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European Society for Early Modern Philosophy: 2nd International Conference

Mind in Nature
Berlin, Feb. 15 – Feb. 17, 2010

Abstracts

1 Abstracts for the Keynote Lectures

2 Abstracts for the Colloquia Papers

 

 

 

Keynote-Lectures


Keynote-Lecture

Keynote-Speaker

I

Dominik Perler (D)

II

Catherine Wilson (USA)

III

Udo Thiel (A)

IV

Susan James (GB)

V

Han van Ruler (NL)

VI

Jonathan Lowe (GB)

VII

Dennis Des Chene (USA)

VIII

Michael Della Rocca (USA)

IX

Daniel Garber (USA)

 

Colloquia

 

Subject

Chair

1

Perception and Imagination

Cees Leijenhorst (NL)

2

Volition and Freedom

Michael Hampe (CH)

3

Emotion and Action

Lena Halldenius (S)

4

Laws of Nature and Rules of Thought

Andreas Hüttemann (D)

5

Dysfunctional Minds

Sophie Roux (F)

6

Finite and Infinite Minds

James Hill (CZ)

Keynote Lectures

Dominik Perler (Berlin): Mind in Nature: Two Conceptions in Early Modern Philosophy
Monday, 15 February, 9.00-10.30 Senatssaal
Aristotelian philosophers gave a seemingly simple account of the place the human mind occupies in nature: it is nothing but the intellectual soul and therefore part of the soul that is present in the body as its form. The increasing opposition to Aristotelianism in the seventeenth century gave rise to a fundamental problem. How can the mind be in a body if there are no forms in nature? I will argue that this question was answered in two radically different ways. Some philosophers defended a categorical conception claiming that, since the mind is a distinct entity added to the body, having a mind must be understood as an all-or-nothing-affair. Others chose a gradual conception. The mind, they would claim, cannot be separated from the body and evolves with it. I will work out the details of these two conceptions by focusing on the problem of animal perception, because it was precisely an explanation of this phenomenon that separated the two groups of philosophers. While the “categorialists” (most prominently Descartes) claimed that animals never have a mind and therefore never perceive, no matter how sophisticated their behavior seems to be, the “gradualists” (among them Spinoza) conceded that animals do perceive to some degree and that there is no radical gap between human beings and animals. I will try to show that the opposition between these two groups was as important for early modern philosophy as the often-cited clash between scholastic Aristotelians and mechanical philosophers.


Catherine Wilson (Aberdeen): The Representationalist Paradigm in Early Modern Perceptual Theory: Sources, Problems, Solutions
Monday, 15 February, 11.00-12.30 Senatssaal
Early modern philosophers were drawn to a corpuscularian account of perception, according to which the motion of subvisible particles mechanically produced "ideas" in the minds of perceiving subjects. How this happened and in what sorts of creatures it could happen was mysterious, but perhaps a more intriguing problem was how to reconcile this causal (descriptive) account with familiar (normative) notions of truth and illusion. What is veridical perception if perception does not involve iconic visual species, films or idola but is simply an interpretation of physical impact on the brain?  How the radical error implied in our construction of a world of qualities is compatible with our fine-grained normative distinctions between perception and misperception is a problem that continues to haunt perceptual theories. I will discuss its historical roots in Descartes's bold semantic account of perception and try as far as possible to remove the paradox.   

Susan James (London): When Does Truth Matter? The Politics of Spinoza's Philosophy
Tuesday, 16 February, 11.00-12.30 Senatssaal
"The main purpose of my whole work," Spinoza comments in his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, is to separate philosophy from faith or theology. However, as his first readers noted, and as commentators have continued to point out, Spinoza appears to argue both that philosophy and theology are distinct practices, and at the same time that they overlap. Is he simply inconsistent? Or is there some way in which his position can be rendered coherent. My aim is to seek to resolve this interpretative crux. I argue that it arises because there is a feature of Spinoza’s distinction between theology and philosophy that, for entirely understandable theologico-political reasons, he does not advertise. Once we focus on this aspect of his position, I suggest, we can both reconcile his apparently contradictory claims and situate his argument within a longstanding debate about philosophical understanding. By doing so, we gain a deeper insight into what he is trying to achieve.

E.J. Lowe (Durham): Language, Thought, and Meaning in Locke's Essay
Wednesday, 17 February, 9.00-10.30 Senatssaal
Philosophers working in the twentieth-century analytic tradition are still inclined to see language and linguistic analysis as providing key insights into philosophical problems. In contrast, Locke, in common with many other seventeenth-century philosophers, tends to see language as a necessary but dangerous convenience: necessary as a means to clothe our thoughts in forms fit for others to apprehend them, but dangerous in being liable to abuse by those hoping to persuade us more by their rhetoric than by the cogency of their reasoning. Locke’s interest in language focuses first and foremost on its expressive character as a vehicle of thought, rather than on what would nowadays be described as its semantic properties and relations. This serves to distance him still further from the typical concerns of present-day analytic philosophers of language. Indeed, there are grave dangers in interpreting Locke as being primarily concerned to provide a "theory of meaning" in anything like the modern sense, when he says that "The use ... of Words, is to be sensible Marks of Ideas; and the Ideas they stand for, are their proper and immediate Signification". Locke explicitly espouses an ideational theory of thought, even speaking of thoughts as being "made up of" ideas — an approach to which almost all present-day philosophers of mind and thought in the analytic tradition are hostile. My aim in this paper is to recover and defend Locke’s views on all these matters in which he stands in opposition to current philosophical orthodoxy.

