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Characteristic of the early modern period was the idea of a new start for philosophy and the sciences. In the period, those who advocated for such a program were collectively called the novatores or “innovators.” This chapter traces the emergence and the complex posterity of this term. Though now considered positive, it was much contested in the period, and the novatores were involved in numerous polemical disputes. Tracing the origins, history, and use of the term gives us precious insights into the dynamics of the great transformation of philosophy usually designated by another polemical label—the Scientific Revolution.
This chapter examines Spinoza’s recommendation that all the patricians in an aristocracy “should be of the same Religion, a very simple and most Universal Religion, such as we described in that Treatise.” What does Spinoza mean here by the “very simple and most Universal Religion?”, he asks. Garber argues against the view that Spinoza intends the dogmas of the TTP outlining a religion of reason to replace traditional religions. Religion for Spinoza, Garber argues, is practice, not faith, and it involves imperatives to be followed and not dogmas or beliefs to be held. The “very simple and most Universal Religion,” he argues, consists only of the imperative to love one’s neighbor as oneself, and to love God above all. The dogmas of Universal Faith are needed only for those not capable of attaining religion through reason: for the rational agent, the imperatives are not laws, given by a divine lawgiver, but eternal truths
This chapter explores some aspects of Descartes' reactions to materialism. It argues and turns on a certain feature of the doctrine of substance that Descartes presented in the Meditations and in the Appendix to the Second Replies. Descartes suggests that there are two kinds of substances, thinking substances and extended substances, which support two kinds of faculties: faculties for certain special ways of thinking and faculties that involve changing position, taking on various shapes. Descartes' reply to the portion of Hobbes' objections that relate to Meditation II are rather too long to discuss in their entirety. Descartes examines the different kinds of accidents (actus) that pertain to finite substances. Descartes' reply to Antoine Arnauld involves an interesting elaboration of his notion of substance, indeed, important changes over what he had written in earlier texts. Descartes radically revised his view of the nature of substance.
The full title of Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (TTP) reads as follows:
THEOLOGICAL-POLITICAL TREATISE: Containing several discussions In which it is shown that the Freedom of Philosophizing not only can be granted without harm to Piety and the Peace of the Republic, but also cannot be abolished unless Piety and the Peace of the Republic are also destroyed.
Freedom of thought is quite central to Spinoza's politics in the TTP. In fact, since thought is outside the ability of the sovereign authorities to control, control is not possible. And where control is not possible, there is no right to control. But Spinoza takes this one step further, and argues that from freedom of thought follows the freedom to express publicly that which is thought. Even so, Spinoza recognizes certain limits on the freedom of expression. Expressing one's thoughts is an act, an act that can have effects in the society as a whole. Criticisms of individuals and institutions, even if well-reasoned and true, can lead to consequences which undermine the stability of the state. Criticizing the divinity of the Bible, or the divine authority of the clergy, or the necessity for performing certain ceremonies or keeping to certain divinely ordained laws can lead to the general decline of religion. And insofar as religion can contribute to the stability of the state by inducing people to behave well toward one another, the complete and unrestrained freedom of expression could well have bad consequences for the stability of the state.
In our times, the domain of the physical sciences is reasonably well defined. Although, at its edges, the less empirically grounded parts of the physical sciences may merge into philosophical speculation, it is no compliment to a scientist to characterize his or her work as “philosophical.” In this respect, we have moved a considerable distance from the early modern period. For many European thinkers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, an account of the world around them was radically incomplete without a larger background picture in which to embed it, a picture that often included elements such as the basic categories of existence and the relation of the natural world to God. Many shared the sense of the interconnectedness of knowledge and felt the need for what might be called a foundation for the science that treats the natural world.
The project did not have precise boundaries, nor is it easy to characterize what it is that we are talking about when we are talking about the foundations of our understanding of the physical world. In many ways, the enterprise of providing foundations for a view of the physical sciences was shaped by two traditions, the Aristotelian tradition in philosophy and the Christian tradition in theology. As I shall argue in more detail, the Aristotelian tradition was a common element in the intellectual background of every serious thinker of the period and provided a model for what a properly grounded science should look like. Even for many of those who would reject the Aristotelian tradition in favor of other ancient traditions (such as atomism or Hermeticism) or other views of the world not obviously connected with ancient philosophical traditions, the Aristotelian tradition was hard to escape.
In the last number of years, there has been a remarkable interest in Leibniz's account of the physical world, and, in particular, his account of corporeal substance. Much of the discussion has focused around the question of Leibniz's idealism. In particular, the question has been whether even in the so-called middle period, the 1680s and 1690s, when discussions of corporeal substance seem to be most visible, Leibniz's position included the same kind of idealism with respect to the physical world that occupied him in his later, more obviously monadological, writings, or whether he understood the physical world in a more realistic way. In this essay I suggest that this may not be the right question to be asking about Leibniz's philosophy during this period. I arrive at this reorientation of our thinking about the texts of this period by looking at one text of particular clarity and interest.
