pp. 57-72. 2016.
    Language was central to Hobbes's understanding of human beings and their mental abilities, and criticism of other philosophers' uses of language became a favorite critical tool for him. This paper connects Hobbes's theories about language to his criticisms of others' language, examining Hobbes's theories of propositions and truth, and how they relate to his claims that various sorts of proposition are absurd. It considers whether Hobbes in fact means anything more by 'absurd' than 'false'. And i…Read more
  • Hobbes's Materialism in the Early 1640s
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 13 (3). 2005.
    I argue that Hobbes isn't really a materialist in the early 1640s (in, e.g., the Third Objections to Descartes's Meditations). That is, he doesn't assert that bodies are the only substances. However, he does think that bodies are the only substances we can think about using imagistic ideas.
  • Materialism
    In S. A. Lloyd (ed.), Bloomsbury Companion to Hobbes, Continuum. 2013.
    This is a short (1,000 word) introduction to Hobbes's materialism, covering (briefly) such issues as what the relevant notion of materialism is, Hobbes's debate with Descartes, and what Hobbes's arguments for materialism were.
  • Toland, Leibniz, and Active Matter
    Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy 6 249-78. 2012.
    In the early years of the eighteenth century Leibniz had several interactions with John Toland. These included, from 1702 to 1704, discussions of materialism. Those discussions culminated with the consideration of Toland's 1704 Letters to Serena, where Toland argued that matter is necessarily active. In this paper I argue for two main theses about this exchange and its consequences for our wider understanding. The first is that, despite many claims that Toland was at the time of Letters to Seren…Read more
  • Leibniz on the Expression of God
    Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 2 83-103. 2015.
    Leibniz frequently uses the notion of expression, but it is not easy to see just how he understood that relation. This paper focuses on the particular case of the expression of God, which is prominent in the 'Discourse on Metaphysics'. The treatment of expression there suggests several questions. Which substances did Leibniz believe expressed God? Why did Leibniz believe those substances expressed God? And did he believe that all substances expressed God in the same way and for the same reasons?…Read more
  • Toland and Locke in the Leibniz-Burnett Correspondence
    Locke Studies 17 117-141. 2017.
    Leibniz's correspondence with Thomas Burnett of Kemnay is probably best known for Leibniz's attempts to communicate with Locke via Burnett. But Burnett was also, more generally a source of English intellectual news for Leibniz. As such, Burnett provided an important part of the context in which Locke was presented to and understood by Leibniz. This paper examines the Leibniz-Burnett correspondence, and argues against Jolley's suggestion that "the context in which Leibniz learned about Locke was…Read more
  • Hobbes repeatedly expressed concerns about moral and political language, e.g., about the bad consequences of various uses and misuses of language. He did not simply focus on the consequences though. He also attempted to understand the problems, using the central semantic notion in his philosophy of language, signification. Hobbes, in both the Elements of Law and Leviathan, argues that a wide variety of terms – including ‘good’, ‘bad’, and the names of virtues and vices – have a double and incons…Read more
  • Hobbes, Signification, and Insignificant Names
    Hobbes Studies 24 (2): 158-178. 2011.
    The notion of signification is an important part of Hobbes's philosophy of language. It also has broader relevance, as Hobbes argues that key terms used by his opponents are insignificant. However Hobbes's talk about names' signification is puzzling, as he appears to have advocated conflicting views. This paper argues that Hobbes endorsed two different views of names' signification in two different contexts. When stating his theoretical views about signification, Hobbes claimed that names signif…Read more