Udo Thiel (Graz): Bundles and Selves: Hume in Context
From Hume’s own day to the present many have criticized his “bundle” view of the mind. Some have argued that Hume’s account of the operations of the mind and, indeed, his own account of how we come to have the idea of a self and personal identity presupposes a self that is more than a bundle of perceptions. Others, such as Thomas Reid, have charged Hume with nothing less than simply having “annihilated even his own mind”. Certainly Hume famously states that the mind is “nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions” and that “there is properly no identity” of the mind or person at different times. But what exactly is Hume’s bundle view? I argue that Hume’s account can be defended against some of the standard criticisms by considering the eighteenth-century debates on the issue, and especially Hume’s Scottish critics, such as Kames, Beattie and Reid.


Susan James (Birkbeck): When does Truth Matter?  The Politics of Spinoza's Philosophy
‘The main purpose of my whole work,’ Spinoza comments in his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, ‘is to separate philosophy from faith or theology.’  However, as his first readers noted, and as commentators have continued to point out, Spinoza appears to argue both that philosophy and theology are distinct practices, and at the same time that they overlap.  Is he simply inconsistent? Or is there some way in which his position can be rendered coherent. My aim is to seek to resolve this interpretative crux.  I argue that it arises because there is a feature of Spinoza’s distinction between theology and philosophy that, for entirely understandable theologico-political reasons, he does not advertise. Once we focus on this aspect of his position, I suggest, we can both reconcile his apparently contradictory claims and situate his argument within a longstanding debate about philosophical understanding. By doing so, we gain a deeper insight into what he is trying to achieve.


Han van Ruler (Rotterdam): The Psychodynamics of the Pineal Gland: Descartes’ Dualism between Stoicism and Psychology
Stoic conceptions of the good formed an integral part of moral thought throughout the seventeenth century, yet Stoic themes were also transformed by new developments in metaphysics. In particular, the idea of a mechanical determinism together with the new dualism of mental and material attributes gave rise to a radicalized interpretation of mental detachment in ethics. Showing less metaphysical rigor than some of his followers, it was only René Descartes who declined to accept the view of man as a separate mind imprisoned in the body and thereby opened up the way towards a psychology of behavioral training.


Jonathan Lowe (Durham): Language, Thought, and Meaning in Locke's Essay
Wednesday, 17 February, 9.00-10.30 Senatssaal
Philosophers working in the twentieth-century analytic tradition are still inclined to see language and linguistic analysis as providing key insights into philosophical problems. In contrast, Locke, in common with many other seventeenth-century philosophers, tends to see language as a necessary but dangerous convenience: necessary as a means to clothe our thoughts in forms fit for others to apprehend them, but dangerous in being liable to abuse by those hoping to persuade us more by their rhetoric than by the cogency of their reasoning. Locke’s interest in language focuses first and foremost on its expressive character as a vehicle of thought, rather than on what would nowadays be described as its semantic properties and relations. This serves to distance him still further from the typical concerns of present-day analytic philosophers of language. Indeed, there are grave dangers in interpreting Locke as being primarily concerned to provide a ‘theory of meaning’ in anything like the modern sense, when he says that ‘The use ... of Words, is to be sensible Marks of Ideas; and the Ideas they stand for, are their proper and immediate Signification’. Locke explicitly espouses an ideational theory of thought, even speaking of thoughts as being ‘made up of’ ideas — an approach to which almost all present-day philosophers of mind and thought in the analytic tradition are hostile. My aim in this paper is to recover and defend Locke’s views on all these matters in which he stands in opposition to current philosophical orthodoxy.

Dennis DesChene (St. Louis): Substance and organism
Wednesday, 17 February, 11.00-12.30 Senatssaal
There were many "troubles with substance" in the seventeenth century following upon the demise of substantial form. Among them was the difficulty of retaining the traditional view that organisms are substances in the face of mechanist conceptions of body. In this paper I will examine some of the ways in which those philosophers who did retain that view revised their conceptions of substance or of the living thing so that organisms still enjoyed substantial unity.

Michael Della Rocca (Yale): Naturalism and Violations of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (in Leibniz and Spinoza)
Wednesday, 17 February, 18.30-20.00 Senatssaal
This paper explores violations of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (the PSR) and thus of naturalism that arise in the the systems of Leibniz and Spinoza, and it explores the differing resources that these two philosophers may have for handling these violations.  I begin by examining the way in which the PSR drives Leibniz's denial of the reality of relations.  Understanding this denial in light of the PSR enables us to offer a new and powerful defense of Leibniz's Predicate in Subject Principle and at the same time to see that certain relations that Leibniz regards as real, in particular intrasubstantial causal relations, generate violations of the PSR that threaten the intelligibility of his system.  I then turn more briefly to Spinoza who, motivated like Leibniz by the PSR, is committed to the denial of the reality of relations.  Spinoza is, however, able to avoid the problems that intrasubstantial causation raises for Leibniz because Spinoza can assimilate, while Leibniz cannot, existence and intelligibility.  This allows for degrees of existence that correspond to degrees of intelligibility.  I close by exploring the new light this doctrine of degrees of existence sheds on the rationalist character of Spinoza's monism and his naturalism.