The text I intend to examine was written in March of 1690, while Leibniz was in Italy. It seems to be notes connected with a conversation Leibniz had with the Italian philosopher Michelangelo Fardella. Written shortly after the main bulk of his correspondence with Antoine Arnauld and in the same month as his very last letter to Arnauld, the notes state with stark clarity some of the themes that were suggested somewhat more obliquely in those other letters.
To determine (1) the annual costs of implementing and maintaining tuberculin skin test (TST) programs at participating study sites, (2) the cost of the TST program per healthcare worker (HCW), and (3) the outcomes of the TST programs, including the proportion of HCWs with a documented TST conversion and the proportion who accepted and completed treatment for latent TB infection, before and after the implementation of staffTRAK-TB software (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA).
Cost analysis in which costs for salaries, training, supplies, radiography, and data analysis were collected for two 12-month periods (before and after the implementation of staffTRAK-TB).
Four hospitals (two university and two city) and two health departments (one small county and one big city).
The annual cost of implementing and maintaining a TST program ranged from $66,564 to $332,728 for hospitals and $92,886 to $291,248 for health departments. The cost of the TST program per HCW ranged from $41 to $362 for hospitals and $176 to $264 for health departments.
Costs associated with implementing and maintaining a TST program varied widely among the participating study sites, both before and after the implementation of staffTRAK-TB. Compliance with the TB infection control guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may require a substantial investment in personnel time, effort, and commitment.
The Discourse on the Method and the three essays that were published with it, the Dioptrics, the Meteors, and the Geometry, make up a very curious book. The very title page emphasizes the preliminary discourse, and that discourse, the Discourse on the Method, emphasizes method, the importance that method had for Descartes in making the discoveries he made, the importance that the method Descartes claims to have found will have for the progress of the sciences and for the benefit of humankind as a whole. Descartes is not, of course, telling us that we are obligated to follow his method; the Discourse is, after all, proposed “as a story, or, if you prefer, as a fable” (AT VI 4). But Descartes expects that we will all see the light, the light of reason, of course, and follow his example. It is curious, then, that Descartes gives the reader only brief hints of what that method is, four brief, vague, and unimpressive rules that, taken by themselves, would hardly seem to justify Descartes' enthusiasm, not to mention a whole discourse in their honor. Furthermore, explicit methodological concerns are hardly in evidence in the Dioptrics, the Meteors, and the Geometry, which are, Descartes claims, “essays in this method,” as he identifies them on his title page. Indeed, one is hard pressed to find much evidence of the method at all after 1637, either explicit discussions of the method or explicit applications of the method in any of Descartes' writings, published or unpublished. Very curious.
These observations raise quite a number of questions about the development of Descartes' thought and the state of his program as of 1637.
A typical textbook account of the philosophy of mind in the seventeenth century goes something like this. Descartes believed in two kinds of stuff, mental stuff and material stuff, substances distinct in nature that go together to constitute a single human being. But Descartes also took it for granted that these two substances were capable of genuine causal interaction, that minds can cause bodily events, and that bodies can cause mental events, i.e., that acts of will can genuinely cause changes in the state of the human body, and that the state of the sensory organs and the brain can cause sensation and imagination in the mind. But, the story goes, Descartes went astray here and vastly underestimated the philosophical problems inherent in his position. Descartes, it is claimed, repressed, or even worse, simply ignored the central question his position raises: How is it even possible that an immaterial substance, like the mind, could conceivably act on an extended substance like the human body? According to the standard account, later philosophers recognized the inherent unintelligibility of Descartes' position and started one of the largest cottage industries in the history of philosophy, the attempt to provide satisfactory solutions to the mind-body problem, intelligible accounts of how mental and physical events are related to one another. Realizing the unintelligibility of the doctrine of causal interactionism, this cottage industry produced such noteworthy products as occasionalism, dual-aspect theory, pre-established harmony, and so on, all in the attempt to fill in the gap in Descartes' dualist program.
This general outline can (and has) been challenged; the actual history of philosophy is much richer than any of its rationalized reconstructions.
This volume collects some of the seminal essays on Descartes by Daniel Garber, one of the pre-eminent scholars of early-modern philosophy. A central theme unifying the volume is the interconnection between Descartes' philosophical and scientific interests, and the extent to which these two sides of the Cartesian program illuminate each other, a question rarely treated in the existing literature. Amongst the specific topics discussed in the essays are Descartes' celebrated method, his demand for certainty in the sciences, his account of the relation of mind and body, and his conception of God's activity on the physical world. This collection will be a mandatory purchase for any serious student of or professional working in seventeenth-century philosophy, history of science, or history of ideas.
