PHIL 202

Modern Philosophy

Innovation and Orthodoxy

Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy

Skepticism

PHIL 202

Modern Philosophy: Week I

Innovation and Orthodoxy

Early Modern Philosophy is sometimes thought of as a radical break with the past brought on by the scientific revolution.

Innovation and Orthodoxy

While developments in the sciences are clearly important for early modern philosophers, that characterization needs to be qualified.

Innovation and Orthodoxy

  • There are also important developments in areas of philosophy that are not directly related to the natural sciences (e.g., moral philosophy and political philosophy).

Innovation and Orthodoxy

2. Changes in the overall systematic views of early modern philosophers generally do not constitute a radical break with tradition.

Innovation and Orthodoxy

Break with Tradition

Tradition in philosophy at the time = Medieval Scholasticism

Begins with Aquinas’ synthesis of Aristotelian natural philosophy and Catholic theology

Innovation and Orthodoxy

Break with Tradition

  • Rejection of Aristotelian natural philosophy does not require rejection of Catholic theology
  • Rejection of the political and religious authority of Catholic church does not require rejection of basic tenets of Catholic theology

Innovation and Orthodoxy

Break with Tradition

With the exception of Spinoza, early modern philosophers seek a new synthesis that:

  • provides theoretical framework for the new natural sciences
  • reconciles them with traditional theological commitments

Innovation and Orthodoxy

Theism remains the broader philosophical framework in which the immediate aims and the ultimate outcomes of the sciences are understood

Innovation and Orthodoxy

Galileo questions:

  • Aristotle’s authority in natural philosophy
  • Catholic Church’s authority over the exercise of natural reason

Does not question Church authority over theological matters

Innovation and Orthodoxy

Galileo provides a theologically motivated argument for the free use of natural reason:

  • Our natural reason is a gift from God
  • It is our most precious gift from God (i.e., it is the way in which we are ‘made in God’s image’)
  • If reason leads us to an understanding of nature that differs from how our sense experience leads us to view it, we should be free to side with our reason
  • Passages in scripture (written in accordance with how nature appears) should not be used to discount truths that reason leads us to discover

Innovation and Orthodoxy

Bacon’s reform of the sciences is seen by him in terms of a continuation of the Biblical narrative concerning human beings:

  • Purifying the sciences is a means of restoring the natural dominion that human beings lost through the Fall

Innovation and Orthodoxy

Much of the philosophical discourse surrounding human knowledge and the new sciences also centered on the proper roles for reason and faith within a generally Christian world-view

Innovation and Orthodoxy

Some use skeptical methods of questioning the use of reason as a way to emphasize our imperfection and our need to rely on God’s grace

Innovation and Orthodoxy

Others see skeptical methods as being equally dangerous to the faith by undermining our trust in any and all authoritative claims to truth

Innovation and Orthodoxy

This is the context into which Descartes offers his Meditations on First Philosophy:

His own conclusions are offered to establish a metaphysics that will uphold traditional theism while providing very different theoretical foundations for science

Innovation and Orthodoxy

Descartes’ theoretical foundations, however, will also lead to the rise of a very different world-view, i.e., naturalism, first, in the work of Spinoza, and then later, in the work of Hume.

Innovation and Orthodoxy

The conclusions reached by Spinoza and Hume will be challenged on several grounds by figures such as Leibniz and Kant, who reject naturalism in favor of a somewhat more traditional (but also importantly innovative) philosophical theism

Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy

  • Geocentric Cosmology

Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy

  • Geocentric Cosmology

Earth is the center of the solar system

Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy

  • Geocentric Cosmology

Earth is the center of the solar system

Two different orders of nature

Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy

  • Geocentric Cosmology

Earth is the center of the solar system

Two different orders of nature

  • Sublunary realm: bodies are generated and corrupted; natural motion (for inanimate bodies) is rectilinear and toward the center of the earth

Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy

  • Geocentric Cosmology

Earth is the center of the solar system

Two different orders of nature

  • Sublunary realm: bodies are generated and corrupted; natural motion (for inanimate bodies) is rectilinear and toward the center of the earth
  • Celestial realm: incorruptible bodies; uniform circular motion

Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy

  • Geocentric Cosmology
  • Natural Substances

Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy

  • Geocentric Cosmology
  • Natural Substances

Hylomorphism (Matter and Form)

Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy

  • Geocentric Cosmology
  • Natural Substances

Hylomorphism (Matter and Form)

Nature of a substance:

Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy

  • Geocentric Cosmology
  • Natural Substances

Hylomorphism (Matter and Form)

Nature of a substance:

  • Determines capacities (inanimate bodies, plant bodies, animal bodies)

Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy

  • Geocentric Cosmology
  • Natural Substances

Hylomorphism (Matter and Form)

Nature of a substance:

  • Determines capacities (inanimate bodies, plant bodies, animal bodies)
  • Involves a Telos (a natural goal or natural end of all the bodies motions)

Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy

  • Geocentric Cosmology
  • Natural Substances
  • Rational Animals

Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy

  • Geocentric Cosmology
  • Natural Substances
  • Rational Animals

Human Beings are by Nature:

  • Animals (genus)
  • Rational (specific difference)

In addition to plant capacities (growth, maintenance of organic form, reproduction) and animal capacities (self-generated movement in accordance with appetites) we have rational capacities (self-government in accordance with ideas)

Catholic Theology

  • Creation ex nihilo
  • God is the Highest Good
  • Human Beings
    • Material Body
    • Immaterial Soul
  • Natural Purpose and Divine Providence

Skeptical Attacks

  • Aristotelian Perceptual Realism

Skeptical Attacks

  • Aristotelian Perceptual Realism

Knowledge is a natural goal (good) for beings like us

Skeptical Attacks

  • Aristotelian Perceptual Realism

Knowledge is a natural goal (good) for beings like us

Our bodies are set up to pursue our natural goals and allow us to achieve them

Skeptical Attacks

  • Aristotelian Perceptual Realism

Knowledge is a natural goal (good) for beings like us

Our bodies are set up to pursue our natural goals and allow us to achieve them

The sensible capacities of our bodies are used to that end

Skeptical Attacks

  • Aristotelian Perceptual Realism

Knowledge is a natural goal (good) for beings like us

Our bodies are set up to pursue our natural goals and allow us to achieve them

The sensible capacities of our bodies are used to that end

We have knowledge through the senses

Skeptical Attacks

  • Aristotelian Perceptual Realism
  • Skeptical Questioning of Power of Senses

Skeptical Attacks

  • Aristotelian Perceptual Realism
  • Skeptical Questioning of Power of Senses
  • Skeptical Questioning of Power of Human Understanding/Reason

Montaigne

  • Priority of Faith over Reason for Christians (St. Augustine ‘vs.’ Saint Thomas)

Montaigne

  • Priority of Faith over Reason for Christians (St. Augustine ‘vs.’ Saint Thomas)

  • For most it is Convention (rather than a genuine Faith or the exercise of natural Reason) that leads to acceptance of Christianity

Montaigne

  • Whatever is known is known by the faculty of the knower

Montaigne

  • Whatever is known is known by the faculty of the knower

  • Our faculty of knowledge is sensible; i.e., knowledge begins from the five senses

Montaigne

Reasons for Doubt:

  • Doubt that man is provided with all the natural senses

Montaigne

Reasons for Doubt:

  • Doubt that man is provided with all the natural senses
  • Doubt that each/any of the senses gives a clear and accurate report concerning objects

Montaigne

Reasons for Doubt (continued):

3. Changing Man Cannot Know Changing or Unchanging Things

Bacon

New Methodology in Natural Philosophy

  • Question Explanatory Power of Aristotelian Natural Philosophy
  • Focus on Discovery of New Truths
  • Uncover Conventions in Thinking that Have Taken on the Status of Idols
  • Replace Idols with Critical Methods of Inquiry

Galileo

New Framework for Explanation of Natural Phenomena

  • Question Explanatory Power of Aristotelian Natural Philosophy
  • Introduce Mechanistic Ontology of Natural Bodies
  • Distinguish Primary and Secondary Qualities (Explanation of Qualitative Aspects at Macro-Level by Reference to {Quantitatively Described Qualities at Micro-Level} + {Sensory Apparatus}, E.g., ‘Motion is the cause of heat’)

Convention

  • Commonly Accepted Beliefs
  • Basic Orientational and Uniting Function within Groups
  • Possible Source of Strife Between Groups
  • Possible Hindrance to Further Inquiry

Critical Question

Is Belief Just Customary All the Way Down?

OR

Is There Some Way to ‘Step Outside’ the View of Things that is Determined by Customary Beliefs and Decide Which (If Any) of Our Customs We Can/Should Deem Acceptable on Other Grounds?

PHIL 202: Modern Philosophy (Week I) - Google Slides