Descartes held that practicing mathematics was important for developing the mental faculties necessary for science and a virtuous life. Otherwise, he maintained that the proper uses of mathematics were extremely limited. This article discusses his reasons which include a theory of education, the metaphysics of matter, and a psychologistic theory of deductive reasoning. It is argued that these reasons cohere with his system of philosophy.
We argue that Descartes’s theistic proofs in the ’Meditations’ are much simpler and straightforward than they are traditionally taken to be. In particular, we show how the causal argument of the "Third Meditation" depends on the intuitively innocent principle that nothing comes from nothing, and not on the more controversial principle that the objective reality of an idea must have a cause with at least as much formal reality. We also demonstrate that the so-called ontological "argument" of the "Fifth Meditation" (...) is best understood not as a formal proof but as an axiom, revealed as self-evident by analytic meditation. (shrink)
This book is a wide-ranging examination of rationalist thought in philosophy from ancient times to the present day. Written by a superbly qualified cast of philosophers Critically analyses the concept of rationalism Focuses principally on the golden age of rationalism in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries Also covers ancient rationalism, nineteenth-century rationalism, and rationalist themes in recent thought Organised chronologically Various philosophical methods and viewpoints are represented.
This paper examines the relationship between modern theories of microeconomics and macroeconomics and, more generally, it evaluates the prospects of theoretically reducing macroeconomics to microeconomics. Many economists have shown strong interest in providing "microfoundations" for macroeconomics and much of their work is germane to the issue of theoretical reduction. Especially relevant is the work that has been done on what is called The Problem of Aggregation. On some accounts, The Problem of Aggregation just is the problem of reducing macroeconomics to (...) microeconomics. I show how to separate these problems and then try to determine to what extent particular kinds of solutions to The Problem of Aggregation succeed in reducing macroeconomics to microeconomics as well. I argue that reduction is not possible by this means given the current state of microeconomics. I also describe how reduction may be possible by means of (dis)aggregation if microeconomics is supplemented in a certain way with the results of experimental research on individual economic agents. (shrink)
The correspondence between Leibniz and Arnauld was judged by Leibniz himself to be very useful for understanding his philosophy. Historians have concurred in this judgment. Leibniz did not find any philosophy of independent interest in the letters Arnauld sent him. Historians have, for the most part, also concurred in this finding. I shall argue that on one set of issues at least — modal metaphysics and free will — Arnauld accomplished more than facilitating Leibnizian elucidations. He held his own in (...) this dispute. Indeed, were it not for the general sophistication and superior handling of such issues as identity, unity, and the nature of body enjoyed by the Leibnizian system, the Cartesian position on modal metaphysics and free will espoused by Arnauld might have won the day in the eyes of later philosophers. A proper appreciation of the Cartesian framework should also make it of considerable interest to philosophers presently at work on the metaphysics of modality. I shall argue that Descartes and some Cartesians like Arnauld espoused a strongly actualist doctrine. This means they thought that all philosophically interesting uses of possibles were analyzable into facts about actually existing things. (shrink)
Descartes’s interrelated theories of attributes and conceptual distinction are developed. This follows Nolan in identifying substances and their attributes as they exist apart from the mind’s concepts. This resource is then used to articulate a solution to a famous problem about Descartes’s concept of substance. The key is that the concept of substance is itself to be regarded as an attribute of independently existing things.
