Philosophy 503 was officially added to the books only few years ago,
and this is its second offering. The printed
catalog description of the course runs thus:
in Early Modern Philosophy Sem. 1 or 2. (Offered in alternate
PHIL 303 or equivalent. (May be repeated for credit with consent of instructor.) A detailed study
of either: 1) one or more central philosophical themes or 2) one or more major figure in the early
This time around weíll be looking at a "central philosophical theme"
? or anyway, at a philosophical theme that
some have regarded as important in the early modern period. Our topic is in some respects broader, and in others
narrower, than the concept of causality itself: here is the departmental blurb for the course as I conceived it
somewhat hurredly last October:
until Hume, and then after Hume too, sober philosophers have been eager
to tell a
coherent story about what looks for all the world to be true: things change, but far from changing
randomly or willy-nilly, they way the world is as one time must somehow or other be constrained by
how the world was earlier. While the task of spelling out a story about causation occupies an important
place in nearly all metaphysical projects from Aristotle to Hume (to Hume because, in his hands, serious
metaphysics was temporarily consigned to the flames), it confronts special challenges in the early modern
period. During this period, philosophers had to juggle the sober, the new, and the old: (i) the sober was,
of course, a commitment to causation out there in the world; (ii) the new was a new science, mechanism
broadly speaking; and (iii) the old was a belief that God not only created but also sustains the world of
creatures (minds, bodies). And the task is to somehow reconcile all of these into a coherent picture, or else
give up that hope and decide which of (i) ? (iii) to set aside.
This course will focus on various efforts, primarily by the early modern rationalists (Descartes, a bit of
Spinoza, Malebranche, Leibniz, and others), to confront this challenge. Their efforts concerned not only
causal interaction between bodies, but also the causal activity of minds and the relation between mind
I guess I still conceive of our course topic roughly along those lines,
although the impression I now have about the
primary and secondary material is that the issues are a bit more scattered and wide-ranging than my description
represents the topic as being. But never mind: focus or no focus, weíll give it a go, and see where it leads us.
Where it looks to lead me is into less than familiar territory.
Familiar territory for me is trying to lecture on primary
texts, in the style of the British seminar. Last semester I stuck with primary text but I tried to avoid lecturing; this
semester Iíll try even harder to avoid lecturing, and weíll focus on secondary reading. Collectively, perhaps you
all can teach me how to run a course like this. Meanwhile, itís pretty clear that discussion is supposed to be at a
level that will carry the sessions, and since the class size isnít large, it wonít be easy for anyone to "hide". Iím
expecting that you will have done the reading for each session, and will each come prepared with some item to
contribute -- a question that goes as deeply as you can make it, a historical observation that is as interesting as you
can make it, a criticism that is as devastating as you can make it, a philosophical proposal that is as cool as you can
make it. One of those four. You can take that as a standing assignment, if it helps you. (Donít pee your pants about
all this. The assignment isnít to have something deep or interesting or devastating or cool each time, but rather to
have something as deep or interesting or devastating or cool as you can, each time; and I put it that way only to
encourage you to think hard about the material as you read, and to reflect on it. But please understand that no
question or observation or criticism or proposal is hopelessly silly or stupid. Whatever you offer, weíll find the
good in it. Just do your best.)
In addition to this little standing expectation, perhaps we can, for
each session when weíre guessing that a new bit
of reading will come under discussion, aim to have somebody or other responsible for a bit more than the rest of us,
in a given session: that is, I propose that we try to hang on to the spirit of the following item of my Departmental description:
students will be responsible for writing some smallish number of discussion
a term paper. Graduate students will be responsible for writing some smallish number of class discussion
notes and a term paper.
Since weíre small, letís do this: undergraduate students are responsible for preparing a written discussion question for ____ sessions; graduate students are responsible for preparing a written discussion note for ____ sessions. (These should be typed out and copies made for other members of the class.) Weíll try to divy up the duties straight away, so you can plan ahead a little, even though our schedule/syllabus will be largely guesswork.
As indicated in the course descriptionÖ
Prerequisite: Phil 303 or equivalent -- i.e. some familiarity with Descartes and Leibniz, mainly.
