Scholarly interest in Margaret Cavendish's philosophical views has steadily increased over the past decade, but her epistemology has received little attention, and no consensus has emerged; Cavendish has been characterized as a skeptic, as a rationalist, as presenting an alternative epistemology to both rationalism and empiricism, and even as presenting no clear theory of knowledge at all. This paper concludes that Cavendish was only a modest skeptic, for she believed that humans can achieve knowledge through sensitive and rational perception as (...) well as through self-knowledge and can form probable opinions through reasoning. (shrink)
the philosophical writings ofx Lady Mary Shepherd were apparently well regarded in her own time, but dropped out of view in the mid-nineteenth century.1 Some historians of philosophy have recently begun attending to the distinctive arguments in Shepherd's two books, but the secondary literature that exists so far has largely focused on her critiques of Hume and Berkeley. However, many other themes and arguments in Shepherd's writings have not yet been explored. This paper takes up one such issue, what Shepherd (...) means by 'mind,' 'soul,' and 'self.' Shepherd held the unusual view that the mind is an enduring capacity that causes (whether on its own or in conjunction with other partial causes, such as... (shrink)
The Well-Ordered Universe argues that Cavendish's natural philosophy, social and political philosophy, and medical theory share an underlying concern with order. This reveals interesting connections among Cavendish's natural philosophy and her views on gender, animals and the environment, and human health, and explains her commitment to monarchy and social hierarchy.
Lady Mary Shepherd argued for distinctive accounts of causation, perception, and knowledge of an external world and God. However, her work, engaging with Berkeley and Hume but written after Kant, does not fit the standard periodisation of early modern philosophy presupposed by many philosophy courses, textbooks, and conferences. This paper argues that Shepherd should be added to the canon as a Scottish philosopher. The practical reason for doing so is that it would give Shepherd a disciplinary home, opening up additional (...) possibilities for research and teaching. The philosophical reason is that her views share certain features characteristic of canonical Scottish philosophers. (shrink)
Some scholars have argued that Margaret Cavendish was ambivalent about women's roles and capabilities, for she seems sometimes to hold that women are naturally inferior to men, but sometimes that this inferiority is due to inferior education. I argue that attention to Cavendish's natural philosophy can illuminate her views on gender. In section II I consider the implications of Cavendish's natural philosophy for her views on male and female nature, arguing that Cavendish thought that such natures were not fixed. However, (...) I argue that although Cavendish thought women needed to be better educated, and could change if they had such an education, she also thought their education should reinforce the feminine virtues. Section III examines Cavendish's notorious “Preface to the Reader” (from The Worlds Olio), where Cavendish claims that women are naturally inferior in strength and intelligence to men. Section IV addresses another notorious Cavendish text, “Female Orations,” arguing that its message is similar to that of the “Preface to the Reader.” Nonetheless, although Cavendish held conventional views about male and female nature and appropriate gender roles, she also recognized how social institutions could limit women's freedom; section V explores the complexities of Cavendish's critique of one such institution, patriarchal marriage. (shrink)
In both the _Treatise and the first _Enquiry, Hume offers an argument from analogy comparing how humans and animals make causal inferences. Yet in these and other texts, he suggests that there are certain differences between human and animal reasoning. This paper discusses Hume's argument from analogy, and examines how Hume can argue for differences in human and animal reasoning without having to attribute to either a special capacity that the other lacks. Hume's empiricism and his claims about sympathy also (...) give him good reason to hold that in animals just as in humans, reason is a virtue. (shrink)
In Hume’s own day, and for nearly two hundred years after that, readers interested in his account of causal reasoning tended to focus on the skeptical implications of that account. For example, in his 1757 View of the Principal Deistical Writers of the Last and Present Century, John Leland characterized Hume as “endeavouring to destroy all reasoning, from causes to effects, or from effects to causes.”1 According to this sort of reading, as Louis Loeb describes it, “there is equal justification (...) for every belief about the unobserved—none whatsoever.”2 However, a consensus has now emerged in the secondary literature that while Hume is clearly skeptical about whether beliefs formed through causal inference are .. (shrink)
Each year the JHP awards an Article Prize to an article published in the previous year's volume, and a Book Prize to a book published in the previous year that deserves special recognition for its contribution to the history of Western philosophy. For the Book Prize, publishers may nominate books by submitting a hard copy to the Book Review Editor for consideration. The nomination and book must be received by January 1 following the year for which the prize is to (...) be awarded.The JHP Board of Directors awards an annual prize of $5,000 for the best book in the history of philosophy published in the previous year. On the Board's behalf, I am pleased to announce that the... (shrink)
ABSTRACT Elizabeth Hamilton has not so far been considered a philosopher, probably because she wrote novels and tracts on education rather than philosophical treatises. This paper argues that Hamilton’s novel Memoirs of Modern Philosophers should be read as a philosophical text, both for its close engagement with William Godwin’s moral theory and for what it suggests about Hamilton’s own moral theory and moral psychology. Studies of Memoirs have so far either characterized it as merely satire of Godwin, or, if they (...) have read it as containing arguments against Godwin’s views, have described those arguments in very broad strokes, without looking closely at the text to see if the descriptions are warranted. A careful examination of Memoirs shows that Hamilton objected primarily to one key aspect of Godwin’s moral theory, namely, his insistence that actions affecting others must be based on an impartial, disinterested assessment of a person’s contribution to general utility rather than on their particular relationship to the agent. Memoirs also points towards Hamilton’s own moral theory, as exemplified in her Series of Popular Essays, with its emphasis on ‘benevolent affections’ that are directed towards family members and people in the agent’s social circle. (shrink)
This rich and interesting book tells the story of the development and ultimate disappearance over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries of a central theme in Scottish philosophy: common sense realism. Taking Thomas Reid's version of common sense realism as the paradigmatic form, McDermid shows how Reid's views had their roots in Lord Kames's account of perceptual realism, how Dugald Stewart and Sir William Hamilton defended and modified Reid's view, and how James Ferrier systematically repudiated both Reid's appeal (...) to common sense and his realism. McDermid succeeds in providing a clear overview of the trajectory, while not losing sight of the details of the individual philosophers' views.The book... (shrink)
In addition to the 1824 and 1827 books known to have been written by Lady Mary Shepherd, another philosophical treatise, published in 1819, has sometimes been attributed to her. While evidence for this attribution has so far been inconclusive, this paper provides reasons for thinking that Shepherd was not, in fact, the author of this book. New external evidence is provided to show that the author was James Milne, an Edinburgh architect and engineer.
