Second Dutch Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy


23 - 24 February 2015


Radboud University Nijmegen (The Netherlands)


Department of Philosophy (Faculty PTR)

Erasmus Building

Erasmusplein 1

15th floor, room 15.39/41

6500 HT Nijmegen




We are pleased to announce the second Dutch Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy, co-organized by the Department of History of Philosophy at the University of Groningen, the Center for the History of Philosophy and Science at Radboud University Nijmegen and the OZSW Study Group in Early Modern Philosophy.


This Seminar aims to bring together advanced students and scholars working in the domain of Early Modern Philosophy – broadly conceived as ranging from the later scholastics to Kant. The intention of this workshop is to stimulate exchange and collaboration.


Attendance is free and all participants are welcome. However, for logistical reasons, registration is strongly encouraged (to register, please send an email to



Keynote Speakers

Pauline Phemister (University of Edinburgh)

Mogens Laerke (ENS de Lyon)




Christoph Lüthy ( and Andrea Sangiacomo (


Further information











Day 1: Monday, 23 February 2015


Chair: Cees Leijenhorst (Nijmegen)

9.00   Andreea Mihali (Wilfrid Laurier University): Self-creation in Descartes

10.00          Alexandra Chadwick (Queen Mary): Hobbes’s Reorganisation of ‘Man’s Natural Faculties’


-- Coffee Break --


Chair: Emily Thomas (Groningen)

11.15          Francesca Di Poppa (Texas Tech/ Georgetown University): Diagnosing Superstition in Spinoza

12.15          Ruth Boeker (The University of Melbourne): Locke and Hume on Personal Identity: Moral and Religious Differences


-- Lunch --


Chair: Sander de Boer (Groningen)

15.00          Oana Matei (Timişoara): Technological Foundations for Ameliorating Nature: The Case of Gabriel Plattes

16.00          Lucia Oliveri (Münster): Leibniz and The Wild Boar


-- Coffee Break --


Chair: Christoph Lüthy (Nijmegen)

17.15          Yaron Wolf (Oxford): Divine Expectations: Berkeley's ‘Optical Proof’ and the Contents of Sense Perception


18.15          Keynote Lecture: Pauline Phemister (Edinburgh): Why It Matters What We Think: Leibniz on Harmony


20.00 Dinner


Second Day: Tuesday, 24 February 2015


Chair: Martin Lenz (Groningen)

9.00            Anna Ortín (Edinburgh): Hume, the Problem of Content, and the Idea of the Identical Self

10.00          Lisa Ievers (Auburn): Loose Fictions and Serious Convictions: Exposing the “Madness” in Hume’s Treatise


-- Coffee break --


Chair: Carla Rita Palmerino (Nijmegen)

11.15          Dan O'Brien (Oxford Brookes): Hume on Education


12.15          Keynote Lecture: Mogens Laerke (ENS de Lyon): Spinoza on Formal Essence, Actual Essence, and Two Forms of Actuality


13.30: End of the Seminar







Andreea Mihali (Wilfrid Laurier University): Self-creation in Descartes


Recently, Descartes scholars have turned their attention to the practical part of Descartes’ philosophy, in general, and to his notion of “generosity”, more specifically. Noteworthy are Lisa Shapiro’s and Byron Williston’s treatments of the topic. While these articles constitute important contributions to our understanding of Descartes’ main virtue, generosity, as well as of his ideal moral type (the sage), none of these philosophers has in my view paid sufficient attention to the emotional make-up of the generous person as seen by Descartes.

In three parts this paper aims to remedy this neglect. First, I provide a close analysis of the generous person as described in the Passions of the Soul. Then, in order to make the defining features of the Cartesian generous person salient, I contrast the generous person with the abject person which Descartes evaluates as a deficient moral type. This compare and contrast analysis, which surprisingly has not been undertaken so far, will bring to light Descartes’ emphasis on the crucial role of taking an active stance towards one’s passions. Not allowing oneself to be led around, tossed by one’s emotions but rather controlling and harmonizing them is accomplished by means of the will; the will discovers and puts in practice God-instituted moral values. The control over and harmonization of emotions Descartes recommends amount to self-creation, not just self-mastery, as we will see in Part II.

Self-creation is preferable to self-mastery since this notion does more justice to the active role the Cartesian agent plays in bringing about, not just in setting bounds to, her passions. Control, not giving in to the passions that external objects and situations cause in us is only the first step in the moral development of the Cartesian agent as described by the Passions. To achieve a truly stable psychic equilibrium, Descartes tells us, we must move beyond merely properly reacting to passions that come upon us to arousing positive passions in ourselves.

Descartes’ generous person is not passion-free. She does feel justified passions, i.e., those passions have the proper objects (e.g., hating vices). She also feels them at the proper intensity (i.e., in the senses, not her innermost soul) and with the proper attitude (with enough detachment to not allow her inner balance to be disturbed). Self-induced passions have a higher chance of meeting these conditions. Descartes refers to them as “passions in so far as they belong to the soul”. They arise as a result of movements of animal spirits strengthening a well-founded thought. He also mentions that to pursue virtue means desiring those things that depend entirely on us, adding that the mistake we make is not desiring too much but rather too little. Or, desire is one of the six primitive passions according to Descartes. 

I will conclude that Descartes’ practical philosophy opens the way not only for Enlightenment ideas in general (as Peter Schouls has already shown by emphasizing the role of the will in Descartes’ system) and for Kant’s in particular (as André Gombay argued by uncovering the similarities between Cartesian generosity and Kantian respect), but even further forward for self-creation, a notion often associated with Nietzsche. Self-creation understood as the deliberate harmonizing of emotions squares well with Descartes’ practical views.




Alexandra Chadwick (Queen Mary): Hobbes’s Reorganisation of ‘Man’s Natural Faculties’


In 1635, Hobbes stated his desire to provide ‘good reasons for ye facultyes and passions of ye soule… expressed in playne English’. In The Elements of Law (1640), Hobbes realises this ambition, setting out an account of ‘man’s natural faculties’. In doing so, he transforms a widely accepted scholastic-Aristotelian model of the faculties of the ‘soul’ into the ‘powers of the body’ and the ‘powers of the mind’.  This paper examines the nature of this transformation by focusing on Hobbes’s choice of language. By investigating the reasons behind, and implications of, the terminology he uses, we are able better to understand Hobbes’s intentions, and his originality.

The first part of the paper considers how Hobbes divides man’s faculties between ‘body’ and ‘mind’. It demonstrates that Hobbes’s language and presentation in The Elements is rooted in scholastic accounts of the facultates animæ. However, his distinction between body and mind does not map onto any recognisable division of those faculties. Instead, Hobbes reorganises the powers of the soul to present a very different picture of man’s abilities, and his position in the world.  The paper also considers works in English from the first half of the seventeenth century, showing that ‘mind’ existed uneasily alongside a scholastic account of the soul. Hobbes resolves this tension in Elements by referring exclusively to ‘mind’. This is only possible because of his willingness radically to reorganise man’s faculties, and to remove eschatological concerns from the discussion. Scholars have noted Hobbes’s use of ‘mind’ rather than ‘soul’ (e.g. Serjeantson 2011); this paper goes further, tracing the development of Hobbes’s use of ‘mind’ and ‘soul’ from The Elements to the Latin Leviathan (1668). It demonstrates that Hobbes chose anima and animus in Latin to correspond to ‘soul’ and ‘mind’, and examines the reasons behind this choice. It also demonstrates that it is not until the Latin Leviathan that Hobbes has removed all reference to anima from his account of human nature.