Daniel Garber (Princeton): Before Monads: How Leibniz Discovered Mind in Nature
Wednesday, 17 February, 20.00-21.30 Senatsaal
It is well known that the world of Leibniz's mature thought is populated with mind-like monads, the true substances that underlie nature. In this way it is no surprise to be told that Leibniz's world is full of mind. But mind enters Leibniz's thought much earlier in the mid- and late 1670s, long before he posits monads in the late 1690s. In this talk I will present a very different Leibniz, and a world filled not with monads but with living organisms, bodies and souls. I will discuss how Leibniz moved from his earliest thought, a kind of mechanism close to that of Hobbes and Descartes, and came to see mind, soul and, more generally life as essential to solve certain problems in metaphysics and the foundations of physics.

Colloquia

1 Perception and Imagination (C. Leijenhorst, Nijmegen)

Michael Edwards (Cambridge): Imagination and Nature in Late Aristotelianism
Monday, 15 February, 14.30-15.15 Senatssaal
The late scholastic and Aristotelian science of the soul numbered the power of imagination or phantasia among the internal senses. Unlike the external senses, it dealt with absent objects and played, in complicated ways, an intermediary role between sensation and intellection. Scholars have typically identified a series of shifts in the role played by imagination in the scholastic tradition from the mid sixteenth century onwards. This paper attempts to think through some of these issues in relation to notions of the soul‘s relation to the natural world, and to the disciplinary structures and divisions of the late Aristotelian tradition.

Sabrina Ebbersmeyer (München): The Role of the Imagination in Descartes’ Theory of the Passions
Monday, 15 February, 15.15-16.00 Senatssaal
The term "imagination" has various meanings in Descartes’ writings. In metaphysical contexts imagination is generally regarded with suspicion and considered as an unreliable and defective function of the soul, whereas in practical contexts it is seen in a more favourable light. Concerning the passions of the soul two characteristics of the imagination are particularly relevant, which seem to be almost contradictory: (1) In a current emotional state imagination tends to deceive (tromper) the soul, insofar as the reasons represented by the imagination to support a passion are generally overestimated. (2) Although we are not able to excite or neutralize passions deliberately, we can do so indirectly (indirectement) by imagining all those things which are generally connected to a given passion. Thus, concerning the passions, imagination seems to be both, the problem and the remedy. This ambivalent role of imagination leads to the following questions:
1. How do passive and active imagination interact in a given emotional state?
2. To what extent are we able to manipulate ourselves by applying the imagination deliberately?
3. Is there any direct proportion between imagination and passion, so that e.g. strong imagination implies strong passions?

Paolo Rubini (Berlin): Non est intelligere absque phantasmate. Naturalization of the Mind and Cognitive Role of the Imagination according to Pietro Pomponazzi
Monday, 15 February, 16.30-17.15 Senatssaal
Medieval Peripatetic philosophers like Averroes or Thomas Aquinas argued for the mind’s immateriality by referring to its cognitive function; only an incorporeal intellect, they claimed, can be able to grasp the universal (essential) features of objects by means of formal assimilation, as suggested by Aristotle (De an. III 4, 429a13-27). Accordingly, they did not regard the intellect as a natural disposition of the human being like the vegetative and sensitive soul. On the contrary, the late Aristotelian philosopher Pietro Pomponazzi (1462-1525) denies the immateriality of the human mind by stressing its functional dependence upon the imagination. The sensible representations of objects provided by the imagination – as he contends in his Tractatus de immortalitate animae (1516) – are not simply the material from which the intellect abstracts its cognitive contents, but the very causal agents of intellection; therefore, the intellect itself is to be seen as a corporeal disposition ontologically bound to its material bearer (the whole human body) in a way that is only gradually different from that of the imagination. In this respect it seems appropriate to describe Pomponazzi’s theory of mind as a naturalistic one. Consequently, however, Pomponazzi can no longer hold the traditional Peripatetic view of intellectual cognition as assimilation of essential forms; the intellect, he rather admits, is only able to gain abstract knowledge of objects in their sensible images, i.e. in a mediate, “discursive” way. In my talk I intend to portray Pomponazzi’s novel account of intellectual cognition; thereby, I will particularly focus on the central role he ascribes to imagination in the process of knowledge acquisition and concept formation. For this purpose, I will examine Pomponazzi’s statements about the function of imagination in his late works and his academic lectures on Aristotelian natural philosophy.

Juhana Lemetti (Helsinki): Active Sensory Imagination and Its Limits in Early Modern Naturalism
Monday, 15 February, 17.15-18.00 Senatssaal
If by naturalism is meant the following: all things, including all human beings, are governed by the same principles, it seems safe to say that the majority of early modern thinkers shared this approach. In this paper, I shall concentrate on a specific theme in early modern naturalism, namely the role of active sensory imagination, that is, our capacity to generate, often complex, ideas from sense data. If we follow a key text, Descartes’s Meditations, it seems that this cognitive function is the bone of contention between those who believe that all the contents and functions of mind are reducible to the processes of nature (Hobbesians) and those who do not (Cartesians). After summarizing the arguments, I close by evaluating how successful the Hobbesian view is to explain abstraction and abstract ideas from naturalistic premises.


