UWO-CUNY John Locke Workshop

May 1-3, 2015

London, Ontario

Friday May 1

8:30-9:00         Coffee

9:00-10:15       Nathan Rockwood (Virginia Tech) “Locke on Scientific Knowledge”

Andrew Janiak (Duke) (commentator)

10:15-10:45     Coffee Break

10:45-12:00     Patrick Connolly (Iowa State) “Locke and the Methodology of Newton’s Principia

Commentator: TBA

12:00-1:45       Lunch

1:45-3:00         Geoffrey Gorham (Macalester) and Ed Slowik (Winona State) “Locke on Temporal and Spatial Measures”

Katherine Dunlop (UT Austin) (commentator)

3:00-3:30         Rotman Speaker Reception

3:30-5:00         Peter Anstey (Sydney) (Rotman Speakers Series) “Locke on Measurement”

7:00-10:00       Dinner

Saturday May 2

8:30-9:00         Coffee

9:00-10:15       Lex Newman (Utah) “Locke’s Empiricism and His Mechanist Idea of Body”

Antonia LoLordo (UVA) (commentator)

10:15-10:45     Coffee Break

10:45-12:00     Allison Kuklok (St. Michael’s) “Locke, Hume, and Causal Power in Bodies”

Michael Jacovides (Purdue) (commentator)

12:00-1:30       Lunch

1:30-2:45         Benjamin Hill (Western) “Natural Powers in Locke’s Philosophy of Science: A Contradiction?”

Elliot Rossiter (Western) (commentator)

2:45-3:00         Coffee Break

3:00-4:15         Patrick Arnold (Nebraska) “Locke’s Conventionalism about Biological Species”

Susanna Goodin (Wyoming) (commentator)

4:15-4:30         Coffee Break

4:30-5:45         Margaret Atherton (UW- Milwaukee) (Invited) “Locke and Berkeley on Real Knowledge

7:00-10:00       Dinner

Sunday May 3

8:30-9:00         Coffee

9:00-10:15       Kathryn Tabb (Pittsburgh) “Locke’s Mad Errors: Associated Ideas and the Ethics of Belief”

Louis Charland (Western) (commentator)

10:15-10:30     Coffee Break

10:30-11:45     Jessica Gordon-Roth (CUNY) “Locke, Clarke, and Collins on the Possibility of Thinking Matter”

William Uzgalis (Oregon State) (commentator)

11:45-1:00       Lunch (for those traveling later in the day)

Session Chairs: Edwin McCann (USC), Julie Walsh (UQAM), Benjamin Hill (Western) and Jessica Gordon-Roth (CUNY)

Organizers: Benjamin Hill and Jessica Gordon-Roth

In a previous post, I pointed to Hobbes’s theorizing about moral language at the end of chapter 4 of Leviathan. I argued that Hobbes thinks moral terms have a double signification: they signify something in the world, and also something about the nature of the speaker — something about them that contributed to their applying that word to this thing.

The notion that some moral or political terms have a double signification is also visible in the earlier Elements of Law. Thus ‘aristocracy’ and ‘oligarchy’ “signify the same thing, together with the divers passion of those that use them; for when the men that be in that office please, they are called an aristocracy, otherwise an oligarchy” (EL 20.3). Both ‘aristocracy’ and ‘oligarchy’ have two significations. Each signifies some group of men. Each also signifies the attitude of the speaker towards that group, be it positive or negative.

Understanding Hobbes’s view about the double signification of moral terms can also help us to understand his discussions of ‘good’ and ‘evil’. One of those occurs earlier in the Elements of Law:

Continue Reading »

(Poem by Margaret Cavendish, Poems and Fancies, 1653, spelling modernized by me)

In Gardens sweet, each Flower mark did I,
How they did spring, bud, blow, wither, and die.

With that, contemplating Man’s short stay,
Saw Man like to those Flowers pass away.

Yet build Houses, thick, and strong, and high,
As if they should live unto eternity.

Hoard up a Mass of Wealth, yet cannot fill
His Empty Mind, but covet he will still.

To gain, or keep such Falsehood Men do use,
Wrong Right, and Trurh, no base ways will refuse.

I would not blame them, could they Death out keep,
Or ease their Pains, or cause a quiet Sleep.

Or Buy Heaven’s Mansions, so like Gods become,
And by it, rule the Stars, the Moon, and Sun.

Command the Winds to blow, Seas to obey,
To level all their waves, to cause the Winds to stay.

But they no power have, unless to die,
And Care in Life is a great Misery.

This Care is for a word, an empty sound,
Which neither Soul nor Substance in is found.

Yet as their Heir, they make to inherit,
And all they have, they leave unto this Spirit.

To get this Child of Fame, and this Bare Word,
They fear no Dangers, neither Fire, nor Sword.

All horrid Pains, and Death they will endure,
Or anything that can but Fame procure.