The second part of the paper considers the bipartite division of ‘mind’ into the ‘cognitive’ and the ‘motive’ power. It examines the reasons behind Hobbes’s choice of terminology, and what this reveals about his ideas and intentions. Hobbes’s usage of the terms and their Latin equivalents is shown to be unusual and innovative. Contrasts are drawn with bipartite distinctions of the human soul found in classical sources, and within the writings of Protestant authors, in order to show what Hobbes aims to achieve, and what he aims to avoid.

It has been claimed that Descartes was the first to ‘abandon…the conceptual baggage associated with the word “soul” in favour of a radically new term, “mind”’ (MacDonald, 2003). It appears that Hobbes made this break in Elements as part of his own reorganisation of man’s natural faculties, driven by his own philosophical ideas.  With his account of the cognitive and motive powers of the mind, he carefully remodels man’s nature, crafting a new account of human capabilities and limitations out of the existing terminological material.




Francesca Di Poppa (Texas Tech/ Georgetown University): Diagnosing Superstition in Spinoza


Most existing discussions of superstition in Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise argue that it is primarily a psychological/epistemic concept, with serious political implications. In what follows, I will argue that the concept is first and foremost, if not exclusively, political.

I will show that the criteria commonly considered by interpreters as defining superstition apply to beliefs and practices that Spinoza does not label as such, and that the line between superstition and piety is actually not where represented by discussions such as, e.g.. James. In attempting to draw a better distinction, I will look at Hobbes' discussion.

In Leviathan, "superstition" is defined in terms of what is not allowed by the ruling power (that the definition is not always consistently used is an issue I will not explore). This is because Hobbes considers religious freedom (and freedom of expression in general) as conducive to political instability. This aspect of the definition of "superstition" is, I will show, central to Spinoza's discussion of "superstition" as politically destabilizing forms of religious narratives and practice.  This criterion is prima facie quite compatible with Hobbes': it would seem that narratives and practices forbidden by the ruler are destabilizing.

Just like for Hobbes, for Spinoza the distinction between superstition and piety is a pragmatic one. But Spinoza builds on Hobbes' version and offers a more nuanced account of superstition that is largely independent on what a ruler considers impermissible. In so doing, Spinoza avoids some of the most counterintuitive consequences of Hobbes' account of superstition.

As I will show, what counts as superstition depends on the cultural and political context. Spinoza's concern was to undermine attempts by a powerful faction of religious conservatives in Holland to roll back several kinds of freedoms of expression, claiming that they contribute to political volatility. By appropriating the widespread narrative comparing 17th century Dutch to the Jews escaping Egyptian captivity under Moses' leadership, Spinoza offers a subtle argument to the effect that what counts as "superstition" and "piety" is not always and already the same, but depends on a careful political analysis. And, while it is impossible to inoculate each individual against superstition, libertas philosophandi, under the proper circumstances, can bring enough "herd immunity" to considerably reduce its toxic effects on the community.




Ruth Boeker (The University of Melbourne): Locke and Hume on Personal Identity: Moral and Religious Differences


According to Hume, “personal identity […] has become so great a question in philosophy, especially of late years in England” (Treatise It is clear that Hume’s theory is developed in response to Locke’s account of personal identity. Both Locke and Hume accept that identity with our past selves can be explained in terms of memory. Yet, Hume diverges from Locke by claiming that the identity of persons can extend beyond memory by causation (see Treatise Locke would be reluctant to accept Hume’s revision, because Lockean persons are subjects of accountability and, according to Locke, it is unjust to hold a person accountable for an action that he or she is unable to remember. Although Hume is clearly influenced by Locke, it is striking that he never acknowledges Locke’s claim that ‘person’ is a forensic term (Essay II.xxvii.26). It is even more striking that Hume’s account of the self in Books 2 and 3 of the Treatise has less scope for distinguishing persons from human beings as Locke does. This is puzzling, because Locke originally introduced the distinction in order to answer questions of moral accountability and Hume’s discussion of the self in Book 2 provides the foundation of his moral theory in Book 3. The aim of the paper is to explain why Hume neglects the moral dimension of Locke’s theory. I will propose the following hypothesis in response to the puzzle: Accounts of persons and personal identity over time vary depending on the underlying moral, religious and metaphysical background assumptions. This hypothesis solves the puzzle why Hume neglects the moral dimension of Locke’s theory. Hume shares Locke’s metaphysical agnosticism and thus I will focus on outlining the moral and religious differences. In addition to Locke’s Essay concerning Human Understanding and Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature, I will draw attention to Locke’s essay ‘Of Ethic in General’ and Hume’s essay ‘Of the Immortality of the Soul’. While Locke’s moral thinking requires the existence of a divine lawmaker who has the power to reward and punish individual persons, there is no scope for a religious justification of moral practices in Hume’s theory, but rather society replaces the role of God. I will show that Hume’s selves in Book 2 are social creatures whose interactions are driven through sympathy and the mechanisms of the indirect passions. In this social sphere the role of the self is similar to the role of another person. In order to make social interactions possible selves have to be embodied. I will conclude by highlighting that Hume’s irreligious views and his social foundation of morality are main reasons why Hume does not adopt Locke’s distinction between persons and human beings and why he neglects the moral dimension of Locke’s theory.




Oana Matei (Timişoara): Technological Foundations for Ameliorating Nature: The Case of Gabriel Plattes


In the early 1640s there was a shift of approach inside the Hartlib Circle, from the ecclesiastical peace projects to the more experimental and practical projects of husbandry and vegetable philosophy. If the approach of husbandry continues and transforms, in a particular way, an existing tradition (Ogilvie, 2006; Orsi, 2005), vegetable philosophy seems to be a completely new concept. Vegetable philosophy emerged inside the Hartlib Circle and has been used to define a new field of interest, which could connect alchemical interests, extraction of metals, natural magic, cultivation of the land, the Baconian tradition of experimentation and dedication to the open character of knowledge and benefit of mankind.

This paper will investigate the way in which Gabriel Plattes (c.1600-1644), a member of the Hartlib Circle, transformed the tradition of husbandry, integrating it into a more sophisticated discipline – vegetable philosophy. Although Plattes’ works represent a significant contribution to an important body of literature dealing with husbandry, produced in the seventeenth century and afterwards, so far Plattes has not received the amount of attention and thorough study he deserved. Except for Webster (1970; 1972; 1974; 1975; 1979) and Debus (1961) who dedicated a number of studies to Plattes, I could only find passing references and rather short discussions of his name in the larger context of the Hartlib Circle (Turnbull, 1919; 1947; Trevor Roper, 1984; Greengrass, 1998; Cagnolati, 2001; Clucas 2010), the alchemical tradition (Debus, 1965; Clucas, 1993; White, 2007), the seventeenth-century utopian movement (Davis, 1981; Boesky, 1997; Dickson, 1998; Appelbaum, 2002), or in more general studies of seventeenth-century English politics and literature. This is a pity, because a thorough contextual investigation of Plattes’ work can reveal many interesting and still only partially understood things about the context in which the topic of vegetable philosophy emerged inside the Hartlib Circle and about Plattes’ own vision and influence on studies developed later, in the seventeenth and eighteenth century

I will claim that Gabriel Plattes reformulates traditional views on husbandry, transforming it into a new type of ‘integrated science’, able to ameliorate plants as well as the human soul. Although vegetable philosophy is destined to use technologies transferable from one situation to another, this new discipline is based on a set of implicit metaphysical assumptions, such as the macrocosm-microcosm unity, the alchemical theory of matter (Debus, 1961; Newman, 1991) the universal magnetic virtue, and the desire to restore the vegetable knowledge man possessed prior to Fall (Harrison 2007; Otten, 1985). The purpose of this paper is twofold: to clarify some of these assumptions and to show the role they play in the production of Plattes’ transferable technologies.