ÖIím going to presume that you have all read healthy portions of the
major figures in the early modern period. In particular, I shall
assume a your ability to (gain access to, and) find your way around in
the more familiar texts of
Descartes and Leibniz. (Iíll interject some Spinoza when the time comes. Why no Hume? Because he didnít have anything to say about God and secondary, creaturely-causes. Weíll encounter him indirectly, I hope, at a certain
stage: but we shanít be working over his own revisionary account of causation. Why no Berkeley? Well, OK,
weíll touch on just a little bit of Berkeley, but not much. Why no Locke? Because he simply doesnít have much
to say about the relation of creaturely and divine causation, so far as Iím able to discover.) Since none of us has
ever waded into Malebranche, weíll just read some of his stuff together. On occasion, I may need to copy off or
type out some smaller, more isolated bits of primary text for you, if I think youíll have trouble tracking items down
for yourself. Please let me know along the way how youíre faring, in this regard. You can find most of what you
need from the primary texts in AG, DSW, CSM, and L, listed below (along with a couple other items that you might
find abbreviated in your reading). You will likely own copies of AG and DSW already (theyíre available at Vonís);
and you should be able to find HR, CSM (volumes I and II) and L in the conference room of the 7th floor. Please
us them in that room ? donít take them home. If you have any questions, do ask me, and Iíll try my best to help out.
AG G. W. Leibniz: Philosophical Essays, translated and edited by R. Ariew and D. Garber. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1989. Cited in the literature by page.
AT Oeuvres de Descartes, edited by C. Adam and P. Tannery. Paris, 1897-1913. Reprint: Paris, J. Vrin, 1967-75. Cited in the literature by volume and page. AT is the standard original-language collected edition for Descartes; youíll find references to its pages in DSW and in CSM, in the margins.
CSM(K) The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, translated by John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, Dugald Murdoch, and (for vol. III), Anthony Kenny. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985 (1991). Three volumes. Cited in the literature by volume and page. The AT citations also appear in the margins of this collection. This is the now-standard English edition.
DSW Descartes: Selected
Philosophical Writings, translated by John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff,
Dugald Murdoch. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985. The AT citations appear in the margins of this
collection. A good selection from CSM(K).
Die philosophischen Schriften von G. W. Leibniz. Edited by
C. J. Gerhardt. 7 volumes. Berlin, 1875-90. Reprint:
Hildesheim: Olms, 1965. Cited in the literature by volume and page.
AG notes the location in G with a
footnote beginning each selection that appears in G (not all of them appear there).
Philosophical Works, translated by Elizabeth S. Haldane and G.R.T.
Ross. Cambridge, 1911
and many later editions. Two volumes, cited by volume and page. Now permanently replaced by CSM, but 'HR'
still appears in all the literature up through 1987 or so.
K Descartes: Philosophical Letters, edited and translated by Anthony Kenny. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970. Cited in the literature by page. Used less and less, since the appearance of volume III of CSM.
W. Leibniz: Philosophical Papers and Letters, edited and translated
by Leroy E. Loemker. 2nd ed.,
Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1969. Cited in the literature by page.
There you have some abbreviations and reference to primary texts. But as I say, Iím hoping that we have enough familiarity with Descartes and Leibniz to wade into the secondary literature and learn from it. As for the secondary stuff, here is the reading weíll be doing, largely: thereís less of it than there might be, but Iíd rather do too little than too much.
Clatterbaugh, Kennth C. "Descartesís Causal Likeness Principle."
The Philosophical Review LXXXIX (1980),
Frankel, Lois. "Justifying Descartes' Causal Principle." Journal of the History of Philosophy 24 (1986), 323-341.
Loeb, Louis. "The Alleged Incoherence of Descartes' Interactionism."
Extracted from Chapter 3 of Loebís From
Descartes to Hume: Continental Metaphysics and the Development of Modern Philosophy (Ithaca: Cornell
University Press, 1981), 134-149.
Radner, Daisie. "Is There a Problem of Cartesian Interaction?"
Journal of the History of Philosophy 23 (1985),
Garber, Daniel. "How God Causes Motion: Descartes, Divine Sustenance,
and Occasionalism." The Journal of
Philosophy 84 (1987), 567-80.
Garber, Daniel. "Descartes and Occasionalism." In Steven
Nadler, ed., Causation in Early Modern Philosophy
(University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993), 9-26.
Search After Truth: Book VI, part ii, chapter 3; Book VI, part ii, chapter 9
Elucications of the Search After Truth: Elucidation XV
Dialogues on Metaphysics: Dialogue 7
Loeb, Louis. "Malebranche's Denial of Causes other than God."
Chapter 5 of From Descartes to Hume:
Continental Metaphysics and the Development of Modern Philosophy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981),
Nadler, Steven. "Occasionalism and General Will in Malebranche."