"Margaret Cavendish is a fascinating figure who is getting increasing attention by historians of philosophy these days, and for good reason.... She’s an interesting advocate of a vitalist tradition emphasizing the inherent activity of matter, as well as its inherent perceptive faculties. She’s also the perfect character to open students up to a different seventeenth century, and a different cast of philosophical characters. This is _an ideal book to use in the classroom_. _The Philosophical Letters_ gives us Cavendish’s view of (...) what was interesting and important in the philosophical world at that moment, a view of philosophy as it was at the time by an engaged participant. _There are few documents like it in the history of philosophy_. Deborah Boyle’s Introduction provides a very accessible summary of Cavendish’s natural philosophy, as well as good introductions to the other figures that Cavendish discusses in the book. Boyle’s annotations are not extensive, but they are a great help in guiding the student toward an informed reading of the texts." —Daniel Garber, Princeton University. (shrink)
Descartes is often accused of lacking a coherent conception of innate ideas. I argue that Descartes' remarks on innate ideas actually form a unified account. "Innate idea" is triply ambiguous, but its three meanings are interdependent. "Innate idea" can mean an act of perceiving; that which is perceived; or a faculty, capacity, or disposition to have certain ideas. An innate idea qua object of thought is some thing existing objectively , which we have a capacity to perceive, but which we (...) can only actually perceive through meditation. ;Descartes thinks that some innate ideas, such as the idea of thought itself, are implicit in the very process of thinking. Because they are relied on in thinking itself, we have implicit awareness of them. We also have implicit knowledge of other ideas contained in them. The actual perception of these innate ideas is, for Descartes, a matter of making them explicit, turning the intellect away from sense-perceptions and towards pure thought. ;Some innate truths, Descartes says, are perceived by the "natural light." I argue that such truths are made explicit through attending to how the concepts which those truths are about have been relied on in the process of thinking. I discuss the relationship between the natural light and the will, arguing that other accounts of Descartes' "natural light" in the secondary literature are unsatisfactory. I also explore how Descartes' use of the metaphor of light might have been informed by his scientific views about light. ;The innate ideas of corporeal nature and mathematics are also made explicit through attention and reflection, according to Descartes. Though many commentators read Descartes as holding that the innate idea of extension can be known without any use of the senses, I argue that it is discovered through reflection on our sense-perceptions. Once this idea is explicit, Descartes thinks, we can use it to generate explicit awareness of further innate ideas, such as ideas of shapes. Reflection on those further innate ideas, in turn, makes explicit various innate truths about those shapes. (shrink)
The study of perception and the role of the senses have recently risen to prominence in philosophy and are now a major area of study and research. However, the philosophical history of the senses remains a relatively neglected subject. Moving beyond the current philosophical canon, this outstanding collection offers a wide-ranging and diverse philosophical exploration of the senses, from the classical period to the present day. Written by a team of international contributors, it is divided into six parts: -/- Perception (...) from Non-Western Perspectives Perception in the Ancient Period Perception in the Medieval Latin/Arabic Period Perception in the Early Modern Period Perception in the Post-Kantian Period Perception in the Contemporary Period. The volume challenges conventional philosophical study of perception by covering a wide range of significant, as well as hitherto overlooked, topics, such as perceptual judgment, temporal and motion illusions, mirror and picture perception, animal senses and cross-modal integration. By investigating the history of the senses in thinkers such as Plotinus, Auriol, Berkeley and Cavendish; and considering the history of the senses in diverse philosophical traditions, including Chinese, Indian, Byzantine, Greek and Latin it brings a fresh approach to studying the history of philosophy itself. -/- Including a thorough introduction as well as introductions to each section by the editors, The Senses and the History of Philosophy is essential reading for students and researchers in the history of philosophy, perception, philosophy of mind, philosophical psychology, aesthetics and eastern and non-western philosophy. It will also be extremely useful for those in related disciplines such as psychology, religion, sociology, intellectual history and cognitive sciences. (shrink)
In A Series of Popular Essays, Scottish philosopher Elizabeth Hamilton identifies two ‘principles’ in the human mind: sympathy and the selfish principle. While sharing Adam Smith's understanding of sympathy as a capacity for fellow-feeling, Hamilton also criticizes Smith's account of sympathy as involving the imagination. Even more important for Hamilton is the selfish principle, a ‘propensity to expand or enlarge the idea of self’ that she distinguishes from both selfishness and self-love. Counteracting the selfish principle requires cultivating sympathy and benevolent (...) affections from birth. Since no one can do this alone, Hamilton's prescription appeals ineliminably to the caregivers of the very young; and Hamilton was ahead of her time in claiming that these caregivers need not be female. (shrink)