Archive for September, 2015

There’s been lots of talk lately about mentoring people on the job market:  https://jobmentoringforwomen.wordpress.com/ and  http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/.  This reminded me of when I was on the market, back in 2001. It worked out well – I got a fancy job that I’m on the whole very happy with – and I don’t have any particular horror stories to report, but still, I found it really, really, stressful and unpleasant. Talking to strangers is scary! Especially when it’s super important to make a good impression!

But enough about me. Young historians, we love you and we want you to get all the open jobs. If you have questions/issues/observations about navigating the market, ask away. (Anonymously if you want.) There are lots of people here to give advice.

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In my first post on Schmid’s paper “Finality without Final Causes,” I gave some background to and summarized Schmid’s core argument for the conclusion that on Suárez’s own account of final causation there cannot be final causes either in the divine or natural realms. Final causation in the natural realm is supposed to derive from final causation in the divine realm, external actions derive their final causes from immanent actions, but God’s immanent actions have no final causes.

I’ve argued in the past that Suárez can solve this problem. The general strategy is to tell a different story about how final causality works in the case of God than in the case of human beings. More specifically, deny in the first place that external actions inherit their final causes from immanent acts in the case of God. That is, restrict that story to the case of finite rational agents. Suárez does this explicitly: “We deny that it is always necessary that there be causality of an end internal to the agent itself in order for it to be able to have a place beyond the agent in its other effects” (DM 23.9.9). The concerns stemming from God’s pure actuality do not apply in the case of God’s transeunt or external actions, so if God’s immanent acts can be transparent to final causality in this way, then it seems that God’s transeunt actions can have final causes after all. This might still leave a worry about metaphorical motion. After all, there is no place for metaphorical motion in either God’s immanent or transeunt acts. But didn’t Suárez say that the causality of the end consists in metaphorical motion?

Here I think it is important to notice an easily overlooked structural feature of Suárez’s disputation on final causation, DM 23. The disputation consists of ten sections. The first section, as one might expect, introduces final causes and asks whether there are any in reality. In that section he divides agents into three classes: the uncreated rational agent (God), created rational agents (e.g., human beings), and natural agents (e.g., plants). He then says that since the case of created rational agents is better known to us (we ourselves are such agents), he will first discuss final causation in that realm and then later talk about the other agents (DM 23.1.8). He only returns to the other agents in sections nine and ten (on God and natural agents, respectively). That means that in all the intervening sections he is still restricting his attention to the human case.

That the discussion in sections two through eight is restricted in that way is borne out by the objections he does and does not consider. For example, in the seventh section he asks whether cognition of an end is necessary for final causation. The obvious potential counterexample for any Aristotelian is the case of natural agents, but Suárez does not consider that objection. This would be a significant oversight if he took himself already to be establishing a perfectly universal claim that cognition is necessary, but it makes good sense if he is restricting his attention to created rational agents. The structure of Suárez’s discussion raises interpretive questions, since one might well want to take some of the conclusions in sections two to eight as applying more generally than just to created rational agents. But for present purposes, the important point is that there seems to be textual room for restricting the story about metaphorical motion to the domain of created rational agents. In other words, the claim that an end’s causality consists in metaphorical motion of the will need not be read as applying to the divine case.

Or so I suggested. Schmid has a well-argued reply. Recall that Suárez wants there to be a common concept of cause such that final causes will really be causes. But, Schmid argues, this requires an analogy of intrinsic attribution, which requires that efficient and final causes both infuse being into another thing but in different ways, and the way in which final causes exemplify that characteristic is through metaphorical motion. Hence, whatever Suárez says about ends in the case of God’s actions, they do not metaphorically move and so they do not satisfy the characteristic of being a cause and so they do not fall under the common concept of cause. If the term ‘final cause’ is applied in the divine case, it becomes an equivocal term. Schmid is willing to grant that God acts for a purpose and so allows that there is finality in divine actions. But there is no final causality. In short he answers affirmatively the question in the title of his paper: “Finality without Final Causes?”