Journal of the History of Philosophy 31
Jolley, Nicholas. "Berkeley and Malebranche on Causality and Volition."
From J. A. Cover and Mark Kulstad,
eds, Central Themes in Early Modern Philosophy (Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett, 1990), 227-244.
Rutherford, Donald. "Natures, Laws, and Miracles: The Roots of
Leibniz's Critique of Occasionalism."
In Steven Nadler, ed., Causation in Early Modern Philosophy (University Park: The Pennsylvania State
University Press, 1993), 135-158.
Sleigh, Robert C. Jr. "Leibniz on Malebranche on Causality." From
J. A. Cover and Mark Kulstad, eds,
Central Themes in Early Modern Philosophy (Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett, 1990),161-193.
Loeb, Louis. "Leibnizís Denial of Causal Interaction Between Monads."
Chapter 7 of From Descartes to
Hume: Continental Metaphysics and the Development of Modern Philosophy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981), 269-319.
Clatterbaugh, Kenneth and Marc Bobro. "Unpacking the Monad: Leibniz's
Theory of Causality." Monist
79 (1996), 508-25.
Freddoso, Alfred J. "Medieval Aristotelianism and the Case against
Secondary Causation in Nature."
In Thomas V. Morris, ed., Divine and Human Action: Essays in the Metaphysics of Theism (Ithaca: Cornell
University Press, 1988), 74-118.
Freddoso, Alfred J. "God's General Concurrence with Secondary
Causes: Why Conservation is not Enough."
In James E. Tomberlin, ed. Philosophical Perspectives 5: Philosophy of Religion (Atascadero: Ridgeview, 1991),
Vallicella, William. "Concurrentism or Occasionalism?" American
Catholic Philosophical Quarterly LXX (1996),
McCann, Hugh and Jonathan L. Kvanvig. "The Occasionalist Proselytizer:
A Modified Catechism." In
James E. Tomberlin, ed. Philosophical Perspectives 5: Philosophy of Religion (Atascadero: Ridgeview, 1991),
You'll find those items copied off for you, in a packet, up in the main
office, available from Pam for $13.20, which
is just the cost of doing copies. (Cash or, if a check, make it out to Purdue University. Get this right away, please,
so that we can get cracking on Thursday already.) I may put together a secondary list of supplementary readings,
for you to go off and locate if you want. Don't hold me to that. Itís not like there are piles and loads of papers
devoted to our topic, in the past 20 years.
Well, as I say, those are the things weíll try to read and work through,
and hope we learn something in the course
of doing so. I canít predict how long it will take to do any particular bit: some of the articles are longer and/or harder
than others, and itís just tough to judge. So weíll just guess, below, and refuse to panic if we get badly off track.
Hereís the guesswork:
Th 14 Clatterbaugh, "Descartesís Causal Likeness Principle."
T 19 Contíd.
Th 21 Frankel, "Justifying Descartesí Causal Principle."
T 26 Spillover; Spinoza aside
Th 28 Loeb: "The Alleged Incoherence of Descartesí Interactionism."
February T 2 Radner: "Is There a Problem Interaction?"
Th 4 Garber I: "How God Causes Motion: Descartes, Divine SustenanceÖ."
T 9 Contíd. (And/or, start Garber II)
Th 11 Garber II: "Descartes and Occasionalism."
T 16 Malebranche
Th 18 Loeb: "Malebrancheís Denial of Causes other than God."
T 23 Contíd.
Th 25 Nadler: "Occasionalism and General Will in Malebranche."
March T 2 Jolley: "Berkeley and Malebranche on Causality and Volition"
Th 4 Spillover, if needed
T 9 Rutherford: "Natures, Laws, and Miracles: Roots of Leibnizís CritiqueÖ"
Th 11 Sleigh: "Leibniz on Malebranche on Causality"
T 16 Spring Break
Th 18 Spring Break
T 23 Loeb: "Leibnizís Denial of Causal Interaction Between Monads."
Th 25 Clatterbaugh and Bobro: "Unpacking the Monad."
T 30 Spillover
April Th 1 Cover at Pacific APA
T 6 Freddoso: "Medieval Aristotelianism and Ö Secondary CausationÖ."
Th 8 Contíd.
T 13 Freddoso: "Godís General Concurrence with Secondary CausesÖ."
Th 15 Contíd.
T 20 Vallicella: "Concurrentism or Occasionalism?"
Th 22 Contíd.
T 27 McCann and Kvanvig: "The Occasionalist ProselytizerÖ."
Th 29 Contíd.