2 Volition and Freedom (M. Hampe, Zürich)

Ursula Renz (Klagenfurt): „Freiheit und Erkenntnis: Zum Problem des doxastischen Voluntarismus im klassischen Rationalismus“
Monday, 15 February, 14.30-15.15 Vorlesungssaal 2097
Es ist eine der zentralen Annahmen des klassischen Rationalismus, dass die Verbesserung des menschlichen Lebens über eine Veränderung jener Ideen führt, die für unsere Emotionen konstitutiv sind. Dies kann indes nur dann eine plausible Option darstellen, wenn Menschen mindestens im Prinzip eine gewisse Macht über ihr Denken haben oder gewinnen können. Im Vortrag soll vor diesem Hintergrund den Diskussion nachgegangen werden, die im Anschluss an Descartes über das Problem des doxastischen Voluntarismus geführt wurden.

Norman Sieroka (Zürich): "Wahrnehmung, Kontinuität und Wille bei Leibniz"
Monday, 15 February, 15.15-16.00 Vorlesungssaal 2097
So wie sich laut Leibniz Apperzeptionen und bewusste Wahrnehmungen aus unbewussten Wahrnehmungen (perceptions insensibles) zusammensetzen, gründet auch der Wille als „rationaler Appetit“ – und damit die Freiheit einer Substanz – auf vielen unbewussten Appetiten. Da unbewusste Wahrnehmungen und Appetite ihrer Natur nach uns unzugänglich und konfus sind, erklären sie aber zugleich auch, warum „von dem eingeschränkten Standpunkt bestimmter Einzelsubstanzen aus“ sich Dinge „durch Zufall oder von ungefähr“ zu ereignen scheinen (Über die Freiheit/De Libertate). Dies verknüpft sich bei Leibniz aufs engste mit seinem Kontinuumsverständnis; damit, dass es zwar „kleine“ (petites) Wahrnehmungen und Appetite, aber keine „kleinsten“ gibt. Laut ihm existieren bekanntermaßen „zwei Labyrinthe für den menschlichen Geist“: „die Zusammensetzung des Kontinuums“ und „das Wesen der Freiheit“; und beide „entspringen aus derselben Quelle, nämlich aus dem Begriff des Unendlichen“ (ebd.). – Diesem Verhältnis von Kontinuum bzw. Unendlichkeit zu Wahrnehmung und Appetit (und deren Relation untereinander) soll im Vortrag genauer nachgegangen werden.

Stephan Schmid (Berlin): „Freiheit und hypothetische Notwendigkeit bei Leibniz“
Monday, 15 February, 16.30-17.15 Vorlesungssaal 2097
Die Sicherung der menschlichen Freiheit ist für Leibniz ein zentrales philosophisches Anliegen. In Absetzung von Spinozas Nezessitarismus betont er daher immer wieder, dass nicht alles absolut oder metaphysisch notwendig sei, sondern dass es auch kontingente Sachverhalte und damit einen Raum für Freiheit gebe. Allerdings ist Leibniz nicht der Ansicht, dass kontingente Sachverhalte überhaupt nicht notwendig sind. Wie er ausführt, sind diese hypothetisch notwendig - und das heißt: notwendig unter bestimmten Voraussetzungen. Damit aber scheint Leibniz' Kontingenzbegriff entgegen seiner Beteuerungen kaum geeignet, um unserer Freiheit Rechnung zu tragen. Schließlich bleiben damit unsere Handlungen unter den bestimmten Umständen, in denen sie stattfinden, notwendig. Und wie soll das mit deren Freiheit vereinbar sein? Diesem pessimistischen Anschein möchte ich entgegenwirken. Dazu werde ich argumentieren, dass Leibniz mit seiner Analyse der Kontingenz als eine Form hypothetischer Notwendigkeit auf eine von Aristoteles ausgehende Tradition zurückgreift, diese aber entscheidend transformiert und die hypothetische Notwendigkeit nicht nur als eine Form alethischer, sondern auch deontischer Modalität versteht.

Hans-Peter Schütt (Karlsruhe): „Humes Freiheiten“
Monday, 15 February, 17.15-18.00 Vorlesungssaal 2097
Anhand eines Durchgangs durch die einschlägigen Passagen vor allem im zweiten Buch von David Humes "Treatise of Human Nature" werden die Begriffe der politischen Freiheit, der Willensfreiheit und der Handlungsfreiheit bei Hume analysiert.

3 Emotion and Action (L. Halldenius, Malmö)


Susan James (London): Narrative as the Means to Freedom.  Spinoza on the Uses of Imagination

Tuesday, 16 February, 14.30-15.15 Senatssaal
Throughout his philosophical career, Spinoza was concerned with the problem of how the members of societies can be motivated to sustain harmonious and empowering forms of communal life.  Given that we need to live together in order to survive, and yet have divergent desires and interests, there is a seemingly ineradicable tension between the urge to co-operate with one another and our wish to go our own ways, both sides of which must be accommodated in any stable political system. But what forms of self-understanding are most effective in helping us to move towards this goal, and in what conditions can they be successfully cultivated?  In this paper I explore the relationship between Spinoza’s appeal to the resources of imagination and his appeal to reason.  I argue that the way of life endorsed by reason can only mould our desires and actions if it is brought within imaginative reach.

