To save content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save content items to your Kindle, first ensure firstname.lastname@example.org
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
The traditional problem of free will has reached an impasse; we are unlikely to see progress without rethinking the terms in which the problem had been cast. Our approach offers an alternative to the standard terms of the debate, by developing an authorially parameterized approach articulated within a two-dimensional semantics for temporal predicates.
Can finite humans grasp universal truth? Is it possible to think beyond the limits of reason? Are we doomed to failure because of our finitude? In this clear and accessible book, Barnabas Aspray presents Ricœur's response to these perennial philosophical questions through an analysis of human finitude at the intersection of philosophy and theology. Using unpublished and previously untranslated archival sources, he shows how Ricœur's groundbreaking concept of symbols leads to a view of creation, not as a theological doctrine, but as a mystery beyond the limits of thought that gives rise to philosophical insight. If finitude is created, then it can be distinguished from both the Creator and evil, leading to a view of human existence that, instead of the 'anguish of no' proclaims the 'joy of yes.'
Although the subject matter of this Element is properties, do not expect in-depth introductions to the various views on properties 'on the market'. Instead, here that subject matter is treated meta-philosophically. Rather than ask and try to answer a question like do properties exist? this Element asks what reasons one might have for thinking that properties exist (what problem properties, if they exist, are there to solve), what counts as solving that (or those) problems (including what counts as 'a property'), as well as how we ought to proceed when trying to find out if properties exist (by which method this ought to be decided). As it turns out, these questions and their answers are all intricately intertwined. Theory comparison and theory evaluation is in other words (and perhaps not that surprisingly) tricky. Do properties exist? After reading this Element all we can say is therefore this: that depends.
This chapter examines Nietzsche’s thoughts regarding physically destructive struggle (Vernichtungskampf) and, more specifically, war. I contest the exclusively agonistic reading of his philosophy by showing that throughout his writings Nietzsche gives a wide variety of reasons as to why we ought to value mortal forms of combat. I further argue that many of these arguments are underpinned by a quasi-Schopenhauerian ontology of violent conflict. According to this ontology, the impetus to engage in physically destructive struggle is untransformable. Hence, war is ineluctable because humans are defined by an irresistible drive for violent conflict. The periodic release of this ever-accumulating urge is in Nietzsche’s view socially cathartic, and to this extent enables flourishing. This is problematic for his agonistic readers, however, since they take Nietzsche to be pursuing the transformation of destructive into constructive struggle. My solution to this apparent contradiction is to suggest that Nietzsche’s problematic conception of destructive conflict is for the most part confined to his early writings. As he moves away from Schopenhauer and toward the natural sciences, he reconceives destructive conflict as the contingent expression of a general impulse to overpower others – one that can obtain discharge in nonviolent modes of conflict.
According to Nietzsche, modern individuals and societies are pathologically fragmented. In this chapter, I examine the form of conflict that he prescribes in his Untimely Meditations (UM) as a remedy to this condition of disintegration. I argue that he develops a quasi-Schopenhauerian model of how healthy holism arises – that is to say, a model that presupposes the existence of metaphysical essences or Ideas that teleologically organize entities from within. Such essences establish holism by means of selectively overpowering and assimilating the opposed entities that they need in order to materially realize themselves. On the basis of this analysis, I reject agonistic readings of UM,arguing that Nietzsche endorses exploitation and exclusion in a way that is sharply at odds with his conception of the agon. I conclude the chapter with an account of how Nietzsche’s eventual rejection of metaphysics (in his middle and later writings) undermines the metaphysical presuppositions that condition the synthetic program that he outlines in UM.
The primum mobile is the largest body of the universe, giving impetus to the whole complex system of natural causes. Limit of the physical world, it serves as a vantage point on the metaphysical structure that undergirds it. The planets are moved by angels that appear to whirl at different speeds in nine concentric fiery wheels variously distant from the common focus of their orbits. The angels are uninterruptedly intent on what they know and love, to the degree that they know and love it. The opening astronomical simile serves to describe a single moment of perfect balance in an ambiguous twilight before the universe took sides and split into light and dark, good and evil. It is a moment of expectation, in which what comes next depends on whether one settles for what appears in the here and now or believes that it promises something more yet to come.
By pooling together exhaustive analyses of certain philosophical paradoxes, we can prove a series of fascinating results regarding philosophical progress, agreement on substantive philosophical claims, knockdown arguments in philosophy, the wisdom of philosophical belief (quite rare, because the knockdown arguments show that we philosophers have been wildly wrong about language, logic, truth, or ordinary empirical matters), the epistemic status of metaphysics, and the power of philosophy to refute common sense. As examples, this Element examines the Sorites Paradox, the Liar Paradox, and the Problem of the Many – although many other paradoxes can do the trick too.