I will argue as follows. First I will discuss some of these metaphysical assumptions, such as the macrocosm-microcosm unity, the alchemical theory of matter, and the universal magnetic virtue. In addition, I will make explicit Plattes’ metaphysical assumption, which implies that the study of the world by the means of husbandry, saying that he is introducing a new concept of ‘husbanding Creation’, i.e. a technological improvement leading to the amelioration of all created beings. In the last part of my paper I discuss some of Plattes’ technologies of amelioration, emphasizing their transferable character.




Lucia Oliveri (Münster): Leibniz and The Wild Boar


Leibnizian Scholars have dealt with the “puzzle” of conscientia, reflection, and apperception in Leibniz’s theory of mind. In a nutshell, Leibniz appears to connect the consciousness of perceptual states with mind’s ability to reflect upon its own perceptual states and to attribute them to the self. Puzzling is Leibniz’s use in Nouveaus Essais (NE) of the verb s’appercevoir - which is almost interpreted as a synonymous of reflection, and hence connected with consciousness of the self - to describe some animals’ perceptual states, although in his view animals are not capable of reflection. An outstanding example is NE II 2 §XXI where Leibniz claims that a wild boar apperceives a man. Animals do not possess intellect, so they do not possess conscientia. Why then Leibniz attributes them a form of apperception?

Recently, Scholars have proposed to distinguish between apperception, reflection, and conscientia by pointing out that apperception mainly means “to note something” in NE. I will support this view from the perspective of Leibniz’s theory of action. Because of this, I will consider a text of 1679 (De Affectibus) where Leibniz discusses the same topic of NE’s chapter. The paper firstly aims at contextualizing the passage about the wild boar. At issue in NE II 2 § XXI is whether the beginning of an action depends on an act of the will, or on the perception. Since for Leibniz spirits’ action depends on judgments and judgments are determined by perceptions, and not by the free will, he has to argue that, even if also animals have perception, they do not judge and therefore they do not act like spirits, i.e. according to a conscious representation of possible good or bad consequences which can be caused by actions. Considering actions as causes of possible scenarios, and therefore as not necessary, constitutes humans’ freedom. Therefore, practical knowledge is connected with conscientia. Consequently, Leibniz has to introduce a distinction between human beings’ and animals’ perceptual states: even if animals have apperception, i.e. they act in compliance with a sort of awareness, they do not act in virtue of a representation of possible good and bad as consequences of a subject’s actions, but only in virtue of affects. Whereas human can represent possible scenarios as consequences of an action, and thus they can be said free, animals only act according to their feelings of fear and pain: they simply react to the environment.

My conclusions are that (1) it is the intellect and not the knowledge of the self which differentiate humans and animals, as according to the Aristotelian frame; (2i) Intellect is not added to sensitive soul, but it is a particular species among substances and (2ii) it is tantamount to the capability to conceive necessity and possibilities, therefore to represent scenarios; (3) Consequently, the knowledge of the self only is a subclass of all reflective states; (4) Conscientia doesn’t simply concern introspective states, but practical knowledge in general. 




Yaron Wolf (Oxford): Divine Expectations: Berkeley's ‘Optical Proof’ and the Contents of Sense Perception


In this talk, I develop a novel interpretation of Berkeley's theory of sense perception, as emerging from Alciphron's ‘optical proof’ of God's existence. The dialogue, I argue, marks a consequential development in Berkeley's view of sense perception.

In the first section I present the structure of sensory perception described in Berkeley's Principles of Human Knowledge (1710). I endorse the outlines of Margaret Atherton's (1990, 1995) and George Pitcher's (1986) reading, while qualifying their view in light of systematic considerations. According to both Atherton and Pitcher, immediate perception includes idea-clusters from a single sensory modality. Objects, according to their view, are only available through mediated perception. My contribution to this highly plausible account consists in stressing the temporal nature of mediation in the Principles, on the basis of selected passages from the work. I conclude the first section by highlighting two issues facing the theory of perception in the Principles: (1) Perceptual mediation, in the Principles, relies on the use of the imagination, violating Berkeley's insistence upon a strict difference between perception and imagination; (2) Berkeley considers sense perception as integral to his proof of God, but it is not clear that the sensory features, serving as the explanandum of the proof, suffice to prove God as the explanans.

   As contemporary Berkeley scholarship would have it, the theory of the Principles is also Berkeley’s last word on the topic. When returning to discuss sensory perception in Alciphron (1732), the dominant interpretation (paradigmatically stated in the Luce/Jessop edition of Berkeley’s works) sees Berkeley as rehashing the argumentation of his earlier writings. Atherton repeats this view in sophisticated form in her insightful ‘Berkeley Without God’ (1995).

   In the second part of the talk I challenge the predominant reading of Alciphron, highlighting elaborations to Berkeley's theory of perception introduced in the fourth dialogue. My main target is Atherton's ‘Berkeley Without God’. According to Atherton's view, in Alciphron, as in Berkeley's earlier works, the contingent, regular correlation between sensory ideas necessitates God as the explanans of sensory phenomena. Atherton's reading, I argue, misses out on an issue which is crucial for Berkeley's ‘optical proof’. The contingent correlation of ideas proves that a mind must be the source of sense perception. But it does not prove that this mind must be infinite! Against this view, I show that in Alciphron Berkeley presents sensory perception, for the first time in his writings, as integrated within an infinite horizon of possibilities for action. It is the givenness of an infinite number of things from a finite perspective that establishes that an infinite mind is required as the cause of sensory phenomena. This allows Berkeley to advance beyond the problematic proof of the Principles.

The new view of perception emerging from the ‘optical proof’, I maintain, also allows Berkeley to accommodate both qualitative sensations and the structure of objects within perception. Without requiring utilization of our imaginative capacities, the availability of sensory objects is constituted by the anticipations of future actions within immediate perception.




Pauline Phemister (Edinburgh): Why It Matters What We Think: Leibniz on Harmony – Keynote Lecture


The paper will look at Leibniz's account of the harmony of mind and body and of the harmony among bodies. It will argue that the exact correlation between mind and body entails that even when there is no visible action arising from our perceptions, thoughts, imaginings, desires and appetitions, there will be some small movement or resistance in the body whose effects ripple through the rest of the world due to the uninterrupted connections amongst bodies.  Moreover, by affecting the bodies over which other minds, souls and entelechies are dominant and harmoniously synchronised, these physical effects will, for better or worse, come to be represented in the perceptions had by these others too. 




Anna Ortín (Edinburgh): Hume, the Problem of Content, and the Idea of the Identical Self


After having presented his theory of personal identity in Book I, Part 4, Section 6 of A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume famously expressed a cryptic concern about it in the Appendix. This paper engages in the interpretative effort of elucidating the causes and the scope of Hume’s retraction of his views on personal identity. I will argue that Hume’s dissatisfaction arises from ‘the problem of content’. This problem points to the fact that, in Hume’s account of the formation of our idea of the identical self, a necessary requirement for identity ascriptions is not met, and that such a requirement is the presence of the content of the successive perceptions that -according to the associative principles that he had presented throughout the Treatise- bring about the idea of identity.

