History of Philosophy Quarterly 35 (3):219-239 (2018)

Michael Bennett McNulty
University of Minnesota
In this paper, I develop a new interpretation of the order of nature, its function, and its implications in Margaret Cavendish’s philosophy. According to the infinite balance account, the order of nature consists in a balance among the infinite varieties of nature. That is, for Cavendish, nature contains an infinity of different types of matter: infinite species, shapes, and motions. The potential tumult implicated by such a variety, however, is tempered by the counterbalancing of the different kinds and motions of matter against one another, or what Cavendish calls the “poising” of nature’s actions by their opposites. The infinite balance account of order offers insight into a central notion of Cavendish’s system and bears important implications for other interpretive issues. To wit, the account resolves the standing issue of whether there is genuine disorder in Cavendish’s universe and elucidates the nature of her opposition to atomism. Nevertheless, the interpretation faces an epistemic challenge, insofar as Cavendish appears to deny knowledge of infinity. I argue that, for Cavendish, our knowledge of the order of nature is conceptual and non-empirical, revealing limits to her apparent empiricism.
Keywords Cavendish  Order  Infinity  Nature  Atomism  Balance  Disorder  Pattern Theory
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Cavendish.David Cunning - 2016 - Routledge.

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