Early Modern Philosophy

Below are readings and essay questions for tutorials in Early Modern. Many of the readings are available online, and all are easily obtained from the college or other libraries in Oxford, but if you are struggling to get hold of anything, email me, as I have PDF copies of nearly everything.

I have divided the reading for each topic into CORE READING and FURTHER READING, with more introductory texts marked with a star (*). Focus on the Core Reading in writing tutorial essays, and use the Further Reading as starting points for exploring topics in more depth during vacations. You will find more suggestions in the Faculty Reading List.

The default plan is to cover some of the TUTORIAL TOPICS, focusing on central themes in Descartes and either Berkeley or Hume. I plan to supplement these at some point with topics on central themes in Locke, Spinoza, and Leibniz, as well as some SPECIAL TOPICS. These will be topics that come up less frequently in exams, but which students might still want to explore.

I’ve had advice from various friends and colleagues in putting together this reading list and its previous incarnation, and am particularly grateful to Alexander Douglas, Steph Marston, and Peter Millican. If you’re teaching a similar course, and want to make use of it at all, as occasional emails suggest people sometimes do, please feel free. I’d love to hear how it goes!

TUTORIAL TOPICS

Descartes:

  1. Doubt
  2. Cogito
  3. The Circle
  4. God and Ideas
  5. Error and the Will
  6. Mind and Body

Spinoza:

  1. Substance, Attribute, Mode

Berkeley:

  1. Abstract Ideas
  2. Immaterialism
  3. God and Reality
  4. Spirits

Hume:

  1. Hume’s Theory of the Mind
  2. Reason and Induction
  3. Hume on Causation
  4. Scepticism and Naturalism

SET TEXTS

For this paper, you need to be prepared to answer questions on at least one of Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz and also at least one of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. The set texts are Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy (first published in 1641), Spinoza’s Ethics (1677), Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), Leibniz’s Discourse on Metaphysics (1686) and Monadology (1714), Berkeley’s Principles of Human Knowledge (1710) and Three Dialogues (1713), and Book One of Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature (1739/40). Unless otherwise agreed, we’ll be focusing on Descartes and either Berkeley or Hume, and you will need to have your own copy of each of the texts we’ll be looking at—Descartes’ Meditations and either Berkeley’s Principles and Three Dialogues or Hume’s Treatise. There are various editions—and where applicable, translations—available, but I recommend the following.

Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy, with Selections from the Objections and Replies, edited by John Cottingham (Cambridge UP, 1986). Referred to below as Meditations. Contains the full text of the Meditations and selections from the Objections and Replies.

Spinoza A Spinoza Reader: The Ethics and Other Works, edited and translated by Edwin Curley (Princeton UP, 1994). Referred to below as Spinoza Reader. Contains the full text of the Ethics and various other important philosophical writings by Spinoza.

Berkeley A Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, edited by Jonathan Dancy (OUP, 1998). Referred to below as PHK. Contains the full text of the Principles together with the Berkeley-Johnson Correspondence and excellent introductory material by Dancy.

Berkeley Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous, edited by Jonathan Dancy (OUP, 1998). Referred to below as DHP. A companion to PHK, containing the full text of the Three Dialogues together with some more excellent introductory material from Dancy.

Hume A Treatise of Human Nature, edited by David Fate Norton and Mary J. Norton (OUP Oxford Philosophical Texts, 2000). Referred to below as THN. Contains the Treatise, the Abstract, and introductory material. Early printings lack the useful Selby-Bigge pagination.

In addition to these, you may want to get hold of copies of the following, which contain other important works by Descartes, Berkeley, and Hume, and which will be useful in studying topics in more depth.

Descartes Selected Philosophical Writings, translated by John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, and Dugald Murdoch (Cambridge UP, 1988). Referred to below as SPW. Contains everything that is in Meditations together with key selections from other important texts by Descartes.

Descartes The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Volumes I and II, trans. by John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, and Dugald Murdoch (Cambridge UP, 1984). Referred to below as CSM. Contains most of Descartes' philosophical texts, including the Meditations, in their entirety.

Berkeley Philosophical Works, edited by Michael Ayers (Everyman, 1975). Referred to below as Ayers. An older edition that can be easily picked up second-hand for cheap, containing both set texts, a wealth of other relevant texts by Berkeley, and an excellent introduction from Ayers.

Hume An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, edited by Tom Beauchamp (OUP Oxford Philosophical Texts, 1999). Referred to below as EHU. Contains the text of the Enquiry concerning Human Understanding and a useful editor's introduction from Beauchamp.

TEXTBOOKS, ANTHOLOGIES, and COLLECTIONS

I’ve suggested as Core Reading for most weeks a chapter from one or other of the following books, all pitched at undergraduates. There are other, often more introductory options, as well as more scholarly treatments, but these strike a nice balance and give good overviews of the issues. You’ll be using them often, and might want to have a physical copy to hand. Most college libraries will have copies.

*Gary Hatfield (2003) Routledge Guidebook to Descartes and the Meditations (Routledge).

*Peter Kail (2014) Berkeley's A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (Cambridge UP).

*Steven Nadler (2006) Spinoza's Ethics: An Introduction (Cambridge UP).

*Harold Noonan (1999) Hume on Knowledge (Routledge).

You’ll also find good, accessible discussion of the topics we’ll be looking at in the following collections. These often give overviews of recent scholarly debate, and helpfully supplement the Further Reading.

Donald Ainslie and Annamarie Butler, eds. (2015) The Cambridge Companion to Hume's Treatise (Cambridge UP).

Janet Broughton and John Carriero, eds. (2011) A Companion to Descartes (Blackwell).

David Cunning, ed. (2014) The Cambridge Companion to Descartes' Meditations (Cambridge UP).