Hume had applied such an identity-ascription method to external objects, noting that relations of resemblance and causation between our successive perceptions of objects give rise to our idea of their identity. For instance, I know that the tree that I saw in my garden this morning is the same tree that I’ve seen there in the afternoon because of the relations of resemblance between the content of my different perceptions of trees. The content of the perceptions involved in the succession is the same as the content exhibited by the resulting idea. In the case of the idea of the self, however, Hume’s explanation does not work because he applies that same identity-ascription method to perceptions that do not share the same content, neither between them nor with the resulting idea. The different perceptions that, because of their rapid succession, make the imagination create the idea of the self, are not perceptions of selves. I will argue that the inadequacy of this analogy is Hume’s source of discontent: how is a succession of ordinary perceptions of all sorts of other objects supposed to bring about the idea of an identical self? I have called this ‘Hume’s gap’.

When putting forward a reading of Hume’s mysterious concerns in the Appendix, it’s worth keeping in mind that any interpretation has to regard what could have worried Hume, and not what should have worried him. First, In order to show that the problem of content constitutes the most plausible interpretation, I will derive a list of the requirements that any interpretation of the Appendix must meet. I will do that on the basis of an analysis of the relevant passages, and thus by spelling out the features of his view on personal identity that Hume wishes to maintain, as opposed to the ones that he considers flawed at that stage. Second, I will show how my reading along the lines of a problem of content meets such requirements and how it is faithful to the texts as well as context-sensitive.




Lisa Ievers (Auburn): Loose Fictions and Serious Convictions: Exposing the “Madness” in Hume’s Treatise


Hume’s response to his dramatic encounter with skepticism in the Treatise is well known: the clouds and despair of skepticism dissipate when he socializes with others in the comparatively amusing sphere of common life. As many commentators have noted, however, this “response” to skepticism is deeply unsatisfying (or, worse, is really no response at all), for simply describing how the clouds of skepticism lift when one re-engages in common life does not entitle Hume to consider the problem resolved. In the first part of the paper, I show that the charge that Hume provides a non-response to skepticism is misplaced, for what is standardly interpreted as Hume’s skeptical despair at T (SBN 268-69) is not the despair of skepticism. Instead, I argue, it is the despair of “madness,” a condition in which “every loose fiction” enjoys the same status as a “serious conviction” (T; SBN 123). My interpretive proposal carries two distinct advantages: in addition to dispensing with the widespread no-response-to-skepticism charge, it allows Hume to avoid being charged with an inconsistency in his views about the very possibility of Pyrrhonian skepticism. Hume’s alleged response to skepticism at T (SBN 269) would indeed be unsatisfying, if he were responding to skepticism.

          In the second part of the paper, I investigate whether there are any genuine episodes of skeptical despair exhibited elsewhere in the Treatise. To qualify as a genuine episode of skeptical despair, I claim that the passage in question must contain evidence of the essential features of Pyrrhonian skepticism that Sextus Empiricus identifies in Outlines of Scepticism: “equipollence” (Hume must find none of the conflicting accounts concerning the question at issue to be more convincing than any other) and “suspension of judgment” (Hume must neither reject nor posit anything). Additionally, Hume’s response to the suspension of judgment must express despair. On the basis of these criteria, I conclude that only Hume’s analysis of the belief in body contains a genuine episode of skeptical despair. Thus, although T (SBN 268-69) is widely interpreted as a skeptical “culmination” of a series of skeptical arguments in Book 1, part 4, I conclude that this standard reading is mistaken.




Dan O'Brien (Oxford Brookes): Hume on Education


Hume claims that “education . . . [is] disclaim’d by philosophy, as a fallacious ground

of assent to any opinion” (THN and that it is “not recognized by philosophers” (THN This paper investigates why Hume makes these claims. In §1 I consider the often subversive role of repetition in Hume’s epistemology and how this might underscore his claims concerning education in the form of rote learning. §2 turns to the relation between Hume’s accounts of testimony and education and those of Locke. I argue that Hume’s claims do not have their origin in what some see as Locke’s wholesale scepticism concerning testimonial knowledge. (I also note that this latter view is a misinterpretation of Locke.) §3 considers the distinction between virtuous forms of education and what Hume and his contemporaries call the prejudices of education. Hume, I argue, is not as dismissive of education as the early passage in the Treatise suggests. There is, for him, a distinction between evidence-based trust and gullibility—on one side of this distinction, a child’s acquisition of social virtues; on the other, belief in miracles—but all education should not be seen as akin to the latter. Hume allows for certain forms of education to be epistemically virtuous—those, for example, involved in promotion of the arts and sciences. §4 focuses on Hume’s wider account of normativity and I look at three accounts as to why Hume favours causal reasoning (philosophical probability) over non-philosophical probabilities. These are Don Garrett’s Title Principle, Tim Black’s

Determinacy Principle and Louis Loeb’s account that focuses on the stability of belief. All of these claim to have the resources to categorize education on the side of non-philosophical rather than philosophical probability, but, I argue, they all encounter problems. In §5 I consider an alternative normative standard that distinguishes virtuous forms of education from the prejudices of education. Hume has a kind of virtue epistemology, with certain intellectual traits seen as artificial virtues if they are agreeable and useful to ourselves and others. Trust (in educators) may not on Hume’s account be a natural virtue—one that is independent of the conventions of society—but, rather, an artificial one: a social practice that has proved useful and that has become inculcated in individuals through parental education and social forces. I argue that Hume is not referring to himself and the natural philosophers when he talks of the “philosophers” who do not recognize education; he has rationalists in mind, such as Malebranche, who prioritize our innate epistemic resources. Further, one of the forms of education at which he is taking aim is that of religious education, one that he sees as psychologically and socially corrosive.




Mogens Laerke (ENS de Lyon): Spinoza on Formal Essence, Actual Essence, and Two Forms of Actuality – Keynote Lecture


In this talk, I discuss the troublesome notions of non-existing things, formal essence and actuality in Spinoza, arguing that his theory of essences cannot be understood in a Platonist Framework, but is part and parcel of a metaphysical set-up that allows for no ontological stratifications. I argue in particular that the dichotomy actual essence-formal essence, much discussed in recent commentary, is a false dichotomy.







Airports and Trains

To get to Nijmegen by air, there are several airports in the neighbourhood, Schipol (Amsterdam) is the biggest, but both Eindhoven and above all Weeze (also described as Düsseldorf/Weeze or Niederrhein/Weeze) are closer. They are easily connected with Nijmegen by trains or busses. There are direct trains from Schiphol to Nijmegen (ca. 90 minutes). From Eindhoven, you first need to take the bus to the train station and subsequently take a train to ’s Hertogenbosch, where you have to take a connection to Nijmegen (total ca. 60 minutes). From Weeze, there are shuttle busses to Nijmegen (45 minutes; please reserve a seat via

If you come by train, you can check train timetables on the NS website (

You may want to buy your train ticket online ahead of your trip ( as there are always queues for the tickets at Schiphol. The ticket is valid for any train on a given day, so you do not need to worry about specific times. Note that the Dutch railway system does not sell return tickets if the return trip is on a different day.