Descartes’s correspondence with Elisabeth is among the most important we have for understanding the philosophical thought of a canonical figure. Elisabeth’s perspicacious queries drew forth Descartes’s very famous elaboration of mind/body union. The correspondence also contains the bulk of Descartes’s important statements on morality—a topic touched on only briefly in his books. It seems likely that this part of the correspondence helped set Descartes on the course that resulted in his last book, The Passions of the Soul. Moreover, Elisabeth’s letters (...) to Descartes are her only extant philosophical writings. In Lisa Shapiro’s volume we have, for the first time, translations of the thirty-three letters of Descartes and the twenty-six of Elisabeth complete and unabridged. This is, therefore, a very welcome addition to existing English editions of Descartes’s works and an important resource for studying early modern philosophy written by women. (shrink)
I advocate a method that strives to interpret important historical figures in philosophy as presenting philosophical systems of thought. This kind of systematic interpretation, as I shall call it, begins with the supposition that the philosophy being interpreted is itself systematic. This sometimes requires recovering the obscured systematicity. Section I gives a positive characterization of systematic interpretations. Section II notes some of the special obstacles that these interpretations must overcome if they are to be successful. Section III gives a brief (...) sketch of how one might systematically approach Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding. That text is a good test case because Locke professes systematicity, but historians have produced daunting arguments for the conclusion that the text fails to present a coherent system. (shrink)
Good scientific explanations sometimes appear to make use of averages. Using concrete examples from current economic theory, I argue that some confusions about how averages might work in explanations lead to both philosophical and economic problems about the interpretation of the theory. I formulate general conditions on potentially proper uses of averages to refine a notion of average explanation. I then try to show how this notion provides a means for resolving longstanding philosophical problems in economics and other quantitative social (...) sciences. (shrink)
Chapter 1 is introductory. It identifies a cluster of philosophical problems that arise in the foundations of neoclassical economic theory. Issues growing out of the unusually tenuous connection between the theory and the world are singled out as especially troublesome. Is it, after all, possible for economics to look more like an empirical science like physics than like of branch of mathematics? ;Chapter 2 argues that economic methodology has been constrained by the application of faulty philosophy of science, or by (...) the faulty application of philosophy of science. Economists with good intentions have wanted to protect economic theory from intrusions by "unscientific" constructs that had no clear operational criteria for their application. I argue that these attempts to protect economics went astray because theoretical constructs were consequently made to answer to an excessively stringent notion of economic data. Consequently, I find means to argue that all data and, in particular, psychological data about individual economic agents is relevant in the construction and confirmation of economic theory. Actually, I advance the stronger thesis that economics actually owes us an account of the behavior of individuals and that this makes it evident that economic theory should strive to cover the widest range of phenomena is reasonable. ;Chapter 3 takes this broadened notion of economic theory as a starting point and shows why the new outlook can be expected to enrich present theory and make progress towards the project of connecting economics to the phenomena. I include explanations of how prima facie difficulties with the new outlook overcome. In the course of doing this, many striking analogies between economics and linguistics, another science that closely related to psychology, are brought out. The relatively successful resolution of methodological problems in linguistics that parallel methodological problems in economics seems encouraging. ;Finally, Chapter 4 examines a bundle of problems concerning the relationship between microeconomics and macroeconomics. Most of the conclusions drawn in this chapter are negative: I argue that the connection between the micro and the macro is more difficult to fathom than many writers seem to imply. . . . UMI. (shrink)
Everyone interested in Leibniz ought to read this fine, stimulating book. It is admirably written in the tradition exemplified by the references below and will especially appeal to those familiar with the analytical exposition in those works.
BOOK REVIEWS 461 Edwin Curley's "Notes on a Neglected Masterpiece: Spinoza and the Science of Hermeneutics" takes as its starting point Savan's claim that Spinoza is the "founder of scientific hermeneutics." Rejccting the most extreme interpretation of this claim -- i.e., that Spinoza created scientific hermeneutics ex nihilo -- Curlcy carefully compares Spi- noza's contributions to Biblical criticism with those of Hobbes and Isaac La Peyr~re, and concludes that Spinoza's work possesses, in addition to a generally higher level of hermeneutical (...) rigor, something quite specific that they do not -- namely, "a well worked-out theory of what is required for the interpretation of a text." This theory demands that we begin by applying to textual interpretation the Cartesian strategy of "removing all prejudices" and preconceptions; doing so allows us to interpret a text such as the Bible in the light of a "natural history," drawn from the resources of the text itself. Curley's essay is essential reading for anyone interested in hermencutics, Biblical criticism, Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, or Spinoza's general philoso- phy of science. Manfred Walthcr's related essay focuses more narrowly on a case in which the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus appears to violate its own requirement that scripture be interpreted through scripture itself. That case is the treatment of miracles, the Biblical reports of which Spinoza seems to discount on external and.. (shrink)