Monthly Archives: January 2013

Cudworth, tautologies, and natures

Prompted by Lewis’s mention of Cudworth, a post or two on Cudworth’s most famous argument.

Book 1 of Cudworth’s Treatise Concerning Eternal and Immutable Morality [TEIM] contains a relatively short, and apparently free-standing, argument that morality cannot arise merely from decisions, either human or divine. Hobbes is among Cudworth’s targets, but so are Descartes and others. But some commentators have thought the the crucial passage in Cudworth’s text fails to do what he thinks it does, because it is merely tautological. Thus Zagorin (1992, 131-2): “As John Tulloch pointed out in his classic study of the Cambridge Platonists, Cudworth failed to realize that he was guilty of a tautology” (cf. Passmore 1990, 41-2).

The central passage in Cudworth’s argument is the following:

Continue reading

Antarctic sympathy

While looking a little more at early modern texts that talk about sympathy, I came across this (which is apparently distinguished by being the earliest text returned in a search for ‘sympathy’ and its variants in Early English Books Online.)

Likewise néere to this Ilande is founde a kynde of fish, and also vpon the coaste of America very daungerous, also much feared and redoubted of the wilde men, for that she is a rauening fish, and as daungerous as a Lyon or a Woulfe famished: this fish is named Houperou, in their language, and eateth other fish in the water, excepting one that is as greate as a little Carpe the which foloweth him alwayes, as if there were some Sympathia or secrete loue betwene them, or else he foloweth him for to be preserued and kept sure from other fishes.

That comes from pp.117-8 of André Thevet’s The new found worlde, or Antarctike wherin is contained wonderful and strange things… (London, 1568), an English translation of his 1557 Les Singularitez de la France antarctique (EEBO-TCP record). The ‘Antarctike’ here is not the antarctic continent, but France Antarctique, a sixteenth-century French colony in Brazil.

There’s a short biography of Thevet on the English-language Wikipedia, and a rather longer one on the French-language WIkipedia, which also has an article on Les Singularitez de la France antarctique. One can also download scans of the French edition of the book from Gallica, and from a UVa site.