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Res Philosophica

Volume 91, Issue 1, January 2014
Modern Philosophy

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1. Res Philosophica: Volume > 91 > Issue: 1
Marleen Rozemond Mills Can't Think: Leibniz's Approach to the Mind-Body Problem
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In the Monadology Leibniz has us imagine a thinking machine the size of a mill in order to show that matter can’t think. The argument is often thought to rely on the unity of consciousness and the notion of simplicity. Leibniz himself did not see matters this way. For him the argument relies on the view that the qualities of a substance must be intimately connected to its nature by being modifications, limitations of its nature. Leibniz thinks perception is not a modification of matter because it is active and matter is passive. At the same time, there are traces in Leibniz of a different argument that relies on the notion of internal action, which may involve the notion of simplicity. Critics have sometimes charged that the Mill Argument is an argument from ignorance, but Leibniz was aware of this problem and made clear that he did not make that mistake.
2. Res Philosophica: Volume > 91 > Issue: 1
Rebecca Copenhaver Berkeley on the Laguage of Nature and the Objects of Vision
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Berkeley holds that vision, in isolation, presents only color and light. He also claims that typical perceivers experience distance, figure, magnitude, and situation visually. The question posed in New Theory is how we perceive by sight spatial features that are not, strictly speaking, visible. Berkeley’s answer is “that the proper objects of vision constitute an universal language of the Author of nature.” For typical humans, this language of vision comes naturally. Berkeley identifies two sorts of objects of vision: primary (light and colors) and secondary (distance, figure, magnitude, and situation). Berkeley also appeals to a third class of a different sort: visible figure, magnitude, and situation, constituting the vocabulary of the language of vision. By considering two perceivers who lack this vocabulary we may better understand this third category and the difference between those who must learn the language of vision and those for whom it is a natural endowment.
3. Res Philosophica: Volume > 91 > Issue: 1
Desmond Hogan Kant on Foreknowledge of Contingent Truths
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The paper examines Kant’s views on divine foreknowledge of contingent truths, in particular truths concerning free actions of creatures. It first considers the shape this traditional philosophical problem takes in the transcendental idealist context. It then situates Kant’s views relative to three competing theories of foreknowledge discussed by Leibniz. These are Molina’s theory of middle knowledge, the Thomist theory of foreknowledge through divine predeterminations, and Leibniz’s own ‘possible worlds’ theory. The paper concludes that no consistent theory of divine foreknowledge emerges in Kant’s philosophy. His discussions alternate between two inadequate and incompatible models. One is a post-volitional model suggested by his conception of the intuitive intellect’s relation to creation. Extended to creaturely free action, it is incompatible with his commitment to the relative autonomy of free action. The other is a version of Leibniz’s possible worlds solution; it cannot underwrite certain foreknowledge of determinate outcomes in a libertarian setting.
4. Res Philosophica: Volume > 91 > Issue: 1
Dan Kaufman Cartesian Substances, Individual Bodies, and Corruptibility
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According to the Monist Interpretation of Descartes, there is really only one corporeal substance—the entire extended plenum. Evidence for this interpretation seems to be provided by Descartes in the Synopsis of the Meditations, where he claims that all substances are incorruptible. Finite bodies, being corruptible, would then fail to be substances. On the other hand, ‘body, taken in the general sense,’ being incorruptible, would be a corporeal substance. In this paper, I defend a Pluralist Interpretation of Descartes, according to which there are many corporeal substances. In particular, I show that none of the claims in the Synopsis about incorruptibility and substance entail either that finite bodies are not substances, or that the only corporeal substance is the entire plenum.
5. Res Philosophica: Volume > 91 > Issue: 1
Andrew Chignell Can Kantian Laws Be Broken?
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In this paper I explore Kant’s critical discussions of the topic of miracles (including the important but neglected fragment from the 1780s called “On Miracles”) in an effort to answer the question in the title. Along the way I discuss some of the different kinds of “laws” in Kant’s system, and also the argument for his claim that, even if empirical miracles do occur, we will never be in a good position to identify instances of them. I conclude with some tentative remarks about the notorious suggestion that intelligible finite agents, too, might have some sort of influence over the laws of nature. The goal throughout is to show that exploring Kant’s answer to a traditional question in philosophical theology can deepen our understanding of his metaphysics and epistemology of nature generally.
6. Res Philosophica: Volume > 91 > Issue: 1
Sukjae Lee Toward a New Reading of Leibnizian Appetites: Appetites as Uneasiness
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If we consider their fundamental role in the makeup of simple substances, our understanding of Leibnizian appetites or ‘appetitions’ seems far from satisfactory. To promote a better understanding of Leibniz’s mature view of appetites, I present a new reading of the appetitive nature of simple substances, focusing on key texts where Leibniz stresses how appetites fail to reach what they strive for. Against the “standard reading,” according to which appetites are the direct causes of subsequent perceptual states, I propose an alternative, more complex picture of appetitive activity within simple substances. On my account, what Leibniz typically refers to as ‘appetites’ do not directly cause subsequent states, but are strivings or desires to be in states of less unease or greater happiness, states that the creature might actually fail to enjoy. This reading of appetites, I argue, is consistent with there being an additional, distinct strand of appetitive activity, one that corresponds to the primitive forces of simple substances. In contrast to the first strand of appetitive activity, this second strand is directly causal in that its final causality is operative in the exceptionless occurrence of the series of perceptual states prescribed in the “law of the series.” The resulting picture is one in which simple substances are appetitive through and through, with teleological activity permeating the substance at the levels of both primitive and derivative forces.