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Journal of Early Modern Studies

Volume 8, Issue 1, Spring 2019

Common Notions in Early Modern Thought

Han Thomas Adriaenssen
Pages 117-139

Common Conceptions and the Metaphysics of Material Substance
Domingo de Soto, Kenelm Digby and Johannes de Raey

This paper explores how, according to three early modern philosophers, philosophical theory should relate to our pre-theoretical picture of reality. Though coming from very different backgrounds, the Spanish scholastic, Domingo de Soto, and the English natural philosopher, Kenelm Digby, agreed that an ability to accommodate our pre-theoretical picture of the world and our ordinary way of speaking about reality is a virtue for a philosophical theory. Yet at the same time, they disagreed on what kind of ontology of the material world is implied by these. The Dutch Cartesian, Johannes de Raey, took a very different approach, and argued that the picture of reality we naturally develop from our early days onwards and the language associated with it have their use in domains such as law and medical practice, but are a poor guide to the ontology of the material world. Thus, if we are to arrive at a proper understanding of the nature of matter, we need to move beyond the picture of reality we naturally develop from our early days onwards in order to come to see that the nature of matter consists in bare extension.

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