Michael Della Rocca, ed. (2013) The Oxford Handbook of Spinoza (OUP).

Don Garrett, ed. (1996) The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza (Cambridge UP).

Stephen Gaukroger, ed. (2006) The Blackwell Guide to Descartes's Meditations (Cambridge UP).

Olli Koistinen, ed. (2009) The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza's Ethics (Cambridge UP).

David Fate Norton and Jacqueline Taylor, eds. (2009) The Cambridge Companion to Hume, 2nd edition (Cambridge UP).

Elizabeth S. Radcliffe, ed. (2011) A Companion to Hume (Wiley-Blackwell).

Saul Traiger, ed. (2006) The Blackwell Guide to Hume's Treatise (Cambridge UP).

TUTORIAL TOPICS

 

DESCARTES

1. DOUBT

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What is Descartes trying to achieve with his Meditations? What are his principal objectives and conclusions? What function do the sceptical arguments play, and how does Descartes attempt to answer them? Is Descartes’ overall strategy a viable one, at least in principle?

CORE READING

Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy (Meditations pp. 3-62, CSM II pp. 3-62, SPW pp. 73-122); Selections from the Objections and Replies, On Meditation One (Meditations pp. 63-7, SPW pp. 123-6).

*Gary Hatfield (2003) Routledge Guidebook to Descartes and the Meditations (Routledge), Ch. 1 to 3.

I’d rather you focused on reading the Descartes this week, using the Hatfield as orientation if needed, but if you have time, and want to start on some of the secondary reading, try:

Bernard Williams (1978) Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry (Penguin), Ch. 2 and App. 3.

Margaret Wilson (1978) Descartes (Routledge), Ch. I.

FURTHER READING

Your main task for this week is to read through the entirety of the Meditations, including the Preface and Synopsis, getting a sense both of how it all hangs together and of what Descartes’ overall aims might have been in writing it. Hatfield (2003) in the Core Reading is a good guide, distinguishing epistemological, metaphysical, and cognitive interpretations. At a more fine-grained level, you will want a good understanding of the sceptical arguments of Meditation One. Burnyeat (1982), Curley (1978), Frankfurt (1970), and Williams (1986) are all classic pieces on these topics, while Broughton (2002) and Carriero (2009) are two highlights of the recent literature.

Descartes: Discourse on the Method IV (CSM I pp. 126-31, SPW pp. 35-40); Principles of Philosophy Pt. 1, §§1-6 (CSM I pp. 193-4, SPW pp. 160-1); Descartes' Conversations with Burman, trans. by John Cottingham (OUP, 1976), pp. 3-9.

Janet Broughton (2002) Descartes's Method of Doubt (Princeton), Ch. 1 to 6.

Myles Burnyeat (1982) ‘Idealism and Greek Philosophy: What Descartes Saw and Berkeley Missed’ in The Philosophical Review 91(1), pp. 3-40.

John Carriero (2009) Between Two Worlds: A Reading of Descartes's Meditations (Princeton UP), Introduction and Ch. 1.

Edwin Curley (1978) Descartes Against the Skeptics (Harvard UP), Ch. 1 to 3.

Harry Frankfurt (1970) Demons, Dreamers, and Madmen (Bobbs-Merrill), Part I.

Barry Stroud (1982) The Significance of Philosophical Scepticism (OUP), esp. Ch. 1.

Michael Williams (1986) ‘Descartes and the Metaphysics of Doubt’ in Alice O. Rorty, ed. Essays on Descartes' Meditations (University of California Press). Reprinted in John Cottingham, ed. (1998) Descartes (OUP).

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Critically compare the views of Hume and at least one other author covered by this paper on the topic of scepticism. (2019)

Was Descartes’ method of doubt properly executed? Are there any matters he should have called into doubt but did not? Are there any matters he did call into doubt but should not have? (2018)

Does it seem plausible to think that the meditator will find herself in the position that Descartes claims she will by the end of the First Meditation? (2017)

Why did Descartes employ the method of doubt? Should he have? (2016)

2. COGITO

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What is the intended role of the cogito in Descartes’ Meditations, and what is it about the cogito that makes it suitable for this role? Does Descartes try to extract more from it than he is entitled to? What is his argument for the claim that he is essentially a thinking thing? Is it convincing?

CORE READING

Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy Meditation Two (Meditations pp. 16-23, CSM II pp. 16-23, SPW pp. 80-6); Selections from the Objections and Replies, On Meditation Two (Meditations pp. 68-77, SPW pp. 126-31).

*Gary Hatfield (2003) Routledge Guidebook to Descartes and the Meditations (Routledge), Ch. 4.

Bernard Williams (1978) Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry (Penguin), Ch. 3 and App. 2.

Margaret Wilson (1978) Descartes (Routledge), Ch. II.

FURTHER READING

Your aim this week is, first and foremost, to get a good understanding of the cogito reasoning and the role it plays in Descartes’s wider argument. A subsidiary aim, looking ahead to week 4, is to get a handle on the accounts that unfold over the rest of the Meditation of the nature of the self and the nature of extended bodies. Classic pieces to look at include Hintikka (1962), Frankfurt (1966), Kenny (1967), Curley (1978), and Markie (1992). Broughton (2002) and Carriero (2009) are more recent discussions.

Descartes: Discourse on the Method IV (CSM I pp. 126-31, SPW pp. 35-40); Principles of Philosophy Pt. 1, §§7-12 (CSM I pp. 194-7, SPW pp. 161-3); Descartes' Conversations with Burman, trans. by John Cottingham (OUP, 1976), pp. 9-11.

Janet Broughton (2002) Descartes's Method of Doubt (Princeton), Ch. 7.