Trains stop at Nijmegen Central Station and Nijmegen Heyendaal Station. During weekdays, and rush hours, the bus line 10 (=Heyendaal Shuttle) runs every five minutes directly from Nijmegen Central Station to the campus. Get off at the stop on the Erasmuslaan, called “Erasmusgebouw” (Erasmus Building). This is in fact the building to which you need to go. It is a twenty-floor tower right behind the University Library, in front of which you will find yourself when you get off the bus. Note that bus lines 11 (direction Beuningen), 12 (direction Druten), 13 (direction Wijchen), 14 (direction Brakkenstein) and 300 (direction Heyendaal) also stop on campus. Please note that lines 10 and 300 make a loop; for your return trip you enter the bus on the same side of the road where you got off. This is not the case for the other lines.

You can plan your public transport trip to Nijmegen and Radboud University (use Erasmusplein 1 as the address) through



All car parks on the campus are equipped with boom barriers and pay-point terminals. Regular parking costs €2 per hour, up to a maximum of €10 per day. You may pay with credit card, chipknip or pin. If you leave after less than half an hour, parking is free (in case you are dropped off).

The most convenient parking lot carries number P7 and is found on the roundabout dividing Erasmuslaan into two parts. There is one large parking lot in the open, the other part is underground. Should this parking lot be full, use the large parking space P10 (where there is always spays) or the parking garage Grotius (P6). Disabled parking is possible directly in front of the Erasmus Building.

If you wish, you can find a campus map on the following site, towards the end of the main text:



Please note that conference participants themselvare responsible for booking a hotel room. You can contact one of the hotels listed below, or look for a different hotel through e.g. or An overview of bed and breakfasts in Nijmegen is available here (, and through airbnb you can find people who rent out (a room in) their own place. To check the distance between the accommodation and the conference venue, use Erasmusplein 1, 6525HT Nijmegen as the address.


Here are a few suggestions:

(1) Scenic hotel on the river bank, attached to the National Bicycle Museum (!):

Hotel Courage, Waalkade 108-112, 6511 XR Nijmegen
– Standard single room with breakfast: € 75,- per room per night
– Standard double room with breakfast: € 85,- per room per night
– Roman single room with breakfast: € 100,- per room per night
– Roman double room with breakfast: € 110,- per room per night
– Tourist tax: € 1.90 per person per night

(2) A cheaply priced, comfortable ex-luxury hotel:

Amrath Hotel Belvoir, Graadt van Roggenstraat 101, 6522 AX Nijmegen
– Single room with breakfast: € 79,- per room per night
– Double room with breakfast: € 89,- per room per night
– Tourist tax: € 1.90 per person per night

(3) A fairly cheap, centrally located hotel of modest charm:

Apollo Hotel, Bisschop Hamerstraat 14, 6511 NB Nijmegen
– Single room with breakfast: € 75,- per room per night
– Double room, single occupancy, with breakfast: € 85,- per room per night
– Double room with breakfast: € 95,- per room per night
– Tourist tax: € 1.90 per person per night

(4) A Grand Café with some guest rooms on the central square: scenic, but possibly noisy:

Hotel – Grand Café Atlanta, Grote Markt 38 – 40, 6511 KB Nijmegen
– Single room with breakfast: € 64,50 per room per night
– Double room, single occupancy, with breakfast: € 79,50 per room per night
– Double room with breakfast: € 89,50 per room per night
– Tourist tax: € 1.90 per person per night


(5/6/7) Three Bed and Breakfasts, all of which are nice and welcoming. The first two require a 20 minutes’ walk to the conference location, the last-named merely 10 minutes.

Bed and Breakfast Huize Nijmegen, Groesbeekseweg 50, 6524 DE Nijmegen

- From 45 euros per person, per night.

Bed & Breakfast Burgerlust, Stijn Buysstraat 13, 6512 CK Nijmegen

- From €32 per person, per night

Bed & Breakfast Heyendaal 43, Heyendaalseweg 43 6524 SE Nijmegen

- From €65 per person, per night







Dutch Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy (I)

University of Groningen

29th-30th January 2014

Keynotes Speakers:

Ursula Renz (Klagenfurt)

and Eric Schliesser (Ghent)


Harmonie Complex, Oude Kijk In’t Jatstraat (Room 1313.0309 – see below)


The first meeting of the Dutch Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy will bring together advanced students and scholars working on Early Modern Philosophy (broadly conceived, ranging from the later scholastics to Kant). Following similar models of workshops, we hope to stimulate further exchange and collaboration on various topics in the field.

Please send an abstract (500 words), prepared for blind review, to Martin Lenz and Andrea Sangiacomo by October 15. The abstracts will be peer–reviewed and you will be notified of the review’s outcome by December 1. Attendance is free, but no financial support can be provided to support travel expenses and accommodation.


The language of the Seminar will be English.


Contacts: Martin Lenz ( and Andrea Sangiacomo (

Follow on Facebook here.




First Day (jan. 29)


9.00 Keith Fennen (Miami University OH): Charity and Generosity in Descartes’ Passions of the Soul

10.00 Keith Green (East Tennessee): Remarks on Spinoza on Self-Consciousness, Self-knowledge, and Self-Hatred


Coffee Break


11.15 Francesca Rebasti (Università Statale di Milano – EHESS Paris): The Problem of Conscience in Thomas Hobbes's Political Theology

12.15 Anselm Oelze (HU Berlin): Hobbes’ Nominalism Revisited




15.00 Jennifer Marusic (Brandeis University): Locke on Judgment, Truth, and the Possibility of Misrepresentation

16.00 Richard Fry (Georgetown): Locke’s Account of Animal Reasoning


Coffee Break


17.15 Claudia Dumitru (Bucharest): Crucial Experiments and Demonstrative Induction in Newton's New Theory about Light and Colors

18.15 First Keynote Address: Eric Schliesser (Ghent): Necessity and Newton's Polemics with Spinoza


20.00 Dinner


Second Day (jan. 30)


9.00 Osvaldo Ottaviani (SNS di Pisa): Leibniz’s Argument for the Uniqueness of the Actual World

10.00 Sylvia Pauw (Amsterdam): Logic and Ontology in Kant’s Metaphysics: The Case of the Categories of Quantity


Coffee break


10.15 Cody Staton (Leuven): Kant, Spinoza, and the Problem of Teleology

11.15 Second Keynote Address: Ursula Renz (Klagenfurt): Self-Knowledge and Political Rationalism in Part One of Hobbes' Leviathan


12.45 End of the Seminar




Keith Fennen (Miami University OH): Charity and Generosity in Descartes’ Passions of the Soul

This paper centers on the acquisition of generosity in Descartes’ Passions of the Soul and its relation to charity. I argue that Descartes’ notion of generosity, which is acquired by natural means, is best understood in terms of the theological virtue of charity. In a very broad way, this is seen in the similarity between Aquinas’ often cited claim that charity “is the mother and the root of all the virtues, inasmuch as it is the form of them all” and Descartes’ remark that generosity is the “key to all the other virtues and a general remedy for every disorder of the passions.” Various articles and books discuss generosity and cite this passage, but only Cecilia Wee mentions “charity to others,” albeit briefly. Bringing the notion of charity into the context of the Passions not only helps to better understand generosity itself, but also reveals an attempt to transform a theological virtue associated with grace to a natural virtue generated from one’s own self-reflection. The first part of this paper argues that the preface of the Passions, and Descartes’ general focus on advancing health through science, are best understood in the context of Christian humanism. To help establish this claim, Descartes’ thought is placed in the context of Francis Bacon’s notion of charity. As I argue, part of being virtuous, and charitable, requires helping to relieve the physical suffering of others through the advancement of science. Such a notion of charity, while central to understanding the Cartesian corpus, relates primarily to the first two parts of the Passions and cannot account for the key attributes ascribed to the generous person, such as his or her esteeming of all people, valuing nothing more highly than doing good to others, scorning his or her own interests, and doing great things. The second part of the paper begins by showing that to understand Descartes’ account of generosity we must separate what it means to be generous from how generosity is acquired – a distinction that Descartes does not draw. I then focus on the latter and argue that the various techniques that Descartes suggests for how to acquire generosity aim to generate an interior passion and “feeling” that not only leads to wanting to use the will well, but also to a transformation of one’s relationship to the world itself. As I will show, this transformation, while not unproblematic, shifts from an infused virtue to a virtue that can be self-generated, and from a virtue that is grounded in friendship and love of God, to a virtue grounded in the esteem of oneself.