One of the central doctrines of Descartes' metaphysics was his division of the created world into two kinds of stuff: mental substance whose essence is thought and material substance whose essence is extension. And one of the central problems that later philosophers had with Descartes' doctrine was understanding how these two domains, the mental and the material, relate to one another. Descartes' solution was to claim that these two domains can causally interact with one another, that bodily states can cause ideas, and that volitions can cause bodily states. But this claim raises a number of serious questions. The most obvious problem arises from the radical distinction that Descartes draws between the two domains and from our difficulty in conceiving how two sorts of things so different could ever interact with one another. As the Princess Elisabeth complained to Descartes, “it is easier for me to concede matter and extension to the mind than [it is for me to concede] the capacity to move a body and to be affected by it to an immaterial thing.” Though the story is complex, it is generally held that this problem led later in the century to the doctrine of occasionalism, in which the causal link between mind and body was held to be not a real efficient cause but an occasional cause. Thus, it was claimed, it is God who causes ideas in minds on the occasion of appropriate events in the material world and events in the material world on the occasion of an appropriate act of will. The causal link between mind and body remains but is reinterpreted as an occasional causal link, a causal link mediated by God.
René Descartes (1596–1650) aimed to sweep away the past, and start philosophy anew. Much of what made Descartes important for his contemporaries, and for us as well, concerns the contents of his philosophy. Descartes' philosophy was directed squarely against the Aristotelian philosophy taught in the Schools of his day. For the Aristotelians, all cognition begins in sensation: Everything in the intellect comes first through the senses. Descartes' philosophy, on the other hand, emphasizes the priority of reason over the senses. Furthermore, Descartes substitutes a purely mechanical world of geometric bodies governed by laws of motion for an almost animistic world of Aristotelian substances with innate tendencies to different kinds of behavior. These original doctrines, together with his work in metaphysics, optics, mathematics, the theory of the passions, among other areas, made Descartes a central figure in his age.
But in this essay I would like to concentrate on something different. Descartes opposed himself not only to the content of the philosophy of the Schools, but to their very conception of what knowledge is and how it is to be transmitted. Connected with the new Cartesian philosophy is a genuine philosophy of education, a conception of the aims and goals of education very different from the one that dominated the School where Descartes himself had been educated as a youth. My project in this essay is to tease out some aspects of this philosophy.
Let us begin with one of Descartes' most important texts, the Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One's Reason and Seeking the Truth in the Sciences, published in 1637 as the introduction to three scientific texts, the Geometry, the Dioptrics, and the Meteors.
Descartes is usually classed among the rationalists, those philosophers who privilege reason over experience. And indeed he belongs there. On the other hand, though, Descartes was also very interested in experiment. The Dioptrique and Météores make a number of references to Descartes' experiments; the Discours discusses the importance of experiments at some length. In the Principia, written starting in early 1641 and published in 1644, Descartes refers to a number of experimental results to support his views, most visibly in the discussion of the magnet. And at the end of that book, he goes so far as to suggest that his vision of the world is ultimately supported by the fact that it is capable of explaining observed phenomena, and nothing more. Where is the real Descartes? Is he mathematician or experimenter? rationalist or empiricist?
This is the larger question that I would like to explore in this essay. But I would like to address it in a rather particular and somewhat special way. Generally, discussions of Descartes' views about knowledge and experience concentrate on texts like the Meditations, and on issues concerned with knowledge of the kinds of grand questions that he takes up there, the knowledge of self, body, the distinction between mind and body, God, and so on. What I want to focus on is something much more mundane. The water we drink every day has a nature, from which follow certain well-known properties; water is wet and liquid at room temperature, solid when very cold, quenches thirst, admits light, but causes certain illusions, like the famous bent-stick illusion. All of this is somehow connected with its structure.
The Sixth Objections, like the Second Objections, were collected by Father Marin Mersenne, and purport to represent the views of the group of philosophers and theologians who belong to the so-called Mersenne circle. The very first objection that Mersenne and his friends make to the Meditations in the Second Objections concerns the real distinction between mind and body; Mersenne and his friends simply do not understand how Descartes' arguments exclude the possibility that thought is not a kind of motion, and why a body cannot think (AT VII 123). Descartes, of course, attempts to answer this question in the Second Replies (as well as in the Third and Fifth Replies), but evidently not to Mersenne's satisfaction. For in the Sixth Objections, the very same question is raised yet again (AT VII 413). Mersenne goes on to suggest that even the Church Fathers believed that thought “could occur by means of corporeal motions” (AT VII 413). The Sixth Objections ends with an appendix and a letter “from some philosophers and geometricians to M. Descartes” in which these very same doubts are voiced again:
However much we ponder on the question of whether the idea of our mind (or a human mind), i.e., our knowledge and perception of it, contains anything corporeal, we cannot go so far as to assert that what we call thought cannot in any way belong to a body subject to some sort of motion. … We have read what you have written seven times, and have lifted up our minds, as best we could, to the level of the angels, but we are still not convinced.