John Carriero (2009) Between Two Worlds: A Reading of Descartes's Meditations (Princeton UP), Ch. 2.

Edwin Curley (1978) Descartes Against the Skeptics (Harvard UP), Ch. 4.

Harry Frankfurt (1966) ‘Descartes's Discussion of his Existence in the Second Meditation’ in The Philosophical Review 75(3), pp. 329-356. Reprinted in his (1998) Necessity, Volition, and Love (Cambridge UP).

Anthony Kenny (1968) Descartes (Random House), Ch. 3 and 4.

Jaako Hintikka (1962) 'Cogito, Ergo Sum: Inference or Performance?' in The Philosophical Review 71(1), pp. 3-32.

Peter Markie (1992) 'The Cogito and Its Importance' in J. Cottingham, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Descartes (CUP). Reprinted in John Cottingham, ed. (1998) Descartes (OUP) and in Vere Chappell, ed. Descartes' Meditations: Critical Essays (Rowman & Littlefield).

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

What role does the Cogito play in the strategy of the Meditations, and is Descartes’s appeal to it legitimate? (2019)

Does Descartes succeed in demonstrating that thinking belongs to our essence? Has he any good reason for denying that extension does also? (2018)

‘If he were deducing [existence from thought] by means of a syllogism, he would have to have had previous knowledge of the major premiss “Everything which thinks is, or exists”; yet in fact he learns it from experiencing in his own case that it is impossible that he should think without existing. It is in the nature of our mind to construct general propositions on the basis of our knowledge of particular ones.’ (DESCARTES, Second Set of Replies) Discuss. (2017)

Is Descartes correct to think that even an evil demon could not convince him that he did not exist whilst he was thinking? (2016)

3. THE CIRCLE

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Does Descartes have an adequate response to the charge that his validation of clear and distinct perception is problematically circular?

CORE READING

Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy Synopsis, Meditations Three, Four, and Five (Meditations pp. 9-11 and 24-49, CSM II pp. 9-11 and 24-49, SPW pp. 73-5 and 86-110); Selections from the Objections and Replies, On Meditation Five, 'Clear and distinct perception and the Cartesian circle' (Meditations pp. 78-102, SPW pp. 131-9).

*Gary Hatfield (2003) Routledge Guidebook to Descartes and the Meditations (Routledge), Ch. 5 to 7. Focus on the passages discussing the circle, but at least skim the rest as well.

Lex Newman and Alan Nelson (1999) 'Circumventing Cartesian Circles' in Noûs 33(3), pp. 370-404.

Samuel Rickless (2005) 'The Cartesian Fallacy Fallacy' Noûs 39(2), pp. 309–336.

FURTHER READING

For this week, aim to understand the broad shape of the argument through Meditations Three to Five, paying particular attention to how, if at all, Descartes might evade the charge (raised in the second and fourth sets of Objections) that he reasons in a circle when he attempts to vindicate clear and distinct perception by appealing to the existence of God. Frankfurt (1970) is essential reading, criticising the so-called memory interpretation in Ch. 14 and offering an alternative, coherentist interpretation in Ch. 15. While his criticisms of the memory interpretation are widely accepted, his coherentist alternative is not—Williams (1978) is representative in this. Other classics include van Cleve (1979) and Loeb (1992). There’s more recent discussion in Broughton (1992) and Carriero (2009), as well as Sosa (2009).

Descartes: Discourse on the Method IV (CSM I pp. 126-31, SPW pp. 35-40); Principles of Philosophy Pt. 1, §§13, 30, and 45-50 (CSM I pp. 197, 203, and 207-9, SPW pp. 164, 170, and 174-6); Descartes' Conversations with Burman, trans. by John Cottingham (OUP, 1976), pp. 49-50.

Janet Broughton (2002) Descartes's Method of Doubt (Princeton), Ch. 9.

John Carriero (2009) Between Two Worlds: A Reading of Descartes's Meditations (Princeton UP), 3(I) and pp. 337-58.

James van Cleve (1979) ‘Foundationalism, Epistemic Principles, and the Cartesian Circle’ in The Philosophical Review 88(1), pp. 55–91. Reprinted in John Cottingham, ed. (1998) Descartes (OUP).

Harry Frankfurt (1970) Demons, Dreamers, and Madmen (Bobbs-Merrill), Ch. 14 and 15.

Louis Loeb (1992) 'The Cartesian Circle' in John Cottingham, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Descartes (CUP).

Ernest Sosa (2009) Reflective Knowledge: Apt Belief and Reflective Knowledge, Vol. II (OUP), Part II.

Bernard Williams (1978) Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry (Penguin), Ch. 7.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘When I said that we can know nothing for certain until we are aware that God exists, I expressly declared that I was speaking only of knowledge of those conclusions which can be recalled when we are no longer attending to the arguments by means of which we deduced them.’ (DESCARTES, Second Replies, CSM II: 100) Discuss. (2019)

Does a distinction between ‘knowledge’ (cognitio) and ‘science’ (scientia) help Descartes avoid the objection of the Cartesian circle? (2018)

Is it true that Descartes cannot escape the Cartesian circle if certainty implies truth? (2016)

Does the Cartesian Circle pose a serious problem for Descartes? (2014)

4. GOD and IDEAS

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

How, and why, does Descartes argue for the existence of God in the Third Meditation and then again in the Fifth Meditation? What, if anything, is wrong with his arguments?

CORE READING

Coming soon.