My first reaction to Schmid’s argument is fear and trepidation. Final causation is a challenging enough topic. Bring in scholastic doctrines of analogy and an absolutely simple (yet three) being who has intellect and will but is pure actuality, immutable, and impassible … It’s a familiar thought that there is one way of being right and many ways of being wrong, but here all ways start looking wrong.

Being less courageous, I will ask some questions rather than asserting a position contrary to Schmid’s:

  1. Suárez clearly thinks that ’cause’ is an analogical term, but is it clear that Suárez thinks it does not apply univocally to efficient and final causes? DM 27.1.11 suggests to me that he thinks it applies univocally in at least some cases. This might not help Suárez out. Schmid’s argument against analogicity might work just as well against univocity. Still, if Suárez does think that efficient and final causes are univocally causes, that might affect how we should understand his account more generally.

  2. Instead of focusing on the account of metaphorical motion in DM 23.4, could we take our lead from DM 24.2.12 where Suárez says that “final causality … only consists in this dependency which the action has by the agent having thus ordered it to the end”? The suggestion would then be that this dependency counts as the infusion of being. Furthermore, God’s transeunt actions can have this dependency via God’s eternal love and intention. The way created rational agents order actions to an end involves metaphorical motion, but God can order actions to an end without metaphorical motion. In either case, transeunt actions come to have the relevant dependency that satisfies the characteristic needed for an analogy of intrinsic attribution. I am not sure that this could be made to work, but my general thought is there may be ways to wriggle out of seeing metaphorical motion as the only way final causes could have a genuine influxus.

The second question, of course, is the crucial one with respect to Schmid’s core argument. If something along the lines of my suggestion can be made to work, then Suárez might be able to retain his account of final causation and have it apply in the divine and natural realms after all.

I also have two questions of clarification:

  1. Schmid talks of describing an actualization of the will from two sides, from the side of the end or final cause and from the side of the will or efficient cause. Is this supposed to imply that the efficient cause’s physical motion and the final cause’s metaphorical motion are in fact one and the same motion, just under two descriptions? To use Suárez’s language are the physical motion and metaphorical motion distinct ex natura rei or only conceptually?

  2. Disagreements over whether something is an F can be rooted in two different places. The disagreement might indicate disagreement about what conditions need to be met for the concept to have application or there might be agreement about that but disagreement over whether those conditions are met. I often find myself unclear about which sort of disagreement is at stake in discussions of final causation. Am I right in thinking that the key issues in this paper concern the concept of final causation rather than what the world is like? More precisely, does an Aristotelian who thinks there is unproblematic final causation in the natural realm without appeal to God disagree with Suárez about what conditions need to be met for the concept to have application, or is there disagreement about what natural agents are like and how they work?

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Call for Abstracts

New Narratives in Philosophy:  Rediscovering neglected works by early modern women

Co-Directed by Andrew Janiak and Marcy Lascano

Hosted at the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University

Durham, NC, USA

April 14 – 17, 2016

The New Narratives in Philosophy conference will be held at the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University. The four day conference will focus on the early modern philosophers Margaret Cavendish, Anne Conway, and Emilie Du Châtelet and will explore the various aspects of each figure’s primary philosophical works, investigate the relationships between her works and those of her contemporaries, and examine her works in relation to the political, social, ethical, theological, and scientific works of the period. In addition, the final, fourth day of the conference will be devoted to methodological questions that are important for transforming the teaching and study of early modern philosophy. All conference proceedings and materials – video clips, sample syllabi, papers, bibliographies and translated texts – will be disseminated on the Project Vox website, so that philosophers will have everything required to alter the teaching and research of early modern philosophy. The conference is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, with additional funding and support provided by Duke University.