Peter Myrdal (Uppsala): Leibniz on Pleasure in Activity
Tuesday, 16 February, 15.15-16.00 Senatssaal
What is the nature of pleasure? Leibniz famously (or infamously, if we follow Kant’s opinion) holds that pleasure is ‘perception of perfection’. The aim of this paper is to explicate this view, as well as the connected thesis that pleasure is itself a perfection of us – that pleasure contributes to our perfection. I shall suggest that Leibniz’s conception of pleasure as perception of perfection can be analyzed through the question of what it is for pleasure to be in activity. In this connection, I shall argue that Leibniz identifies pleasure and activity, and that his reasons for doing so have to do with his conception of the nature of activity. Understanding Leibniz’s metaphysics of pleasure will shed light on his view of the role of pleasure in motivation, as well as on his general ethical project, given that he equates happiness and pleasure.

Martina Reuter (Helsinki): The Force of Passions and the Imagination in Mary Wollstonecraft's Philosophy
Tuesday, 16 February, 16.30-17.15 Senatssaal
Mary Wollstonecraft’s conception of virtue is based on universal true principles, but, interestingly, she shows a considerable awareness of the particularity of the situations in which moral decisions have to be made. I will argue that her understanding of particularity is closely tied to her account of the passions and the imagination, as well as to their interplay.

Timothy O'Hagan (Norwich): Sense and Sensibility in Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Tuesday, 16 February, 17.15-18.00 Senatssaal
Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Julie (1761) has been hailed as the first great novel of sensibility. From the tangled, ever-changing vocabulary of the feelings we shall attempt to tease out the elusive terminology of sensibility, as it emerges in the eighteenth century Enlightenment and would be taken up by later Romantic writers.

 

4 Laws of Nature and Rules of Thought (A. Hüttemann, Münster)

Stefano di Bella (Pisa): Law and Miracle in a Leibnizian World
Tuesday, 16 February, 14.30-15.15 Vorlesungssaal 2097
A Leibnizian world can be seen as an essentially lawlike structure. Thus nomological concepts play a pivotal role in his conception of possible worlds. There are relevant tensions, however, in Leibniz’s idea of a ‘law of nature’ and in its relation to a world and to the individuals which inhabit it. Thus, whereas the ‘laws of nature’ for Descartes would hold also in different worlds, according to Leibniz each world is characterized by its own all-inclusive law. Moreover, all worlds – irregular as they may be – should be assumed to be lawlike. As a matter of fact, the epistemologically relevant ‘laws of nature’ turn out to have a more limited scope than that ‘most universal law’ of a world – the latter including even miracles. The role and meaning which Leibniz assigns to miracles, indeed, is a crucial test for clarifying the complex issues related to his conception of a ‘law of nature’. I shall focus on this by referring especially to an interesting text from the mid-eighties (De natura veritatis contingentiae et indifferentiae, A VI.4, N. 303, pp. 1514-1524) where Leibniz devotes special attention to the ‘stratification’ of the different layers of laws. In the final part of my paper I shall briefly consider the consequent criticism Leibniz raises against other competing ideas of laws and miracles, such as the Cartesian and Newtonian ones.

Maarten van Dyck (Genth): “Nature's inexorable and immutable ways.” The mechanical background of Galileo's laws of nature.
Tuesday, 16 February, 15.15-16.00 Vorlesungssaal 2097
In his famous 1615 letter to the Grand Duchess, Galileo Galilei makes a contrast between how on the one hand humans relate to their laws, only bound by “opinions on what is lawful”, opinions that can easily be changed (EN V, 326); and on the other hand nature “which never violates the terms of the laws imposed on her”, since she is “inexorable and immutable” (EN V, 316). This opposition contains in a nutshell both what has often seemed attractive about the idea of laws of nature, as what has sometimes been perceived as at least a tension, if not outright paradox, in the idea itself of an inviolable law of nature. Most attempts in trying to come to grips with the historical roots of both aspects have focused on the explicitly philosophical and theological discourses surrounding this idea in thinkers such as Descartes. In my talk I will show that an important part of the background against which Galileo’s claim about nature’s laws must be understood is constituted by his novel conceptualization of the science of machines. This purely mechanical context will allow me to point to some unexpected and intriguing links with on the one hand human agency and on the other hand the power of earthly rulers.  
To make these points I will contrast (both the long and short version of) Galileo’s treatise on machines Le mecaniche (to be dated to the last decade of the sixteenth century) with Guidobaldo del Monte’s Liber mechanicorum (1577) and In duos Archimedis aequeponderantium libros paraphrasis (1588). Guidobaldo was an important early patron of Galileo, and the short version of Galileo’s Mecaniche was straightforwardly modelled on Guidobaldo’s influential Liber mechanicorum. The second, longer version departed in significant ways however, not so much in the results proved, but in the concepts employed. It turns out that this novel conceptualization is intimately related to the issue of how to think about nature’s laws and their relation to human agency (a relation that is in turn linked to the subordination of human agents to a worldly prince in both authors’ texts): whereas Guidobaldo (in line with an Aristotelian tradition) identified the domain of mechanics with whatever helps humans “in opposition to the laws of nature” (1577, unnumbered preface), Galileo could now claim that his new way of understanding the physical content of its mathematical laws actually showed the impossibility of “cheating nature” (EN II, 155). In my talk I will thus: (1) explain how the introduction of a new mathematical concept made this important change in perspective possible; (2) show how this change in perspective went together with a new discursive embedding of the science of mechanics in the domain of worldly power and action; (3) in conclusion reflect on what this implies for the paradoxical concept of an inviolable law of nature.