FURTHER READING

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Can Descartes be defended in his claim that we possess an idea of God of such a character that we could not have produced it ourselves? (2019)

Critically compare the views of Descartes and at least one other author covered by this paper, on the topic of the Ontological Argument. (2019)

Is Descartes’ argument for God’s existence in the Third Meditation at all plausible? (2017)

Critically assess the way in which Descartes employs considerations regarding the Meditator’s idea of God to establish that God exists in EITHER the Third OR the Fifth Meditation. (2014)

5. ERROR and THE WILL

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What problems is Descartes attempting to address in the Fourth Meditation? How successful are his solutions to them?

CORE READING

Coming soon.

FURTHER READING

Coming soon.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

In what sense does Descartes hold that judgement involves the faculty of choice or freedom of the will? (2019)

Does Descartes have a conception of freedom of the will that can be applied consistently to God and to created thinking substances? (2017)

‘[W]hen I look more closely at myself and inquire into the nature of my errors (for these are the only evidence of some imperfection in me), I notice that they depend on two concurrent causes, namely on the faculty of knowledge which is in me, and on the faculty of choice or freedom of the will; that is, they depend on both the intellect and the will simultaneously.’ (DESCARTES, Fourth Meditation) Discuss. (2016)

Why, for Descartes, does human error need to be reconciled with God’s goodness? Is his reconciliation successful? (2012)

6. MIND and BODY

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What is Descartes’ argument for a “real distinction” between mind and body? Is it a good one? What does Meditation Two contribute to the argument? What, if anything, is wrong with the argument from indivisibility, which appears later in Meditation Six? Can Descartes reconcile his claim that there is such a distinction between mind and body with his claim that they form a unity? Did he have the means to provide a coherent account of how mind and body can causally interact?

CORE READING

Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy Preface to the Reader, Synopsis, Meditations Two and Six (Meditations pp. 6-11, 16-23, and 50-62, CSM II pp. 6-11, 16-23, and 50-62, SPW pp. 73-5, 80-6, and 110-22); Selections from the Objections and Replies, On Meditation Six (Meditations pp. 107-15, SPW pp. 143-50).

Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia: Selections from her Correspondence with Descartes, in Margaret Atherton, ed. Women Philosophers of the Early Modern Period (Hackett, 1994), pp. 11-21.

*Gary Hatfield (2003) Routledge Guidebook to Descartes and the Meditations (Routledge), Ch. 8.

Margaret Wilson (1978) Descartes (Routledge), Ch. II and, especially, VI.

Daniel Garber (1983) 'Understanding Interaction: What Descartes Should Have Told Elizabeth' in The Southern Journal of Philosophy 21(S1), pp. 15-32. Reprinted in his (2000) Descartes Embodied (Cambridge UP) and in Stewart Duncan and Antonia LoLordo, eds. (2013) Debates in Modern Philosophy (Routledge).

Paul Hoffman (1986) ‘The Unity of Descartes's Man’ in The Philosophical Review 95(3), pp. 339-70. Reprinted in his (2009) Essays on Descartes (OUP).

FURTHER READING

There are at least three separate issues to think about this week: what arguments did Descartes offer for a distinction between mind and body? what account, if any, did he or could he give of their nevertheless forming a union—a single human being? and what account could he have given, consistent with his wider views, of how minds and bodies causally interact? The interpretation offered in Ch. 1 of Rozemond (1998) is probably the most important development in the recent literature on the first question: prioritize this in further study on this topic. The rest of the book is also recommended, especially Ch. 5, which contains detailed and influential criticism of Hoffman’s take on the second question. See also Cottingham (1986) and Shapiro (2003) on this question, the former arguing that Descartes was in fact a trialist, holding that the human being is a distinct substance from both the mind and the body. For discussion of the third question, and mind-body interaction, try Radner (1985) and Schmaltz (2007). For general discussion of the issues, try Carriero (2009) and Williams (1978).

Descartes: Principles of Philosophy Pt. I, §§51–54 & 60–63 (CSM I pp. 210-1 and 213-5, SPW pp. 177-8 and 180-2); Discourse on the Method IV (CSM I p. 27, SPW p. 36); Passions of the Soul (CSM I pp. 325-404, selected extracts in SPW p. 218-38); Descartes' Conversations with Burman, trans. by John Cottingham (OUP, 1976), pp. 26-31.

John Carriero (2009) Between Two Worlds: A Reading of Descartes's Meditations (Princeton UP), Ch. 2 and 6.

John Cottingham (1986) Descartes (Blackwell), Ch. 5.

Daisie Radner (1985) 'Is There a Problem of Cartesian Interaction?' in Journal of the History of Philosophy 23(1), pp. 35–49.

Marleen Rozemond (1998) Descartes’ Dualism (Harvard UP).

Tad Schmaltz (2007) Descartes on Causation (OUP), Ch. 4.

Lisa Shapiro (2003) 'Descartes' Passions of the Soul and the Union of Mind and Body' in Archiv Für Geschichte Der Philosophie 85(3), pp. 211-48.

Bernard Williams (1978) Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry (Penguin), Ch. 4 and 10.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

What is a ‘real distinction’? What would be required to demonstrate that there obtains a ‘real distinction’ between any two items? Does Descartes succeed in the case of mind and body? (2019)

‘There is a great difference between the mind and the body, inasmuch as the body is by its very nature always divisible, while the mind is utterly indivisible. … This one argument would be enough to show me that the mind is completely different from the body, even if I did not already know as much from other considerations.’ (DESCARTES, Meditation VI) Why does Descartes think this argument is so powerful? Was he correct? (2018)

Why does Descartes appeal to the notion of a mind-body union in the correspondence with Elizabeth of Bohemia? Is it a successful appeal? (2017)

Is Descartes’ attempt to prove the real distinction between mind and body in the Sixth Meditation any more convincing than the so-called ‘argument from doubt’? (2016)

 

SPINOZA

 

1. SUBSTANCE, ATTRIBUTE, MODE

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

How, if at all, does Spinoza’s conception of substance differ from Descartes’s? What is the relation, on his view, between a substance and its attributes, and a substance and its modes? How does Spinoza argue for substance monism, and is his argument convincing?