Confirmed Speakers:

Sandrine Berges, Bilkent University

Deborah Boyle, College of Charleston

Katherine Brading, Notre Dame

Jacqueline Broad, Monash University

David Cunning, University of Iowa

Marguerite Deslauriers, McGill University

Karen Detlefsen, University of Pennsylvania

Stewart Duncan, University of Florida

Sarah Hutton, University of York

Andrew Janiak, Duke

Marcy Lascano, CSU Long Beach

Christia Mercer, Columbia   University

Anne-Lise Rey, CNRS

Samuel Rickless, UC San Diego

Justin Smith, Université Paris Diderot – Paris VII

Marius Stan, Boston College

Confirmed commentators:

Colin Chamberlain,Temple University

Antonia Lolordo, University of Virginia

Alan Nelson, UNC Chapel Hill

Alison Peterman, Rochester

Lewis Powell, SUNY Buffalo

Eric Schliesser, University of Amsterdam

Alison Simmons, Harvard

Sanem Soyarslan, NC State

Julie Walsh, Wellesley

Abstracts: We welcome abstracts on any of the figures or topics mentioned in the conference description above. Abstracts of no more than 500 words should be sent to the organizers (marcy.lascano@csulb.edu) by December 1st, 2015. Acceptances will be sent by the end of December 2015. Funding is available for transportation and lodging for those accepted to present at the conference.

Any questions should be addressed to marcy.lascano@csulb.edu.

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When I took a seminar on Thomas Reid from Jim Van Cleve, he presented Thomas Reid’s version of the history of philosopher’s views on perception (and how they’d all gone wrong) in cartoon form on the blackboard.  When I teach Thomas Reid, I poorly recreate Van Cleve’s cartoon version on the board for my students.

Recently, Benjamin Lawrence, one of the graduate students at here UB, who happens to be quite talented artistically—his work was used previously for the poster for my conference—created a much nicer version than anything I’ve ever drawn on the board, and given me permission to share it here.

Cartoon History of Perception

The image nicely encapsulate’s an abridged version of Reid’s history of perception. From roughly Aristotle up until Locke, you have the perceiver, the direct object of perception (an idea), the act of perception, and the indirect object of perception. The indirect object has both primary qualities (shape and size) and secondary qualities (color).  Then (Reid’s) Locke comes along and suggests that secondary qualities in the indirect object are sort of idle, so we get rid of them. Berkeley realizes the same goes for everything about the indirect object, so the only tree there is, is the one inside the mind. Hume goes one step further, raising doubts even about the perceiver themselves. All of this was sort of nonsense for Reid, but the Humean conclusion was, for Reid, beyond the pale.  According to Reid the mistake was not in any of the transitions between these steps, but in having a tree inside the perceivers head to begin with!  If you don’t need to two trees in the picture to get the work done, why cut out the tree in the external world?  Or, put more in the way Reid would prefer: why did you ever think there was a tree inside your mind to begin with, when the tree you saw was out in the world?

Another UB student, Jake Monaghan, is working on getting this image onto t-shirts, and if anyone is interested in buying such a t-shirt, I’ll keep people posted about his progress.

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[This is part of a series of blog posts about articles in the new, open-access journal, Ergo]

We are all familiar with challenges to final causation in the natural, i.e., non-rational, realm. More surprising is Stephan Schmid’s conclusion in a recent paper, “Finality without Final Causes? – Suárez’s Account of Natural Teleology” (Ergo 2015), that on Francisco Suárez’s account of final causation there can be no final causes for divine actions. Schmid also argues that there fails to be final causation in the natural realm on Suárez’s account, but that is a consequence of the prior absence of final causation in the divine case.

Schmid’s paper is an unusually rich one. He has an earlier book, Finalursachen in der frühen Neuzeit, in which he examines the views of Aquinas, Suárez, Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz on final causation, and so he has given this matter extended thought and has the historical expertise to situate Suárez’s view properly. The fruit of this expertise is evident in this paper’s simultaneous attention to details of the texts and arguments and eye towards the bigger picture. As a result, there is much worthwhile material that I will ignore in this post. Read the paper!

The core argument in Schmid’s paper can be stated easily enough. Teleology in the natural realm is to be explained by appeal to final causes in the divine realm. But the notion of final causation finds no application on the divine side. Why not? Because transeunt or external actions inherit their final causes from immanent or internal acts (for example, my walking to the library inherits its final cause from my intention to check out and read a book), but God’s immanent acts have no final cause since God is pure act and so does not have an actualizable will. Consequently, teleology in the natural realm cannot be explained by reference to God.