Oliver Scholz (Münster): „Prendre pour cause ce qui n’est point cause“ – Arnauld, Nicole und Pascal über Kausalaussagen und kausale Fehlschlüsse
Tuesday, 16 February, 16.30-17.15 Vorlesungssaal 2097
Der Vortrag widmet sich den verstreuten Bemerkungen, die in der überaus einflussreichen Logik von Port-Royal zum Thema Kausalität zu finden sind. In der Urteilslehre (Buch II) werden die Kausalsätze in dem Kapitel über die zusammengesetzten Urteile behandelt. In der Schlusslehre (Buch III) bietet der Abschnitt „Lieux de Metaphysique“ eine Einteilung der Ursachen. Von besonderem Interesse sind schließlich der Abschnitt „Prendre pour cause ce qui n’est point cause“ (ebenfalls Buch III), der sich mit den Fehlschlüssen beschäftigt, die mit der Idee der Ursache begangen werden, und Bemerkungen zur analytischen und synthetischen Methode (Buch IV, Kapitel II). In dem Vortrag kommentiere ich die zentralen Lehrstücke unter Heranziehung von Werken Descartes’, Gassendis und Pascals. Obwohl sich die Logik von Port-Royal in der Anordnung des Materials zum Teil noch von Logiklehrbüchern leiten lässt, die der Topik-Tradition verpflichtet sind, zeigt sich inhaltlich eine entschiedene Abkehr von dieser Tradition.

Martin Schüle (Zürich): Die Verkörperung des Denkens – Hobbes’ „computational theory of mind“
Tuesday, 16 February, 17.15-18.00 Vorlesungssaal 2097
Hobbes’ Naturphilosophie wird im Vergleich zu seiner politischen Philosophie kaum rezipiert. Dabei ist sie bei genauerer Betrachtung von erstaunlicher Aktualität: Hobbes’ Schrift De Corpore stellt nichts weniger als die wahrscheinlich erste "computational theory of mind" vor. Hobbes versucht darin eine Theorie des Geistes, die sich am Begriff der Berechnung oder "computatio" orientiert, aufzustellen und mit einer Theorie der Sinneswahrnehmung, die auf die Mechanik abstellt, in Einklang zu bringen. Obwohl die involvierten Theorien, insbesondere seine Mechanik, aus heutiger Sicht überholt erscheinen, weist Hobbes' Konzeption damit in exemplarischer Weise auf die grundlegenden Probleme naturalistischer Theorien des Geistes hin, wie sie sich in ähnlicher Form auch dem modernen neurowissenschaftlichen Programm stellen.

 

5 Dysfunctional Minds (S. Roux, Grenoble)

Denis Kambouchner (Paris): Descartes et la physiologie de la folie: remarques sur un passage du Traité de l’Homme
Wednesday, 17 February, 14.30-15.15 Senatssaal
On tend trop souvent à ramener la conception cartésienne de la folie aux quelques lignes de la Première Méditation, évoquant « ces insensés (insani) de qui le cerveau est tellement troublé et offusqué par les noires vapeurs de la bile, qu’ils assurent constamment qu’ils sont des rois, lorsqu’ils sont très pauvres », etc. L’explication est pourtant ici très largement conventionnelle. Des vues plus originales seront à tirer d’une page peu fréquentée de la fin du Traité de l’Homme (AT XI, 199-200) où il est question à titre général du rapport entre les états de conscience et l’irrigation du cerveau. Pour aller droit, ou du moins pour ne pas se perdre, la pensée a besoin d’une certaine disposition de la substance du cerveau, de nature à garantir aux « esprits animaux » des trajets eux-mêmes droits et sûrs. C’est à cette relation, avec ses tenants et aboutissants, notamment en matière de dérèglements, que l’on souhaite consacrer cet exposé.