CORE READING

Spinoza: Ethics Part I, esp. up to and including IP15 (Spinoza Reader pp. 85-115, esp. pp. 85-97).

*Steven Nadler (2006) Spinoza's Ethics: An Introduction (Cambridge UP), Ch. 3.

Edwin Curley (1969) Spinoza's Metaphysics: An Essay in Interpretation (Harvard UP), Ch. 1, but see also Ch. 2 if you have time.

Don Garrett (1990) ‘Ethics IP5: Shared Attributes and the Basis of Spinoza's Monism’ in J. A. Cover, and Mark Kulstad, eds. Central Themes in Early Modern Philosophy (Hackett).

FURTHER READING

Henry E. Allison (1987) Benedict De Spinoza: An Introduction, rev. ed. (Yale UP), Ch. 3.

Jonathan Bennett (1984) A Study of Spinoza's Ethics (Hackett), Ch. 3.

Edwin Curley (1988) Behind the Geometrical Method: A Reading of Spinoza's Ethics (Princeton UP), Preface and Ch. 1.

Ruth Barcan Marcus (1986) ‘Spinoza and the Ontological Proof’ in Alan Donagan, Anthony N. Perovich, and Michael V. Wedin, eds. Human Nature and Natural Knowledge (Reidel). Reprinted in her (1993) Modalities: Philosophical Essays (OUP).

Yitzhak Y. Melamed (2013) Spinoza's Metaphysics: Substance and Thought (OUP), Part I.

Margaret Dauler Wilson (1991) ‘Spinoza’s Causal Axiom (Ethics I, Axiom 4)’ in Yirmiyahu Yovel, ed. God and Nature: Spinoza's Metaphysics (Brill). Reprinted in her (1999) Ideas and Mechanism: Essays on Early Modern Philosophy (Princeton UP).

Roger Woolhouse (1993) Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz: The Concept of Substance in Seventeenth Century Philosophy (Routledge), esp. Ch. 3.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

What is Spinoza’s argument for substance monism, and how convincing is it? (2019)

‘Where we would write “many substances” and “one universe”, Spinoza writes “many modes” and “one substance”. His universe is just a verbal variant on ours.’ Discuss. (2018)

Is it possible to give a coherent account of just what Spinoza means by ‘attribute’? (2018)

If each is conceptually self-contained, or ‘conceived through itself alone’, what is the difference between substance and attributes? (2017)

BERKELEY

1. ABSTRACT IDEAS

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

How successful is Berkeley’s attack on Locke’s theory of abstraction? Does it crucially rely on an imagistic conception of ideas?

CORE READING

Berkeley: Principles of Human Knowledge, Introduction (PHK pp. 89-102, Ayers pp. 75-87).

Locke: Essay Concerning Human Understanding, I.i, I.ii.1, II.i.1-5, II.ii, II.xi (esp. 9-11), II.xiii.11-13 (on “partial consideration”), III.i-iii.

*Peter Kail (2014) Berkeley’s A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge: An Introduction (CUP), Ch. 3.

Ken Winkler (1989) Berkeley: An Interpretation (OUP), Ch. 2.
Jonathan Bennett (2001) Learning From Six Philosophers, Volume II (OUP), Ch. 22.

FURTHER READING

Vere Chappell (1994) ‘Locke’s Theory of Ideas’ in V. Chappell, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Locke (CUP).
Edward Craig (1968) ‘Berkeley’s Attack on Abstract Ideas’ in The Philosophical Review 77(4), pp. 425-37.
Jonathan Dancy (1987) Berkeley: An Introduction (Blackwell), Ch. 3, esp. pp. 24-37.
John L. Mackie (1976) Problems from Locke (OUP), Ch. 4.
John Russell Roberts (2007) A Metaphysics for the Mob (OUP), Ch. II.
Tom Stoneham (2002) Berkeley’s World: An examination of the Three Dialogues (OUP), Ch. 7.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Berkeley suggests that the doctrine of abstract ideas has ‘had a chief part in rendering speculation intricate and perplexed, and … occasioned innumerable errors and difficulties in almost all parts of knowledge.’ (Principles of Human Knowledge, Introduction, §6) Why did Berkeley think it so important to attack abstract ideas, and how far does the rest of his theory depend on their rejection? (2019)

‘Upon the whole, I am inclined to think that the far greater part, if not all, of those difficulties which have hitherto amused philosophers, and blocked up the way to knowledge, are entirely owing to ourselves. That we have first raised a dust and then complain we cannot see…. In order to prepare the mind of the reader for the easier conceiving what follows, it is proper to premise somewhat, by way of Introduction, concerning the nature and abuse of Language. But the unravelling this matter leads me in some measure to anticipate my design, by taking notice of what seems to have had a chief part in rendering speculation intricate and perplexed, and to have occasioned innumerable errors and difficulties in almost all parts of knowledge. And that is the opinion that the mind hath a power of framing abstract ideas or notions of things.’ (BERKELEY, Treatise, Introduction) Why was the attack on abstract ideas so important to Berkeley? (2018)

Does Berkeley’s critique of abstract ideas rest on the assumption that ideas are images? (2016)

‘I deny that I can abstract from one another…those qualities which it is impossible should exist so separated; or that I can frame a general notion by abstracting from particulars in the manner aforesaid’. (BERKELEY). Explain and assess. (2014)

2. IMMATERIALISM

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Explain and evaluate Berkeley’s argument for immaterialism and his attack on the notion of material substance.