We begin by surveying a rift that runs through the history of philosophy. On the one side stand those philosophers who denigrate conflict as a burden on human existence; on the other stand those who praise it as a productive, strengthening mode of relation. The goal of this book is to elucidate Nietzsche’s contribution to this debate. With this end in mind, we make a brief survey of the intellectual context that informs his unique understanding of conflict. We then turn to some of the key problems that face us in our attempt to extract a coherent philosophical viewpoint from his writings on this topic. First, his terminology is prima facie ambiguous, and it is often unclear what he means when he uses the vocabulary of conflict. Second, across different texts he can be found to positively and negatively value almost all subspecies of conflict. Third, commentators tend to focus on either the hard or the soft – that is, either the violent or nonviolent – aspect of Nietzsche’s philosophy. This gives the impression of there being a contradiction in his normative stance toward conflict. I close by giving an outline of the book and how it resolves these various tensions.
Historical writing described a form of imaginal enchantment, as illustrated by Hans Jonas’ concept of “gnosticism,” André-Jean Festugière’s “religion of the world,” and Frances A. Yates’ “Hermetic Tradition.” The importance of overcoming philhellenist ideologies, and the centrality of nonduality and embodiment to Hermetic spirituality.
Chapter 5 inquires with Augustine into the origins and metaphysics of humility and pride, and how we may come to know them. In books XI–XII of The City of God, Augustine explores this theme by reflecting on biblical and Platonic accounts of creation, especially of angels and human beings, and of the birth of Augustine’s famous “two cities” among them.
In Chapter 4 we build on the discussion in Chapter 3 in order to argue that understanding mechanisms in the Causal Mechanism sense is all that is needed in order to understand biological practice. We clarify the main commitments of our view by presenting three theses that together constitute Causal Mechanism: (1) Mechanisms are to be identified with causal pathways; (2) causal relations among the components of a pathway are to be viewed in terms of difference-making; and (3) Causal Mechanism is metaphysically agnostic. A key point is that, in contrast to mechanistic theories of causation, for Causal Mechanism causation as difference-making is conceptually prior to the notion of a mechanism. We examine in some detail the discovery of the mechanism of scurvy in order to argue that difference-making is what matters in practice. We then turn to the main inflationary accounts of mechanism and contrast them with our deflationary view and its metaphysical agnosticism. We argue that Causal Mechanism offers a general characterisation of mechanism as a concept-in-use in the life sciences that is deflationary and thin, but still methodologically important.
Chapter 1 examines the relationship between Old and New Mechanism and uses it to illuminate the relations between metaphysical and methodological conceptions of mechanism. This historical examination will directly motivate our new deflationary account of mechanism developed in the subsequent chapters. We start by focusing on the role of mechanistic explanation in seventeenth-century scientific practice, by discussing the views of René Descartes, Christiaan Huygens, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Robert Boyle, and the attempted mechanical explanations of gravity by Descartes and Ηuygens. We thereby illustrate how the metaphysics of Old Mechanism constrained scientific explanation. We then turn our attention to Isaac Newton’s critique of mechanism. The key point is that Newton introduced a new methodology that freed scientific explanation from the metaphysical constraints of the older mechanical philosophy. Last, we draw analogies between Newton’s critique of Old Mechanism and our critique of New Mechanism. The main point is that causal explanation in the sciences is legitimate even if we bracket the issue of the metaphysics of mechanisms.
The Introduction recounts the main aspects of the recent revival of the mechanical philosophy and outlines the main theses of the book (i.e., Causal Mechanism and Methodological Mechanism). It presents briefly the case for understanding mechanism as a methodological concept, introduces the main concepts and distinctions that will be discussed in the book, provides an outline of the central arguments and presents a summary of the chapters.
In recent years what has come to be called the 'New Mechanism' has emerged as a framework for thinking about the philosophical assumptions underlying many areas of science, especially in sciences such as biology, neuroscience, and psychology. This book offers a fresh look at the role of mechanisms, by situating novel analyses of central philosophical issues related to mechanisms within a rich historical perspective of the concept of mechanism as well as detailed case studies of biological mechanisms (such as apoptosis). It develops a new position, Methodological Mechanism, according to which mechanisms are to be viewed as causal pathways that are theoretically described and are underpinned by networks of difference-making relations. In contrast to metaphysically inflated accounts, this study characterises mechanism as a concept-in-use in science that is deflationary and metaphysically neutral, but still methodologically useful and central to scientific practice.
This chapter reflects on the ongoing scientific revolution as a metaphysical and even theological revolution, whose unarticulated presuppositions about being, nature, knowledge and truth have governed the so-called dialogue between science and religion. The essence of this revolution is captured in the Baconian triumph of art over nature, which conceives of nature mechanistically and knowledge pragmatically in advance of scientific inquiry and has produced a scientific and technological civilization that exceeds even Bacon’s utopian imagination in the New Atlantis and offers both promise and peril for the human future. Simultaneously challenging and conceding the stunning triumph of this utopian vision, and in dialogue with John Milbank’s poetic and ‘magical’ proposal to enfold its genuine achievements within a radically creational ontology, Hanby attempts to set forth some principles for any genuine dialogue in the future and for any conception of being, nature, knowledge and truth adequate to the Christian doctrine of God and the Christian vision of creation.