Claire Crignon (Bourgogne): Ordre et désordres de l’esprit : l’approche médicale de Thomas Willis (1621-1675)
Wednesday, 17 February, 15.15-16.00 Senatssaal
Dans son article sur les « délires de métamorphose » (in Melancholy and Material Unity of Man, 17th-18th centuries, Gesnerus, vol. 63, 2006), J. Pigeaud déplore le peu de travaux consacrés à l’œuvre du médecin Thomas Willis (1621-1675), contemporain de Thomas Sydenham. L’œuvre médicale de Thomas Willis joue en pourtant un rôle décisif dans la réflexion sur les désordres qui peuvent affecter l’esprit et la manière de les expliquer. Son étude est essentielle d’une part pour comprendre les places respectives de la médecine mécaniste et chimique dans l’explication des formes de pathologie mentale, et d’autre part pour cerner l’émergence d’une nouvelle approche philosophique de la folie au xviie siècle (en particulier dans l’œuvre de John Locke qui fut l’élève de Willis et par l’intermédiaire duquel les leçons dispensées par Willis à Oxford nous ont été transmises). Ce sont ces deux aspects de la pensée médicale de Thomas Willis que nous proposons ici d’explorer en partant de la lecture du De Anima Brutorum (Two Discourses Concerning the Soules of Brutes, tr. S. Pordage, 1683) et des Willis Oxford Lectures (K. Dewhurst, Oxford, Sanford Publications, 1980), les notes de cours prises par John Locke pendant ses années d’étude.

Cédric Brun (Bordeaux): De l’imbécile à l’aveugle studieux, figures et usages d’esprits dysfonctionnels dans la philosophie de la connaissance de John Locke
Wednesday, 17 February, 16.30-17.15 Senatssaal
On trouve dans l’Essay Concerning Human Understanding de nombreux exemples et cas limites dans lesquels apparaissent les figures du fou, de l’amnésique, de l’aveugle-né, du sujet aux expériences visuelles chromatiquement inversées, etc. Locke utilise ces cas dans le cours de différents arguments désormais devenus classiques en philosophie de l’esprit et en philosophie de la connaissance. Par exemple, le recours aux « idiots » apparaît en I, II, §5 puis §27 dans sa critique de l’innéisme, exemple que l’on retrouve en II, XI, §12-13 au sujet de la capacité d’abstraction et de discernement, le célèbre exemple de l’aveugle-né proposé par Molyneux apparaît en II, IX, §8, l’amnésie intervient dans les célèbres passages de II, XXVII, §20-27 au sujet de l’identité personnelle, et le sujet aux perceptions inversées (classiquement appelé cas de spectre inversé) est introduit en II,XXXII, §14-15 au sujet des propriétés des idées simples de sensation. Si l’hommage – souvent présent dans les travaux postérieurs de philosophie de l’esprit ou d’épistémologie – à l’usage que fit Locke de ces cas d’esprits dysfonctionnels est sans doute significatif de l’importance de ce recours dans la philosophie analytique contemporaine, il reste que les modalités précises de cet usage et de ses visées n’ont, à notre connaissance, pas fait l’objet d’une investigation précise. Nous nous proposons dans cette communication de revenir sur les différentes occurrences de cas d’esprits dysfonctionnels dans l’Essay afin d’en dresser une typologie selon leurs visées (théoriques et rhétoriques), d’une part, et de proposer d’autre part sur deux cas précis (le problème de Molyneux et le spectre inversé) une interprétation de ces exemples qui tranche avec les références qui y sont faites aujourd’hui dans la littérature de philosophie de l’esprit.

Richard Glauser (Neuchâtel): Locke and the Problem of Weakness of the Will
Wednesday, 17 February, 17.15-18.00 Senatssaal
In the first edition of the Essay Concerning the Human Understanding (1690) Locke held a theory of moral psychology in which one’s volitions to act are directly caused by one’s ideas of good and evil : “the preference of the mind [is] always determined by the appearance of good, greater good” (II 21 §33, 1st ed.). An important implication of this intellectualist position was pointed out by Molyneux in a letter to Locke : “you seem to make all sins to proceed from our understandings, or to be against conscience, and not at all from the depravity of our wills”, hence “a man shall be damned because he understands no better than he does” (1692). Locke duly revised II 21 and, in the second edition (1694), he amended his moral psychology in such a way as to be able to account for a certain form of mental dysfunction commonly known as “weakness of the will”. In his reformed theory volitions are no longer directly caused by one’s ideas of good or evil, but by one’s desires. The phenomenon of “weakness of the will” is explained by Locke as follows. One believes that attaining a certain good X is preferable to attaining a certain good Y, because X is a greater good than Y; yet, one acts in order to attain Y, rather than X, because one’s desire for Y is stronger than one’s desire for X. I wish to examine Locke’s explanation in relation to the rest of his moral psychology, particularly in relation to his doctrine of the “suspension of desire”, and to discuss the question whether his explanation is successful.

 