Keith Green (East Tennessee): Remarks on Spinoza on Self-Consciousness, Self-knowledge, and Self-Hatred

Much of Spinoza’s radical appeal as an ethical thinker is invested in the notion that it is the ‘inadequacy’ of painful ideas of oneself that make one vulnerable to effective self-hatred and servitude.  Spinoza’s account of forming ideas of oneself in Ethics IIp19, p22, and p23, however, commits him to little more than the notion that in being conscious of one’s pleasure, pain, and desires, one is conscious of oneself—in a ‘bottom-line’ phenomenal sense.  Spinoza claims, however, that one (by oneself) can cause oneself pleasure, but not pain.  So in taking pleasure in oneself, one can sometimes really be taking pleasure in oneself.  And in knowing that one is doing so, one really loves oneself.  One can surely find oneself painful.  But since one cannot really be causing one’s pain, is it not really oneself one finds painful?  And (thus) is it that one cannot really hate oneself?  Spinoza’s one vexing comment about self-hatred--in his exposition of E IIIdef.28—might even invite this conclusion. And this would put Spinoza in the august, if uncomfortable company of Augustine and Aquinas, but rob him of his ethical insight and radical appeal  I will argue, however, that the answer is “no” on both accounts.  The reason is that (ii) having a ‘unified’ idea of oneself over time requires affirming ideas of oneself that can only originate in other minds, but expose one to an idea of oneself not existing.  (The Ethics II propositions ostensibly account only for ideas that originate in one’s own mind, in virtue of forming ideas of one’s affects.)  But these ideas are also pleasurable or painful. And so, by the Ethics II claims, in being ‘conscious of’ that pleasure and pain, one is conscious of oneself.  And this suggests that we should not read Spinoza’s vexing remark as a claim that self-hatred is impossible, but that it amounts to being harmed.


Francesca Rebasti (Università Statale di Milano – EHESS Paris): The Problem of Conscience in Thomas Hobbes's Political Theology

Hobbes’s deduction of the laws of nature expounded in chapter 15 of Leviathan ends with a decisive remark: we are actually told that «the laws of nature oblige in conscience always, but in effect then only when there is security». Represented as a forum internum against the forum externum of outward praxis, conscience makes its appearance at a crucial point of the treatise, thus revealing its prominent role in Hobbes’s theoretical system: constituted as a restriction of the efficacy of the laws of nature, it nonetheless grants the passage from the natural condition to civil society. Indeed, in the 15th chapter of Leviathan conscience arrives on the scene quite unexpectedly; yet, Hobbes does not introduces such a category like a deus ex machina. On the contrary, the concept appears for the first time in chapter 7, in connection with the etymology of the word “conscious”, as Dominique Weber pointed out. However, a full comprehension of this passage and of its conceptual repercussions still needs to be attained for a couple of reasons. On the one hand, since the etymology of “conscious” is embedded in an apparently unrelated treatment of «the ends, or resolution of discourse», it has often passed unnoticed. On the other hand, whenever it was not neglected, scholarship ended up splitting over the interpretation of the passage and hence of the function conscience performed in the treatise. This paper aims to show that the etymological reconstruction of the 7th chapter of Leviathan allowed Hobbes to work out a multi-layered notion of conscience and turn it into a powerful theoretical device to found his political theology. By underpinning the double foundation of morality and of the state, conscience actually served as the cornerstone of the Hobbesian doctrine of justification. In order to achieve this goal, the paper is divided into three sections. Firstly, I will illustrate how and why the etymology which displays the first occurrence of the word “conscience” provided an indirect definition of the concept itself. To show the efficacy of such a philosophical operation, Hobbes’s etymological reconstruction will be analysed, in relation to both the major historical semantic developments of “conscious” and the theoretical context of the 7th chapter. Secondly, I will explain in what sense conscience represented at the same time the critical problem Hobbes’s political theology had to solve and the theoretical instrument worked out to win this challenge. By outlining the focal points of the Hobbesian theory of conscience and its workings, I will therefore demonstrate that it was part of the broader strategy the philosopher devised to debunk and dissolve the «Kingdom of Darkness». Finally, I will attempt to acknowledge Hobbes’s contribution to the extremely complex and fascinating history of the idea of conscience.



Anselm Oelze (HU Berlin): Hobbes’ Nominalism Revisited

There is very few, if any disagreement at all about the fact that Thomas Hobbes was a nominalist or even an ultranominalist (‘plusquam nominalis’) as Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz has called him. Leibniz’ view, and so the view of many other interpreters since then, relies on some statements we find in Hobbes such as ‘there is nothing universal but names’ (Elements of Law V 6) or his idea that truth is arbitrary due to the arbitrariness of terms (Leviathan IV 11f.; De Corpore III 8). In many cases this interpretation comes along with considering Hobbes to be one of the first radically modern philosophers who aimed to overcome traditional views. In this paper I will revisit and revise this picture for historical, methodological, and systematical reasons. Not only shall I reflect on the particular concept of nominalism that is employed in evaluating Hobbes’ views but I will also analyse his statements on universals by taking into account their historical background. I argue that the common interpretation supposes a very questionable definition of nominalism and in contrast to common suggestions I aim to show that the main sources for Hobbes’ positions concerning language in general and universals in particular were widely received textbooks and manuals by less known late Scholastic and Aristotelian authors rather than the writings of medieval thinkers such as William of Ockham. Interestingly, Hobbes’ theory of signification and names as well as his account of scientific method are quite traditional, whereas he was more innovative as regards the philosophical and political motives which shaped his statements on universals. Obviously, what he feared most were the philosophical, scientific, and political implications and consequences of the claim that there exist any other universals than names. It will become clear that revisiting Hobbes’ view on universals helps to better understand the character of his philosophical system including his polemics against the “metaphysici” or the ‘school men’. Furthermore, it sheds some light on the transmission and modification of scholastic ideas in modern times and on Hobbes’ not wholly polemical relation to Scholasticism and Aristotelianism in the seventeenth century.