CORE READING

Berkeley: Principles of Human Knowledge, Pt. I., §§1-24 (PHK pp. 103-11, Ayers pp. 89-98); Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous, First Dialogue (DHP pp. 59-93, Ayers pp. 161-97).

*Peter Kail (2014) Berkeley’s A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge: An Introduction (CUP), Ch. 4 and 5.

Ken Winkler (1989) Berkeley: An Interpretation (OUP), Ch. 6.
Tom Stoneham (2002) Berkeley’s World: An examination of the Three Dialogues (OUP), Ch. 3 and 4.

FURTHER READING

Jonathan Bennett (2001) Learning From Six Philosophers, Volume II (OUP), Ch. 28 and 29.
John Campbell and Quassim Cassam (2014) Berkeley’s Puzzle (OUP).
Jonathan Dancy (1987) Berkeley: An Introduction (Blackwell), Ch. 1 to 3.
Georges Dicker (2011) Berkeley’s Idealism (OUP), Part II and III.
A. D. Smith (1985) ‘Berkeley’s Central Argument Against Material Substance’ in John Foster and Howard Robinson, eds. Essays on Berkeley: A Tercentennial Celebration (OUP).
Margaret Wilson (1982) ‘Did Berkeley Completely Misunderstand the Basis of the Primary-Secondary Quality Distinction in Locke?’ in Colin M. Turbayne, ed. Berkeley: Critical and Interpretive Essays (Manchester UP). Reprinted in her (1999) Ideas and Mechanism: Essays on Early Modern Philosophy (Princeton).

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘It is one thing to be sceptical about whether or not matter exists, but quite another to declare that it is impossible and cannot exist. Berkeley has no good reason to advance beyond the former position to the latter.’ Discuss. (2019)

‘Sometimes Berkeley complains that matter is unknowable, other times he says it repugnant or contradictory, and yet other times he suggests it is empty or vacuous. But nothing can have all three of these faults.’ Discuss. (2018)

Is Berkeley’s case for immaterialism simply a series of objections to materialism? (2017)

No ‘sensible objects [have] an existence natural or real, distinct from their being perceived by the understanding.’ (BERKELEY) Explain the meaning of this claim and assess Berkeley’s arguments for it. (2015)

3. GOD and REALITY

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

How, if at all, does the argument Berkeley offers for the existence of God in the Three Dialogues differ from the argument in the Principles of Human Knowledge? What role does God play in Berkeley’s account of reality? Is this account adequate? Is it consistent with the traditional biblical account of creation? Is it a form of phenomenalism?

CORE READING

Berkeley: Principles of Human Knowledge, Pt. I., §§25-84 (PHK pp. 111-33, Ayers pp. 98-122); Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous, Luce and Jessop pp. 212-215 and 234ff (DHP pp. 97-100 and 117ff, Ayers pp. 201-5 and 223ff).

*Peter Kail (2014) Berkeley’s A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge: An Introduction (CUP), Ch. 6.

Ken Winkler (1989) Berkeley: An Interpretation (OUP), Ch. 7 and 9.
Jonathan Bennett (2001) Learning From Six Philosophers, Volume II (OUP), Ch. 31.

FURTHER READING

Robert Fogelin (2001) Berkeley and the Principles of Human Knowledge (Routledge), Ch. 5.
John Foster (1985) ‘Berkeley on the Physical World’ in John Foster and Howard Robinson, eds. Essays on Berkeley: A Tercentennial Celebration (OUP).
Melissa Frankel (2012) ‘Berkeley and God in the Quad’ in Philosophy Compass 7, pp. 338-96.
A. C. Grayling (1986) Berkeley: The Central Arguments (Duckworth), §§2.5, 2.6 and 3.4.
J. L. Mackie (1982) The Miracle of Theism (OUP), Ch. 4.
Tom Stoneham (2002) Berkeley’s World: An examination of the Three Dialogues (OUP), Ch. 5.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

What sense, if any, can Berkeley give to the claim that the examination room continues to exist when you are not perceiving it? (2019)

In what sense for Berkeley does God continue to perceive things when no one else is doing so? Does this suggestion help him? (2018)

Is Berkeley a phenomenalist? (2017)

Could Berkeley hold that the world was created before finite spirits existed? (2016)

4. SPIRITS

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

Does Berkeley think of spirits as substances and ideas as modes? What is the parity objection, and does Berkeley have a good response to it? Does Berkeley’s account of spirits allow for the possibility of human action?

CORE READING

Berkeley: Principles of Human Knowledge, Pt. I., §§135-156 (PHK pp. 154-62, Ayers pp. 144-53); Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous, pp. 231-4 (DHP pp. 114-7, Ayers pp. 220-4).

*Peter Kail (2014) Berkeley’s A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge: An Introduction (CUP), Ch. 8.

Ken Winkler (1989) Berkeley: An Interpretation (OUP), Ch. 9.
Tom Stoneham (2002) Berkeley’s World: An examination of the Three Dialogues (OUP), Ch. 6.

FURTHER READING

Jonathan Bennett (2001) Learning From Six Philosophers, Volume II (OUP), Ch. 30.
A. C. Grayling (1986) Berkeley: The Central Arguments (Duckworth), §§3.1 and 3.2.
Marc Hight and Walter Ott (2004) ‘The New Berkeley’ in Canadian Journal of Philosophy 34(1), pp. 1–24.
A. C. Lloyd (1985) ‘The Self in Berkeley’s Philosophy’ in John Foster and Howard Robinson, eds. Essays on Berkeley: A Tercentennial Celebration (OUP).
Jeffrey K McDonough (2008) ‘Berkeley, Human Agency and Divine Concurrentism’ in Journal of the History of Philosophy 46(4), pp. 567-590.
C. C. W. Taylor (1985) ‘Action and Inaction in Berkeley’ in John Foster and Howard Robinson, eds. Essays on Berkeley: A Tercentennial Celebration (OUP).