6 Finite and Infinite Minds (J. Hill, Praha)

Petr Glombicek (Olomouc): „Bona Mens Cartesiana“
Wednesday, 17 February, 14.30-15.15 Vorlesungssaal 2097
The term “good sense” (le bon sens) and its Latin counterpart “bona mens”, makes a regular appearance in Descartes’ descriptions of his project. Is it not possible to interpret the Cartesian individual mind (mens, res cogitans) as a participation in some objective realm? I’d like to mention two reasons for doing so.
i) There is a passage in Descartes’ letter to the French ambassador Chanut, where Descartes during his exposition of our relation to God talks about our individual soul as an “emanation from the supreme intelligence” using the words of the Latin poet comparing souls to “particles of divine aura” (AT IV, 608). This sounds rather like Spinoza in reducing the indivdual mind to a mere mode of one divine mind.
ii) The French equivalent for the Latin word “mens” in Descartes’s writings is usually “penseé”, i.e. “thinking”. He has enough other expressions for the individual mind: e.g. the Latin word “anima” with its French counterpart “l’ame”. In this connection it could be worth mentioning the fact that after Mersenne had chosen the subtitle for the Meditations: “demonstrating the immortality of the human soul and the existence of God”, Descartes insisted that it be changed in subsequent editions to “demonstrating the real distinction of mind from body and proving the existence of God”, with Descartes’s “mind” (mens) replacing Mersenne’s “soul” (anima). Descartes apparently found it relevant to stress the point he was dealing with something other than with the psychology of the individual. Otherwise it would not make much sense to substitute the one word for another. And maybe an even better candidate for what modern philosophy calls “mind” would be Descartes’s “ingenium” (French equivalent “l’esprit”) which means the faculty of imagination and memory and the ability to make chains of inferences. With this distinction between mens and anima, we can come to an interpretation of Descartes’ writings on first philosophy more as writings in logical semantics rather than as rather weird psychological treatises (as they are often read). Cartesian common sense then arises as the ability to follow the light of reason: to be able to see things that are obvious to a perfect rational being, to the supreme Sage.

Christian Barth (Berlin): „Leibniz on Divine and Human Omniscience“
Wednesday, 17 February, 15.15-16.00 Vorlesungssaal 2097
Leibniz famously claims that the human mind mirrors the divine mind. For Leibniz, the divine mind and the human mind are both simple, immaterial, causally self-sufficient, cognitively self-sufficient (innate ideas), free, and striving for the good. Furthermore, to some extent the human mind is also supposed to share God’s omniscience. For Leibniz, human omniscience entails that the human mind has a complete knowledge of the actual world including its past and future states. To most of us, this claim appears to be utterly implausible. In this paper, I would like to explore human omniscience with regard to the actual world. The aim is to see how Leibniz can make this claim intelligible within the confines of his metaphysics and epistemology. In the course of this paper, we will first determine what divine omniscience includes. In a second step, we will examine which aspects of divine omniscience the human mind is supposed to share. Finally, we will attempt to make sense of Leibniz’s claim that the human mind is omniscient with regard to the actual world. In order to do so, we will have to go into Leibniz’s metaphysics of substance and his theory of cognition.

Jiri Chotas (Praha): „Hobbes on Finite and Infinite Mind“
Wednesday, 17 February, 16.30-17.15 Vorlesungssaal 2097
The author argues that Hobbes has a negative concept of infinity. By this we mean that human beings are not able to imagine the boundaries or limits of the given thing. In the context of the relation of the human mind to God the human mind is finite, because all human thinking originates in sensation, and all objects of sensation are finite. On the other hand, it is appropriate for Hobbes to speak of God as infinite, if we mean by that that we cannot conceive the limits of his greatness and power. Hobbes is thus convinced that on the basis of the knowledge of human mind, we can ascribe to God some negative attributes (i. e. ‘infinity’), but such attributes do not extend our knowledge of God, they show only the limits of our cognitive capacities.

Gregor Kroupa (Ljubljana): „Vast Oceans of Nature, Small Islands of Knowledge: Ordering infinite complexity in the Encyclopédie“
Wednesday, 17 February, 17.15-18.00 Vorlesungssaal 2097
Diderot and d’Alembert often compared their “encyclopaedic order” (a classificatory tree of sciences, arts and crafts complemented by a complex network of references connecting the articles in the Encyclopédie) to a map of the world, showing only the main areas and their mutual positions, while the individual articles of the dictionary represent the detailed geography and history of local people. An editor or author of this encyclopaedic order is thus like a cartographer who adopts a higher viewpoint to grasp the whole, but, for the very same reason, sacrifices many details. D’Alembert and Diderot are struggling to form the best possible order of their encyclopaedia, because every ordering of human knowledge is arbitrary and incomplete. However, criteria of a good order exist. According to Diderot and d’Alembert, such an order should express the largest possible number of connections between the different parts of knowledge, and thus it should resemble the continuity of infinite nature, since it is precisely the links, connections and relations between things that constitute knowledge about them. Now, here lies the most appealing point of the editors: Should a cartographer attempt to capture this order of complex relations in nature as closely as possible when human knowledge, no matter how much progress it is capable of, is always a finite island in the vast ocean of possible knowledge (to use Diderot’s consistent geographic metaphor)? Diderot’s answer is a resolute ‘no’. Not only does the most perfect encyclopaedic order, that is, the one that expresses all of the relations and connections in the universe, exist only in God’s infinite mind, but even if God revealed his map of the world to humans, the encyclopaedia based on it would resemble too closely the universe itself. Would this perfect encyclopaedic order not be useless to humans because its complexity would match the complexity of the universe itself? The divine encyclopaedia would thus be very difficult to read, in other words, to read an article in this encyclopaedia would be no easier than to read a portion of the book of nature itself. As a result, God’s infinite knowledge is not only inaccessible but also worthless for every finite understanding.

 

Stand: 28.01.2010

 

Mind in Nature

Info

Mind in Nature
2nd Conference of the
European Society
for Early Modern Philosophie
15th - 17th February 2010

Location

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Unter den Linden 6
10099 Berlin
Senatssaal & Room 2097