That’s the short version. Properly appreciating the argument, however, requires some stage-setting, so let’s step back. Suárez wants final causes to be causes. That is, there is supposed to be a concept common to all four Aristotelian causes. So on the one hand, we need a concept broad enough to cover efficient, final, material, and formal causes. On the other hand, Suárez does not want a notion so broad that all principles are going to count as causes. This is where Suárez appeals to the notion of infusing or inflowing being: “a cause is a principle that per se infuses being into another thing” (DM 12.2.4 — English translations of all the texts cited in this post can be found through my “Suárez in English Translation” webpage). All four causes are supposed to satisfy this account while non-causal principles such as privations are not.

To complicate matters, the four causes obviously do not inflow being in the same way. Whatever exactly efficient causes do, for example, is certainly not the same as what material causes and formal causes do, which inflow being by constituting that which they cause. As a result, Suárez does not think the term ’cause’ applies univocally. He does, however, think we can avoid mere equivocal predication, which would be to abandon hope of a common concept. What he wants is analogical predication or, more specifically, predication that is analogical by intrinsic attribution. As Schmid puts it, “different Cs can also be called Cs in an analogical sense if they fall under a common concept while complying with the characteristics of being a C in different ways” (398). In the case at hand, as we saw, the characteristic of being a cause is per se infusing being into another thing. So insofar as, say, an efficient cause and a material cause comply with that characteristic in different ways, they are causes analogically by intrinsic attribution.

Schmid takes an important part of the story to be that efficient causes come to be seen as the paradigmatic causes. And, indeed, Suárez explicitly says that efficient causes “most properly infuse being” (DM 27.1.10). That Suárez says this indicates that he is not using ‘influxus‘ in its most obvious and natural sense. What happens when the Thames flows into (influit) the North Sea? The very water that was in the Thames becomes part of or helps constitute the North Sea. But if we think of that model, then we might well conclude that matter and form most properly flow into their effects, not efficient causes. This is a salutary reminder, then, that Suárez’s talk of infusing being should not be understood as the literal transfer of some parcel of being from one thing to another thing.

Whatever exactly it means to infuse being into another thing, efficient causes do it most properly. Suárez’s task now is to show that the other Aristotelian causes satisfy that characteristic in different ways such that they all fall under the concept of cause, albeit only analogically. In the case of final causes, Schmid takes Suárez’s answer to be that ends’ metaphorical motion is how they satisfy the infusing being condition. As Suárez says, “the causality of an end consists in a metaphorical motion of the will” (DM 23.5.2). Schmid rightly points out that describing the motion as metaphorical is not meant to call into question the reality of the motion. What is metaphorical motion? When my will turns from potentially loving an end to actually loving the end, that change or motion can be described from two sides. On the one hand, it can be described as having been generated by my will. On the other hand, it can be described as having been drawn out or attracted by the end, an end that seemed good to me. The latter is the metaphorical motion of the will and it is the way in which final causes “infuse being into another thing.”

Immanent acts such as an act of love for an end are the fundamental cases. But if those immanent acts issue in external acts such as walking to the library, those external acts inherit final causality from the immanent acts. Reading such and such a book seems good to me and so I come to desire reading it and form the intention to read it. I consider various means and decide the best way to read the book involves walking to the library to check it out. The end did not directly attract my legs, but, nevertheless, my legs move for the sake of the end thanks to the intervening immanent act.

As stated, this story obviously does not hold in the case of natural, i.e., non-rational, agents such as squirrels, oak trees, and rocks. For starters, they do not have wills and hence do not have wills that can be metaphorically moved. Schmid has a detailed and rewarding discussion of final causation in the natural realm and of the different ways in which natural teleology might be explained by final causes in the divine realm. I’m going to skip over most of that discussion and simply note that Suárez concedes that the actions of natural agents have no final causes insofar as we consider strictly the natural agents themselves, but he goes on to argue that their actions do have final causes thanks to God’s involvement.

