Régis’ Refutation of Spinoza

Pierre-Sylvain Régis was a significant systematizer and proponent of Cartesian philosophy. In 1691 he published in three volumes the Cours entier de philosophie, ou Systeme general selon les principes de M. Descartes, contenant la logique, la metaphysique, la physique, et la morale. His work can be seen as a more faithfully Cartesian competitor to the occasionalist vector developed by Malebranche and Louis la Forge; the nature of ideas, the metaphysical status of causal relations, and the limits and possibility of knowledge of external things all remained matters of heated debate. But in the background of that whole debate, naturally, lay the specter of Spinoza. Eventually, of course—who hasn’t had this happen to them?—Régis was accused of Spinozism by his occasionalist rivals, and so deemed it worthwhile to clarify just how non-Spinozist he really was. That turns out to be: pretty non-Spinozist! Continue reading “Régis’ Refutation of Spinoza”


Hume’s Dialogues on Natural Religion, V-VIII

Part V. Consequences of Anthropomorphism

Philo. Cleanthes denies a priori arguments for the existence of God, but thinks he can prove God’s existence and nature based on experience alone. The best candidate for an experience that might get us there is that of order in nature. The principle of his argument is as follows. We draw an analogy between two causal relations; based on the similarity of effects we infer a similarity of causes. The closer the similarity, the better the inference. He claims that insofar as we find it to be ordered, the universe is like a work of human design, and infers that the world was created by an intelligent designer, akin to a human mind.

This analogy is disastrous. Continue reading “Hume’s Dialogues on Natural Religion, V-VIII”

Hume’s Dialogues on Natural Religion, I-IV

Part I. On Skepticism

Demea. It’s good, Cleanthes, that you’re training Pamphilus in the correct order: Logic, ethics, physics, then finally theology. The last is hardest and most abstract.

Philo. Isn’t there a danger in keeping theology for last, since it’s so important?

Demea. Well, piety and good reverent habits can be taught from an early age; theology as a science should wait.

Philo. The vulgar hate philosophy; those who have studied a little bit are hubristic, thinking that human reason can reach everything and solve all problems. But we philosophers recognize that human reason is extremely limited. Once you’ve seen how contradictory and unsolvable the great philosophical problems are, how could one remain confident in dogmatic theological statements? Better to be a skeptic. Continue reading “Hume’s Dialogues on Natural Religion, I-IV”

Reading Haraway’s Situated Knowledges

The following are notes for a lecture. “Situated Knowledges” is one of my favorite pieces by Haraway, probably only second to “The Biopolitics of Postmodern Bodies.”

“Situated Knowledges” is primarily concerned with the concept of objectivity, at it is used in discourses of scientific knowledge production. For a long time—since at least Bacon and Descartes—scientific knowledge has been thought of as superior to first-person experiential knowledge due to its objectivity. The question is, how does the scientist gain access to such objectivity? Historically, the answer has been: by subtracting subjectivity from the equation. So the effort is made to distinguish between those aspects of one’s experience that are irreducibly subjective from those that are (hopefully) objective; then, you strip away those subjective aspects, and what you’re left with is supposed to be objective knowledge. Continue reading “Reading Haraway’s Situated Knowledges”

You Cannot Underestimate Yourself (on Ethics III P26s)

Most of the affects defined in Part III of the Ethics come in pairs: for each affect there tends to be a joyful and a sad variant. Love and hate offer the simplest example of this: love is just joy accompanied by the idea of an external cause; hate is just sadness accompanied by the idea of an external cause. There are more complicated couplets, too. For instance, ‘The striving to do evil to him we hate is called Anger [ira]; and the striving to return an evil done us is called Vengeance [vindicta]’ (IIIP40c2s) — this finds its counterpart in that ‘reciprocal Love, and consequent striving to benefit one who loves us, and strives to benefit us, is called Thankfulness, or Gratitude [gratia seu gratitudo]’ (IIIP41s). In general, affects are ideal relations we form toward ourselves and toward others that involve our imagination; and since these relations can be either joyful or sad, it’s obvious why they would come in pairs. Continue reading “You Cannot Underestimate Yourself (on Ethics III P26s)”