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Can Berkeley account for self-knowledge? (2018)

Could Berkeley move his own arm, given his own system? (2017)

Can Berkeley consistently claim that the mind is a substance? (2015)

An ‘agent cannot be like unto, or represented by, any idea whatsoever’ (BERKELEY). Why might this be Berkeley’s downfall? (2014)

HUME

1. HUME’S THEORY OF MIND

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

How, if at all, does Hume’s theory of what he calls perceptions differ from Locke’s theory of ideas? Can Hume draw a distinction ‘betwixt feeling and thinking’? How are we to understand his ‘first principle of human nature’? Why is he so unconcerned by the so-called missing shade of blue?

CORE READING

Hume: A Treatise of Human Nature I.i, especially §§1 to 4 (THN pp. 7-22, esp. pp. 7-14); An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding §§I to III, esp. II (EHU pp. 87-107, and esp. 96-100).

*Harold Noonan (1999) Hume on Knowledge (Routledge), Ch. 2. For a useful overview of Book 1 of the Treatise and some biographical background on Hume, see also Ch. 1.

Don Garrett (1997) Cognition and Commitment in Hume's Philosophy (OUP), Ch. 2.

Jonathan Bennett (2001) Learning From Six Philosophers, Volume II (OUP), Ch. 32.

FURTHER READING

If you are working on this topic in more depth, Stroud (1977), which sparked a renaissance of work on Hume, is a must-read. I’ll be suggesting chapters from it as Further Reading in connection with many of the other topics, too. Other classics for this topic include: Bennett’s contribution to Millican, a revised version of a chapter from his 1971 book, Locke, Berkeley, Hume: Central Themes (OUP); Everson (1988), arguing for a functional interpretation of Hume’s notions of force, vivacity, and liveliness; and Pears (1990), a difficult but rewarding discussion, arguing for a middle ground between positivist interpretations, like Bennett’s, and more naturalist interpretations, like Garrett’s and Stroud’s. More recent work includes Kail (2007), Landy (2006), and Schafer (2013). For Locke’s theory of ideas, which serves as important background to Hume’s theory of mind, see Chappell (1994). It’s worth thinking also about various connected topics: Hume’s associationism, treatment of abstract ideas, and theory of belief. (The latter’s particularly important in thinking about Hume’s approach to causation and causal necessity.) For discussion, try Bennett (2001, Ch. 33), Pears (1990, Ch. 4), Stroud (1977, pp. 68-76), and the opening few sections of Broackes’ paper in Millican.

Hume: A Treatise of Human Nature I.iii.7 to 10 (THN pp. 65-85); An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding §V.ii (EHU pp. 124-30).

Vere Chappell (1994) ‘Locke's Theory of Ideas’ in Vere Chappell, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Locke (Cambridge UP).

Stephen Everson (1988) ‘The Difference between Feeling and Thinking’ in Mind 97(387), pp. 401–413.

Peter Kail (2007) Projection and Realism in Hume's Philosophy (OUP), Ch. 2, section 2.

David Landy (2006) ‘Hume’s Impression/Idea Distinction’ in Hume Studies 32(1), pp. 119–139.

David Pears (1990) Hume's System: An Examination of the First Book of his Treatise (OUP), Ch. 1 and 2.

Karl Schafer (2013) ‘Hume’s Unified Theory of Mental Representation’ in European Journal of Philosophy 21(2), pp. 978-1005.

Barry Stroud (1977) Hume (Routledge & Kegan Paul), Ch. 2.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Explain and assess the arguments that Hume offers to support his principle ‘[t]hat all our simple ideas in their first appearance are deriv’d from simple impressions, which are correspondent to them, and which they exactly represent’. (Treatise of Human Nature, 1.1.1.7) (2019)

Is there anything worth retaining in Hume’s notion of ‘force and vivacity’? (2018)

Is anything salvageable from Hume’s account of belief? (2017)

Can Hume draw a satisfactory distinction ‘betwixt feeling and thinking’? (2016)

2. REASON and INDUCTION

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What is Hume aiming to prove with his famous argument concerning induction, and how does it proceed? In what sense, if any, is he a sceptic about inductive inference?

CORE READING

Hume: A Treatise of Human Nature I.iii.1-6, especially §6 (THN pp. 50-65); Abstract (THN pp. 403-17); An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding §IV and V.i (EHU pp. 108-24).

*Harold Noonan (1999) Hume on Knowledge (Routledge), Ch. 3, especially pp. 110-40.

Peter Millican (2012) ‘Hume’s “Scepticism” about Induction’ in Alan Bailey and Dan O’Brien, eds. The Continuum Companion to Hume (Continuum), pp. 57–103.

Don Garrett (2015) Hume (Routledge), Ch. 6, esp. pp. 172-86.

FURTHER READING

Background on induction: Stroud (1977) is a classic, responding to the deductivist interpretation, of the likes of D. C. Stove. Non-sceptical readings emerged, see e.g. Broughton (1983). Took Hume to be trying to show only that induction isn’t founded on reason in a narrow sense. Criticised by both Garrett and Millican. Garrett’s views initially in his (1997), but developed in response to critics over the next few years; see his ‘Appendix: The Meaning of Hume’s Conclusion concerning “Inductive” Inferences’ in Millican. As Millican explains in his (2012) piece, this moves him close to Owen (1999). See Roth (2006) for an overview of the Garrett-Millican debate, among other things. See also Garrett and Millican (2011), discussing both induction and causation, next week’s topic. Other good recent papers on the topic include: Loeb (2008), Qu (2014).