Jennifer Marusic (Brandeis University): Locke on Judgment, Truth, and the Possibility of Misrepresentation

Locke claims that only propositions have truth-values. At first glance, this seems hardly disputable. The proposition that snow is white is true or false; the idea of snow is neither. My aim in this paper is to argue that the apparently uncontroversial claim that only propositions have truth-values is bound up, in Locke’s thinking, with a rich and controversial set of views about the nature and causes of error. In this paper, I focus in particular on Locke’s views about the possibility of misrepresentation. Locke seems to take the denial that ideas alone have truth-values to entail a denial that ideas alone can misrepresent their objects.  Yet this is much more controversial: surely our ideas are sometimes misleading or misinform us about the things they represent! For example, it seems hard to deny that our perceptual experiences at least sometimes represent the world as being other than how it is. The paper has four parts. In the first part, I make the case that Locke denies that ideas alone can misrepresent and I attempt to identify reasons for holding this view. Moreover, I argue that the considerations that lead Locke to deny that ideas alone can misrepresent put pressure on him to deny that ideas can be deficient or faulty in any way.  In the second part, I consider Locke’s threefold distinction between real and fantastical, adequate and inadequate, and true and false ideas and explain how these distinctions enable Locke to accommodate various kinds of error. Nevertheless, I argue that these normative distinctions are not simply explained in terms of the relation between an idea and some object. Locke attempts to explain the various kinds of deficiencies in our ideas by appeal to their relations to other things, such as our judgments, language, and most importantly, but most mysteriously, our “referring” them to “archetypes.” I claim that Locke’s notion of an archetype in his theory of representation has been overlooked or misunderstood by commentators, but is crucial to understanding Locke’s views about representation. The third part of the paper considers the role that archetypes play in Locke’s theory of how complex ideas represent. I claim that, for complex ideas, referring an idea to an archetype is a matter of our intentions in forming the idea, and whether and what kind of archetype we refer our ideas to gives rise to standards of correctness, standards that depend on what we intend our complex ideas to do. This explains the various ways in which Locke thinks our complex ideas can be fantastical, inadequate, or false. I turn, then, in the fourth part of the paper to Locke’s views about how simple ideas represent. I argue that attention to the role that the notion of archetypes plays in the case of complex ideas sheds light on how simple ideas represent, as well. In the case of simple ideas, I claim that it is God’s intentions in giving us simple ideas that determine the way in which they are referred to archetypes, which in turn determines what it takes for them to be real, adequate, and true. I then reconsider, in light of this, why Locke holds that simple ideas cannot misrepresent.



Richard Fry (Georgetown): Locke’s Account of Animal Reasoning

Locke offers an account of non-human animal reasoning in the course of giving his account of the mental powers of humans. Human and non-human animal cognition, Locke claims, differ with respect to the mental powers of abstraction and comparison: non-human animals, on Locke’s view, do not have the mental power of comparison to the same extent that humans do. Instead, they have only the ability to compare their ideas in “some sensible Circumstances annexed to the Objects themselves” (Essay, II.xi.5). Non-human animals are only able to compare ideas of objects themselves and only with respect to features received from sensory experience. The support for this first claim comes from Locke’s further assertion that non-human animals do not have the power of abstraction (Essay, II.xi.10). This assertion in turn depends on the connection he sees between the power of abstraction and the use of general terms: Locke seems to tell a causal/historical story, whereby abstraction arises as a result of transitioning from using names to using general terms (Essay, II.xi.9). The most salient problem with this story is that it is at odds with Locke’s claim that terms are mere signifiers for ideas: the causal story makes general terms to precede the ideas they signify, but this cannot be so if ideas are mere signifiers. One cannot use a term to signify an idea one does not yet have. I present a different way of understanding the connection between abstraction and general terms, on which Locke is offering mere the use of terms as mere evidence having of general ideas, and hence, the capability to abstract. This reading is ratified by comparing Locke’s passages on animal reasoning to Descartes’s: Locke’s discussion is directly drawn from Descartes’s, and Descartes endorses an evidential connection between terms and certain mental capacities, not one of necessity or sufficiency. (See Discourse on Method, pt. V, AT 55-60. This is in stark contrast to Hobbes, who sees terms as required for certain mental capacities, at, e.g., Leviathan I.v.) This weakens the support for Locke’s claim that animals do not abstract, though, in a way that cannot easily be rectified. This issue exposes further problems in Locke’s account of non-human animal reasoning. First, it seems the account cannot handle simple cases of explicit comparison in non-human animals. Second, it seems unable to explain simple cases of animal induction. Third, Locke’s explanation of perception entails that the limitations Locke sets on non-human animal reasoning make comparison so different in humans and non-human animals as to be distinct phenomena. I focus on the third worry, as it is particularly vexing (and interesting) in light of the scientific and philosophical context in which Locke is embedded. In order to salvage the theory, I argue we must jettison at least one of Locke’s main theses about non-human animal cognition. Because of this, Locke’s account is instructive for Early Modern comparative accounts of cognition (especially those of Leibniz and Hume).



Claudia Dumitru (Bucharest): Crucial Experiments and Demonstrative Induction in Newton's New Theory about Light and Colors

A series of influential papers by Jon Dorling and John Norton have emphasized the importance of demonstrative induction in scientific practice, arguing that statements about phenomena, together with (sometimes hidden) premises that act as constraints on permissible theories, can be used to deductively entail a theory. Isaac Newton’s deduction from phenomena is sometimes offered as a historical example of this method. The purpose of my paper is to extend this analysis to Newton’s method in his early work on optics and situate this method in a historical context. My paper has two parts, the first dealing with Newton’s 1672 letter New Theory about Light and Colors and its structure, the second trying to analyze it within a tradition of induction and crucial experiments that goes back to Francis Bacon. In the first part of my paper, I follow John Worrall in analyzing Newton’s argumentative chain from the 1672 letter and show how Newton’s conclusions are obtained through demonstrative induction, with the limiting premises coming both from optics and from Newton’s general scientific methodology. The focus in this section is on the Experimentum Crucis: the role it plays in the demonstration and why it is presented as crucial by Newton. The second part of my paper focuses on the Baconian tradition the phrase “Experimentum Crucis” invokes. I reconstruct a) several examples of crucial instances Bacon gives in Novum Organum and b) Robert Hooke’s crucial experiments in Observation IX of his Micrographia. Especially as concerns Hooke, I argue that crucial experiments play a role in a more complex process of demonstrative induction, rather than in a simple application of eliminative induction. The last section of my paper is concerned with a comparison between the structure of the argument in Hooke’s Observation IX and the structure of the argument in Newton’s New Theory about Light and Colors. Despite obvious differences in method, I argue that the way Newton uses his crucial experiment has several elements in common with the way crucial experiments are used by Hooke (and with the way they were used by Bacon). A reappraisal of the Baconian tradition of induction and crucial experiments can help us better situate Newton among his contemporaries.



Eric Schliesser (Ghent): Necessity and Newton's Polemics with Spinoza

In this paper I argue that a passage, “No variation of things arises from blind metaphysical necessity, which must be the same always and everywhere.” [A cæca necessitate metaphysica, quæ utique eadem est semper & ubique, nulla oritur rerum variatio], which was added to the third edition of the The General Scholiumof Newton's Principia targets Spinoza and, especially, the Spinozism promoted by John Toland. I explore the argument in the context of Clarke's and Toland's writings.



