Rutgers University - New Brunswick
Department of Philosophy
PhD, 2003
APA Eastern Division
Gainesville, Florida, United States of America
Areas of Specialization
17th/18th Century Philosophy
Areas of Interest
17th/18th Century Philosophy
  •  2554
    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
  •  2493
    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
  •  2189
    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
  •  2118
    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.
  •  1811
    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
  •  1570
    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
  •  1552
    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
  •  1521
    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
  •  1354
    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
  •  1205
    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
  •  1110
    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.
  •  849
    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 wa…Read more
  •  775
    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
  •  736
    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
  •  645
    Toland, Leibniz, and Active Matter
    Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy 6 249-78. 2013.
    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
  •  623
    Hobbes on the Signification of Evaluative Language
    Hobbes Studies 32 (2): 159-178. 2019.
    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
  •  534
    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.
  •  504
    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
  •  500
    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
  •  403
    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.
  •  388
    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.
  •  373
    Locke, God, and Materialism
    Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy 10 101-31. 2021.
    This paper investigates Locke’s views about materialism, by looking at the discussion in Essay IV.x. There Locke---after giving a cosmological argument for the existence of God---argues that God could not be material, and that matter alone could never produce thought. In discussing the chapter, I pay particular attention to some comparisons between Locke’s position and those of two other seventeenth-century philosophers, René Descartes and Ralph Cudworth. Making use of those comparisons, I arg…Read more
  •  371
    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
  •  277
    The Well-Ordered Universe: The Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish by Deborah A. Boyle (review)
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 57 (2): 349-350. 2019.
    Deborah Boyle's book is a splendid addition to the literature on the philosophy of Margaret Cavendish. It provides an overview of Cavendish's philosophical work, from her panpsychist materialism, through her views about human motivation and general political philosophy, to views about gender, health, and humans' relation to the rest of the natural world. Boyle emphasizes themes of order and regularity, but does not argue that there is a strong systematic connection between Cavendish's views. Ind…Read more
  •  230
    Early Modern Accounts of Epicureanism
    In Jacob Klein & Nathan Powers (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Hellenistic Philosophy, Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    We look at some interesting and important episodes in the life of early modern Epicureanism, focusing on natural philosophy. We begin with two early moderns who had a great deal to say about ancient Epicureanism: Pierre Gassendi and Ralph Cudworth. Looking at how Gassendi and Cudworth conceived of Epicureanism gives us a sense of what the early moderns considered important in the ancient tradition. It also points us towards three main themes of early modern Epicureanism in natural philosophy, wh…Read more
  •  210
    Cudworth as a Critic of Hobbes
    In Marcus P. Adams (ed.), A Companion to Hobbes, Blackwell. pp. 398-412. 2021.
    This chapter considers Ralph Cudworth as a philosophical critic of Hobbes. Cudworth saw Hobbes as a representative of the three views he was attacking: atheism, determinism, and the denial that morality is eternal and immutable. Moreover, he did not just criticize Hobbes by assuming that a general critique of those views applied to Hobbes’s particular case. Rather, he singled out Hobbes, often by quoting him, and argued against the distinctively Hobbesian positions he had identified. In this cha…Read more
  •  139
    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