Janet Broughton (1983) ‘Hume’s Skepticism about Causal Inferences’ in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 64(1), pp. 3–18. Reprinted in David Owen, ed. (2000) Hume: General Philosophy (Ashgate).

Don Garrett (1997) Cognition and Commitment in Hume's Philosophy (OUP), Ch. 4.

Don Garrett and Peter Millican (2011) ‘Reason, Induction, and CausationOccasional Papers of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (University of Edinburgh).

Louis Loeb (2008) ‘Inductive Inference in Hume’s Philosophy’ in Elizabeth Radcliffe, ed. A Companion to Hume (Wiley-Blackwell).

David Owen (1999) Hume’s Reason (OUP), Ch. 5 and, especially, 6.

Hsueh Qu (2014) ‘Hume’s Positive Argument on Induction’ in Noûs 48(4), pp. 595-625.

Abraham Sesshu Roth (2006) ‘Causation’ in Saul Traiger, ed. The Blackwell Guide to Hume's Treatise (Blackwell), pp. 95-113.

Barry Stroud (1977) Hume (Routledge & Kegan Paul), Ch. 3.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

Can Hume coherently refer to ‘just and conclusive’ probable inferences? (2017)

‘If Hume is a sceptic about induction, he must distrust his own Treatise.’ Explain and discuss. (2016)

‘Our reason must be consider’d a kind of cause, of which truth is the natural effect.’ (HUME). What, if anything, does this tell us about the status of reason in Hume’s Treatise? (2015)

Is Hume’s account of probable reason consistent with his science of human nature? (2014)

3. HUME on CAUSATION

TOP

ESSAY QUESTION

What are the reductionist, sceptical realist, and projectivist interpretations of Hume on causation? Which, if any, is correct?

CORE READING

Hume: A Treatise of Human Nature I.iii, especially §§1-2 and 14-15 (THN pp. 50-5 and 105-16); Abstract (THN pp. 403-17); An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding §§ VII and VIII (EHU pp. 134-64).

*Helen Beebee (2016) ‘Hume and the Problem of Causation’ in Paul Russell, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Hume (OUP), pp. 228-48.

Galen Strawson (2000) ‘David Hume: Objects and Power’ in Rupert Read and Kenneth Richman, eds. The New Hume Debate (Routledge). Reprinted in Millican.

Peter Millican (2007) ‘Humes Old and New: Four Fashionable Falsehoods, and One Unfashionable Truth’ in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supp. Vol. 81, pp. 163-99, but see especially pp. 190-3.

Jennifer Smalligan Marušić (2014) ‘Hume on the Projection of Causal Necessity’ in Philosophy Compass 9(4), pp. 263–273.

FURTHER READING

Read and Richman, eds. (2008) is invaluable, containing both classics and essential new pieces on the topic. In addition to Strawson’s piece in the Core Reading, it contains important pieces that: defend the sceptical realist interpretation (Craig, Wright, Kail); criticise the sceptical realist interpretation (Winkler, Millican, Jacobsen); and defend the projectivist interpretation (Stroud, Blackburn—the latter is reprinted with a postscript in Millican). For a prominent defence of the reductionist interpretation, see Garrett (1997) and (2009). Stroud (1977) suggests the projectivist interpretation. Projectivism is also discussed, sympathetically, by Beebee (2006) and, critically, by Kail (2007). Millican (2009) develops his criticism of sceptical realism.

Hume: A Treatise of Human Nature II.iii.1-2 (THN pp. 257-64); An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding §II (EHU pp. 96-100).

Helen Beebee (2006) Hume on Causation (Routledge).

Don Garrett (1997) Cognition and Commitment in Hume's Philosophy (OUP), Ch. 5.

Don Garrett (2009) ‘Hume’ in Helen Beebee, Christopher Hitchcock, and Peter Menzies, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Causation (OUP).

Peter Kail (2007) Projection and Realism in Hume’s Philosophy (OUP), Ch. 4 and 5.

Peter Millican (2009) ‘Hume, Causal Realism, and Causal Science’ in Mind 118(471), pp. 647-712.

Rupert Read and Kenneth Richman, eds. (2008) The New Hume Debate, revised edition (Routledge).

Barry Stroud (1977) Hume (Routledge & Kegan Paul), Ch. 4.

PAST PAPER QUESTIONS

‘We … are never sensible of any connexion betwixt causes and effects, and … ’tis only by our experience of their constant conjunction, we can arrive at any knowledge of this relation. Now as all objects, which are not contrary, are susceptible of a constant conjunction, and as no real objects are contrary; I have inferr’d from these principles [cf. T 1.3.15], that to consider the matter a priori, any thing may produce any thing, and that we shall never discover a reason, why any object may or may not be the cause of any other, however great, or however little the resemblance may be betwixt them. … we find … by experience, that [thought and motion] are constantly united; which being all the circumstances, that enter into the idea of cause and effect, when apply’d to the operations of matter, we may certainly conclude, that motion may (HUME, Treatise 1.4.5.30) Discuss. (2019)

Critically compare and contrast Hume’s theory of causation with that of at least one other author covered by this paper. (2018)

Why does Hume give two definitions of ‘cause’? (2017)

‘We must distinctly and particularly conceive the connexion betwixt cause and effect, and be able to pronounce, from a simple view of the one, that it must be follow’d or preceded by the other. This is the true manner of conceiving a particular power in a particular body.’ (HUME, Treatise 1.3.14) Discuss. (2016)