Measuring and mapping

[Cross-posted from philosophymodsquad.wordpress.com.] I’ve been thinking about Justin Smith’s post Philosophometry, with its reference to Franco Moretti’s Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History, and more generally to “the value of quantitative, digitally based study” of the texts one is interested in. There is, as Smith says, a good deal of such discussion of …

Automata

[Cross-posted from philosophymodsquad.] In preparing to talk about Descartes on machines and animals and human beings the other day, I set out looking for information about seventeenth-century automata. One really interesting thing is Jessica Riskin’s article “Machines in the Garden” in Republics of Letters. This has a lot of information about “lifelike machines” of two sorts: …

Hobbes’s arguments for nominalism in De Corpore

[Cross-posted from philosophymodsquad.wordpress.com.] (Following up on my earlier post on an argument for nominalism in the Elements of Law.) In chapter 2 of De Corpore Hobbes offers two further arguments for the view that names are the only universals. (1) The first involves the way in which common names denote. However a common name, as it is the name of …

Hobbes’s argument for nominalism in the Elements of Law

[Cross-posted from philosophymodsquadwordpress.com.] Hobbes was a nominalist, in that he believed that “there is nothing universal but names” (EL 5.6), so there are neither universal things nor universal ideas. But why did he believe this? In chapter 5 of the Elements of Law, having introduced names, Hobbes distinguishes between universal and singular names: singular names name …

Leibniz, Locke, and ‘books aiming to prove the truth of religion’

[Cross-posted from philosophymodsquad.wordpress.com.] At a recent conference I gave a paper on Leibniz’s correspondence with Thomas Burnett of Kemnay. Among my questions was how Locke appeared to Leibniz. Did he look like a Socinian, or similar sort of religiously dubious character? In answering that, it would be good to have some idea of how Leibniz thought about Locke’s Reasonableness …

Travels far and near

[Cross-posted from Modsquad] I’ve been reading Leibniz’s correspondence with Thomas Burnett of Kemnay. Burnett is probably best known as one of the people via whom Leibniz tried to communicate with Locke. He was, more generally, a source of news for Leibniz about things published in English — his own personal book review section. Locke’s work …

Sympathy, spirits, and strings

[Cross posted from Modsquad.] This post brings me back to my earlier themes of materialism and panpsychism. But it largely developed from my trying to understand one of Henry More’s examples. More believed there to be incorporeal substances, including human minds, ghosts, and a further spirit quite unlike the others, the spirit of nature. More’s central argument for the …

Locke, Pasnau, and More

[Cross-posted from Modsquad.] A lot has been said about Locke’s account of substance and substratum. Robert Pasnau has recently argued (in his book Metaphysical Themes 1274-1671) that “the substratum just is the ordinary substance” (160). Pasnau says that Locke’s statements about substance become less puzzling when we put them in “the proper historical context, that of the thin …

Materialism and panpsychism (making things from Bayle’s Dictionary)

[Cross-posted from Modsquad.] In an earlier post I talked about some arguments in Bayle’s Dictionary. In notes to the article ‘Dicaearchus’ Bayle argues against the view that certain material things can think because of the way their parts are arranged. I suggested at the end of that post, rather hesitantly, that one might gloss the conclusion as ‘the …

Materialism and panpsychism (puzzling about Bacon)

[Cross-posted from Modsquad.] In my previous post I mentioned Hobbes’s worry that his materialist account of perception would lead him to a sort of panpsychism. When he explains the problem he faces, Hobbes notes that one might just accept the conclusion. After all, “there have been philosophers, and those learned men, who have maintained that all bodies …