So Suárez argues. Schmid, however, thinks that Suárez’s argument fails, because there can be no final causes of God’s actions and hence there is no final causation to be inherited by natural agents. The problem is that God is supposed to be pure actuality and consequently immutable and impassible. Suárez recognizes the worry and promptly acknowledges that there are no final causes of God’s immanent acts. God loves himself and other things, but there is no final cause of that love (DM 23.9.3). But, as we saw earlier, external actions inherit their final causes from the immanent acts that lie behind the external actions. Since there is no final causality to inherit in this case, God’s external actions lack final causes. Of course, there is then also no final causality for natural agents to inherit.

In short, Schmid argues that most of the instances of final causation that Suárez wishes to claim are in fact not such instances on Suárez’s own account of what final causation is.

That, as I understand it, is Schmid’s basic argument. I’m on record arguing that Suárez has a solution to this problem.* In my next post, I will briefly sketch my proposal, explain the response Schmid has to my proposal, and then raise some questions for Schmid’s account.

* “Final Causality: Suárez on the Priority of Final Causation.” In Suárez on Aristotelian Causality, ed. by Jakob Leth Fink, 122-49. Leiden: Brill, 2015.

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A call for abstracts:

Anonymous Modern Philosophy

Panel of the Society for Modern Philosophy
APA Pacific Division Meeting 2016
March 30-April 3, 2016, San Francisco, CA

Deadline: October 5, 2015

Authorship is central to our grasp of philosophical contributions. People tend to associate an idea with its originator—think of: ‘Platonist’, ‘Humean’—and especially for the modern period, scholarship on seven big names dominates the field. However, not all philosophical moves have been made by identified figures. Sometimes authors made deliberate efforts to remain hidden from view, be it to allow for a more neutral assessment of their work, or to distance themselves from controversial opinions. As yet, only fragmented attention has been paid to the anonymous and pseudonymous face of modern philosophy. The current panel will begin to address this gap. Possible topics include, but are not limited to, specific anonymous texts, authors’ strategies in unnamed publishing, and the conception of anonymity in philosophical debates. Its findings will have implications not only for emerging efforts to reshape the philosophical canon of the modern period, but also for thinking about named authorship in research practices more generally.


We invite abstracts for 20-minute talks/papers on any topic related to anonymity in modern philosophy. Send your anonymized abstract in PDF to Chris Meyns (cm836@cam.ac.uk) by October 5, 2015. Decision by mid-October.

Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.

Event hashtag: #AnonModPhil

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A colloquium at the Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of Bucharest & The Center for the Logic, History and Philosophy of Science, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Bucharest.

6th-7th November 2015

Invited speakers:

Daniel Garber (Princeton University)
Paul Lodge (University of Oxford)
Arianna Borrelli (Technical University, Berlin)

We invite papers by established and young scholars (including doctoral students) on any aspects of early modern philosophy/early modern science. Abstracts no longer than 500 words, to be sent to Doina-Cristina Rusu (dc.rusu@yahoo.com ) by September 10. Authors will be notified by September 15.


Dana Jalobeanu (dana.jalobeanu@celfis.ro) and Doina-Cristina Rusu (dc.rusu@yahoo.com ).

More details:


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Valerie Tiberius has asked me to share this with our readers. We are generally happy to post announcements like this, CFPs, or the like (provided you get in touch with us):

History of Philosophy – Tenure Track Position

The Department of Philosophy at the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities) invites applications for a full-time, tenure-track faculty position in history of philosophy beginning fall semester 2016. Appointment will be 100% time over the nine-month academic year and at the rank of tenure-track assistant professor consistent with collegiate and University policy. Required qualifications: Ph.D. in philosophy or related field. Areas of specialization: History of philosophy. Areas of competence: We are seeking someone whose research interests complement others in the department (http://philosophy.umn.edu/people/faculty.html). The Department of Philosophy has particular strengths in the areas of logic and philosophy of mathematics, moral and political philosophy, and the philosophy of science.

Candidates will be assessed according to overall academic preparation in the history philosophy, the relevance of their research to the department’s academic priorities and the field of inquiry, evidence or promise of becoming a leading researcher, evidence of commitment to teaching and skills as a teacher, and strength of recommendations. Inquiries about the position should be directed to Alan Love. To apply or learn more about the position, please see our PhilJobs listing:


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