O Man, O Man, what high Ambition grows,
Within your brain, and yet how low he goes!

To be contented only in a Sound,
where neither Life, nor Body can be found.

Discussions of Hobbes’s views about language seem to proceed on two separate paths. (Neither of these paths is terribly busy, I’ll grant you, but they both seem to be there.) On the one hand there are discussions of Hobbes’s general philosophy of language — signification, nominalism, and the like. On the other hand there are discussions of what Hobbes says about language in his moral and political philosophy — on what he says about ‘good’ and ‘evil’, for example. But it seems to me that these two discussions should be more closely tied together.

One interesting text for starting to think about the link between the two is the final paragraph of chapter 4 of Leviathan. There Hobbes discusses moral language, including the names of virtues and vices. This discussion contributes to the moral and political projects of the book, while also being part of a general account of the workings of language. It uses the terminology of that general account, in particular its notion of signification.

The names of virtue and vices, and others like them, are, Hobbes says, of “inconstant signification”. Moreover, they are words,

which besides the signification of what we imagine of their nature, have a signification also of the nature, disposition, and interest of the speaker; such as are the names of Vertues, and Vices; For one man calleth Wisdome, what another calleth feare; and one cruelty, what another justice; one prodigality, what another magnanimity; and one gravity, what another stupidity, &c. And therefore such names can never be true grounds of any ratiocination. No more can Metaphors, and Tropes of speech: but these are less dangerous, because they profess their inconstancy; which the other do not.

Continue Reading »

A couple of recent papers (one by Marcus Adams, the other by Arash Abizadeh) have me thinking about Hobbes’s views about ideas, about ideas as images, and about what the parts of ideas are.

Sometimes Hobbesian ideas have what we might call conceptual parts. One example is the discussion of resolution in De Corpore 6.4. The idea square is said to have parts including line and angle, and the idea gold is said to have parts including solid and heavy.

At other times, though, the parts of ideas seem more like the spatial parts of images. One example of this occurs when Hobbes talks of remembering, and the ways memories are less detailed than experiences, in Elements of Law 3.7. This he describes as involving a “missing of parts” and a lack of “distinction of parts”. So on the one hand you look at a city and see the buildings clearly distinguished, on the other you remember it as “a mass of building only”. But here the parts that are missing, or can’t be distinguished, are spatial parts of the image.

I don’t know what to make of this. But I think Hobbes is not alone, among philosophers with a more or less imagistic theory of ideas, in having these two sorts of parts in mind. So Hume usually thinks of ideas as having conceptual parts. But in Treatise 1.2, in the discussion of space, the coloured points into which our visual impressions and ideas are resolved are spatial rather than conceptual parts.

I am posting this on behalf of Emily Thomas. Please spread the word!

CFP: Early Modern Women on Metaphysics, Religion and Science

Conference 21-23 March 2016, University of Groningen


During the early modern period (c. 1600-1800) women were involved in many debates that tangled together metaphysics, religion and science. The women included figures such asMargaret Cavendish, Emilie Du Châtelet, Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia, and Damaris Cudworth Masham. The debates surrounded issues such as atomism, determinism, motion, mind-body causation, mechanism, space, and natural laws.


The conference program will be comprised of invited speakers and speakers drawn from an open call for papers.


Invited Speakers

Sarah Hutton (Aberystwyth, UK)

Jacqueline Broad (Monash, Australia)

Susan James (Birkbeck, UK)

Andrew Janiak (Duke, USA)

Karen Detlefsen (University of Pennsylvania, USA)

David Cunning (University of Iowa, USA)

Deborah Boyle (College of Charleston, USA)

Tom Stoneham (York, UK)


Call for Papers

Submissions are invited from any discipline, and from researchers of all levels (including PhD students). Submissions are welcome on any aspect of the conference theme.


To submit for the conference, please email an abstract – maximum 800 words – to the conference organiser, Emily Thomas [a.e.e.thomas@rug.nl]. The abstract should be anonymised for blind review, and the email should contain the author’s details (name, affiliation, contact details). The deadline for abstract submission is 20th October 2015.


For further details – including suggested topics – please see the conference webpage:


Originally posted on Feminist History of Philosophy:

Andrew Janiak at Duke University is leading a team of eight faculty, students and staff in developing a web site on the works of early modern women philosophers. The website will include unpublished texts, translations of texts that have never been translated into English, and other materials such as sample syllabi from any philosophy courses that discuss these philosophers.

The web site, which will go live in the spring, will initially centre on four philosophers — Anne Conway, Damaris Cudworth Masham, Margaret Cavendish and Emilie du Chatelet. Andrew Janiak is therefore looking for a selection of syllabi (in PDF, HTML, or another format) that showcase how these figures have already been integrated into philosophy courses at various levels.

If you have such a syllabus and would like to help, please send it by email to janiakATduke.edu

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