Osvaldo Ottaviani (SNS di Pisa): Leibniz’s Argument for the Uniqueness of the Actual World

In his mature writings Leibniz constantly held a thesis according to which there is only a unique actual world and, at the same time, only a plurality of merely possible worlds contained in God’s understanding. Even if Leibniz was not so explicit on this point, it can be demonstrated that the uniqueness of the actual world is the fundamental premise for his acceptance of the non-realized possible things and, thus, for his refusal of the so-called “principle of plenitude”. To be more precise, Leibniz refuses the principle of plenitude insofar as it denies the occurrence of possibilities which will never be realized, but accepts a kind of relative plenitude insofar since he assesses that all possibilities which can be realized together (that is, which are mutually compossible) must be realized in the very same world (as you can read from the quotation in my paper’s title). However, Leibniz’s thesis about the uniqueness of the actual world rests on a very problematic argument. In particular, Leibniz’s argument is intended to prove the necessary uniqueness of the world from the necessary uniqueness of our spatio-temporal framework. The latter, in turn, is demonstrated by means of a reductio ad absurdum based on the hypothesis of a plurality of spatio-temporal frameworks. Such an argument is problematic for two main reasons, an internal and an external one. The internal reason is that Leibniz’s argument moves from an epistemic premise to an ontological conclusion and, thus, it seems to be invalid. The external reason is that the very same argument was employed by the young Leibniz to demonstrate the real possibility of a plurality of actual worlds, exactly the opposite thesis with respect to the intention of Leibniz’s mature philosophy. My paper is divided in two main sections. In the first one I reconstruct the history and the development of the Leibnitian argument from the Paris years to its final version in the Theodicy, trying to explain what reasons induced Leibniz to employ the same argument in order to demonstrate two opposite thesis. In the second section I will focus the attention on the internal structure of Leibniz’s argument, trying to show why, isolated from a more general philosophical framework, it cannot provide the kind of conclusion Leibniz was looking for. In particular, in my opinion the main difficulty is not to be found in the argument in itself, but rather in Leibniz’s attempt to conciliate two different accounts of existence, one based on a phenomenistic perspective and the other based on a metaphysical one.



Sylvia Pauw (Amsterdam): Logic and Ontology in Kant’s Metaphysics: The Case of the Categories of Quantity

The Metaphysical Deduction of the categories in the Critique of Pure Reason reveals that Kant regards logic as a key to the ontological structure of the phenomenal world. We see that, in the Metaphysical Deduction, Kant deduces his Table of Categories from what he calls the ‘logical forms of judgment’. However: why logic could tell us which categories there are remains unclear. According to a popular conception of the relationship between Kant’s categories and the logical forms of judgment, the categories enable us to form judgments in which concepts are combined according to the logical forms the Metaphysical Deduction presents. The categories substance, cause and community, for instance, enable us to represent objects in such a way that forming categorical, hypothetical and disjunctive judgments about these objects becomes possible. The most extensive presentation of this conception is provided by Longuenesse (1998), but similar views can be found elsewhere. The idea that the categories make possible the logical forms of judgment is highly attractive. It helps us understand why Kant believes logic provides information about the ontological structure of the world. It enables us, moreover, to understand in which sense the categories are “a priori conditions of the possibility of experiences” (A94/B126). As I argue in my paper, however, this idea is untenable for at least one group of categories. It is untenable for the categories of Quantity. According to the conception described above, the categories of Quantity enable us to represent objects in such a way that forming singular, particular and universal judgments about them becomes possible. This idea we recognize in the most recent analyses of the categories and logical forms of Quantity: Frede and Krüger (1970), Thompson (1989) and Longuenesse (1998). I claim that all of these analyses are problematic. The idea that the categories of Quantity make possible the quantitative logical forms is problematic for various reasons. First, I argue, the idea cannot be reconciled with applications of the categories of Quantity Kant discusses. Building on Goodman’s (1947) analysis of laws and Thompson’s (1989) analysis of the quantitative logical forms, I argue – moreover – that the idea cannot be reconciled with Kant’s statement that judgments are rules (see Prolegomena, §23, Ak. 4: 305; that judgments are rules is also noted by Longuenesse, 1998: 93). I present an alternative account of the relationship between the categories and logical forms of Quantity and suggest this relationship is more arbitrary than Frede and Krüger, Thompson and Longuenesse think. If my conclusions are correct, this raises important questions for our understanding of the Metaphysical Deduction, and thus for our understanding of the relationship between logic and ontology in Kant’s thought.



Cody Staton (Leuven): Kant, Spinoza, and the Problem of Teleology

Kant is generally strict about the necessary division between thought and sensibility. However, he in various places makes gestures towards an intuitive understanding that seems to blur that distinction. Before Kant, Spinoza considered the intuitive understanding to be the highest kind of knowledge, holding that it is nevertheless a possibility for finite (human) cognition. Some scholars have suggested that Kant’s idea of an intuitive understanding subverts his system, as he seems to depict the same idea as that of Spinoza’s. However, I argue that for Kant the intuitive understanding can only be an idea of reason for our discursive understanding. In this paper I argue that Kant’s confrontation with Spinoza frames the context of his presentation of intuitive understanding in §§76–77 of the Critique of Judgment (1790). My aim is to show that Kant’s understanding of Spinoza played a pivotal role in his account of teleology and theology in the third Critique. The differences between Kant’s conception of the intuitive understanding and Spinoza’s idea of an intuitive intellect concern two key elements: (1) For Kant, the intuitive understanding is impossible for human beings and (2) according to Kant, we can attribute this intuitive knowledge to God only for regulative purposes. Spinoza defined God as a univocal substance, absolute and infinite in its own kind, which has an intuitive intellect. On his account, our finite intellects are a part of God’s intellect. For Kant, by contrast, our cognition relies on two very different sources: sensible intuition and discursive understanding. Reason thinks the idea of an understanding unlike our own––one that intuits––in order to have a basis for conceiving of the final unity of things, or to be able to find teleological purposes in nature. The only way we can make sense of the contingency we find in nature, in which the purposes of objects of nature underwrite the cause of things, is to think of an understanding that would intuit nature in an actual way. Our understanding, using the concept of purposes to mediate between the universal and the particular, juxtaposes its own contingent activity with that of the intuitive understanding. However, this does not mean, for Kant, that the intuitive understanding actually exists: on his account, the idea of an intuitive (archetypal) understanding merely refers to a shortcoming of our own understanding. Thus, rather than expressing the ontological substratum of all beings, the idea of an intuitive understanding merely indicates the limit at which our understanding stops legislating over phenomena and begins speculating through reason.



Ursula Renz (Klagenfurt): Self-Knowledge and Political Rationalism in Part One of Hobbes' Leviathan







The conference will be held at the Harmonie Complex, Oude Kijk In’t Jatstraat (Room 1313.0309 – see picture below), in the center of Groningen, Which is at a walking distance (approximately 15 minutes) from Groningen central station.

here to show a larger map.


There are many hotels and hostels in and around the city center. Below is a list of some of the more affordable places with prices (roughly) in increasing order.
• Simplon around 40 per night.
• Friesland around 40 per night (despite it's name, it really is in Groningen).
• Budget Hostels around 60 per night.
• University Guesthouse around 60 per night.
• De Doelen around 90 per night.
• Hampshire around 90 per night.
Of course one can also look at Additionally, a list (in Dutch) of several B&B's in and around Groningen can be found here.

Getting there
From within the Netherlands it is easy to get to Groningen with public transport. As the conference is at walking distance from the train station coming by train is an obvious option. Information about the train schedules can be found on the website of the
Dutch Railway Company. On that site you can also buy your train ticket in advance.

Getting to Groningen from outside the Netherlands is easiest by plane. There is a direct train connection from Schiphol (Amsterdam) airport to Groningen. From several locations within Europe there are also direct flights to Groningen airport (more info can be found here). It may also be possible to find a cheaper flight to Bremen airport in Germany. From Bremen to Groningen there is a quite cheap bus connection from Public Express.

For most public transport in the Netherlands you have to use an OV-chipkaart. All the info you need if you plan on using this card can be found
here. An important exception though is the railway system, for which you can still buy regular tickets at vending machines at the train stations. So, for example, if you plan on directly traveling from Schiphol to Groningen you won't need this OV-chipkaart. Also, in the buses in Groningen you can still buy paper tickets (though they are more expensive than using the OV-chipkaart).