The chapter is devoted to the work of Posidonius in all its aspects and argues that he created a second major synthesis of Stoic thought, expanding the school’s attention to the sciences and history while making innovations in logic, physics and ethics. Argues that Posidonius was a more conservative Stoic than is often thought.
No less important a structural development than the emancipation of natural philosophy from metaphysics was the self-conscious emancipation of theology from philosophy, largely achieved by making philology and historical scholarship – rather than philosophy – the primary handmaidens to the discipline. This did not happen at the hands of a small band of liberal outsiders (‘Erasmians’, ‘latitudinarians’, etc.), but within the theological mainstream. In the Catholic world, all major locales (starting with the Spanish Netherlands, and culminating in France) witnessed a self-conscious shift from ‘scholastic’ to ‘positive’ theological method. By the second half of the seventeenth century, a similar development had occurred in all the major areas of the Reformed world. Crucially, this shift should not be taken for a form of ‘fideism’, even if its conceptual resources sometimes seem to imply it. At the basic epistemological level, conceptions of theological truth remained broadly the same as they had been since c.1300: divine mysteries could be above reason, but could not contradict it; the truths of natural theology could be proved rationally. But within this broadly continuous framework a huge methodological shift took place, one that significantly curtailed the cultural authority of apriorist philosophy. Calls for the separation of philosophy and theology usually worked to the detriment of the former.
This chapter charts the way in which the study of nature was made increasingly less philosophical between 1500 and 1700. At the start of the period, natural philosophy was largely conducted as a form of ‘metaphysical physics’. The erosion of this approach was driven by three factors: 1) the impact of humanist critique; 2) The colonisation of natural philosophy by physicians; 3) The colonisation of natural philosophy by mixed mathematicians. Despite a spirited fightback from the metaphysicians, by the middle of the seventeenth century the anti-metaphysical physicians and mixed-mathematicians – often operating in tandem – had won. A major concomitant of this is that the idea that most of seventeenth-century natural philosophy was grounded in ontological mechanism is wrong. To the extent that natural philosophers were mechanists, they were operational mechanists, who modelled nature on machines but refused to commit to an ontological reductionism, and often directly opposed it. In this and other respect, Descartes and his followers, far from being representative of seventeenth-century natural philosophy, were outliers.
Plato’s philosophical writings have over the centuries evoked widely differing styles of response. Platonist metaphysical systems have been created, as by his first successors in the Academy, down to Plotinus and later Neoplatonists and beyond; while the questioning spirit they evince was what fuelled the scepticism of Arcesilaus and Carneades in the Hellenistic period, and what most impressed James Mill and George Grote, the nineteenth-century British ‘Philosophical Radicals’. Both types of response agreed, however, in rejecting what the dialogues call ‘opinion’, the metaphysicians because it lacks the security and clarity of true knowledge, the sceptics and radicals because it leaves prevailing norms unquestioned. They all took from Plato the precept: Think for yourself, whatever opinion or the prevailing norms may be. And from the beginning they disagreed among themselves too, with Speusippus, Plato’s nephew and his successor as head of the Academy, already rejecting the dialogues’ theory of transcendent Forms. Where the theory was embraced, it was developed further than its originator ever did himself or perhaps could have done. Plato wrote for eternity, to open minds and encourage independent thought in any reader, whatever their historical circumstances.
In 1713 Newton finally published the second edition of the Principia. Its changes included not only the new Rules of Philosophising discussed in III.1, but also the very famous General Scholium. This chapter provides the fullest ever contextualisation and interpretation of that text. It charts in detail how Newton’s dispute with Leibniz led him to double-down on his anti-metaphysical stance, and to declare many questions – not least concerning causation – to be beyond the boundaries of legitimate natural philosophy (now described as ‘experimental’). Second, it shows that Newton’s talk of the ‘God of Dominion’ was derived from Samuel Clarke’s recent writings – in line with Clarke’s position, Newton had now moved away from his earlier neo-Arianism into a position of trinitarian nescience in which all speculation on the subject, with consubstantialist or Arian, was dismissed as ‘metaphysical’. The role played by the ‘God of Dominion’ was simply the standard refrain of Newtonian natural theology: that the true conception of the divine that could be predicated from nature was not of an impersonal metaphysical first principle, but of a living God. Finally, Newton’s talk of God’s ‘substantial’ omnipresence was again not a concession to metaphysical thinking, but a residue of yet another polemic devised by his friend Samuel Clarke, this time against the freethinker Anthony Collins.