Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz: The Concept of Substance in Seventeenth-Century Metaphysics

Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz: The Concept of Substance in Seventeenth-Century Metaphysics

Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz: The Concept of Substance in Seventeenth-Century Metaphysics

Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz: The Concept of Substance in Seventeenth-Century Metaphysics

Synopsis

This book introduces student to the three major figures of modern philosophy known as the rationalists. It is not for complete beginners, but it is an accessible account of their thought. By concerning itself with metaphysics, and in particular substance, the book relates an important historical debate largely neglected by the contemporary debates in the once again popular area of traditional metaphysics. in philosophy. (Do Not USE)

Excerpt

Modern philosophy is usually taken to date from the seventeenth century, and René Descartes (1596-1650) is often named as its father. This need not mean that Descartes was the first noteworthy and identifiably 'modern' philosopher. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) has claims there too. What it does mean is that Descartes more than others was responsible for the style, the shape, and the content of much subsequent philosophy-at first on the Continent, and then in England. His distinction between extended and thinking substance, his proofs of his own existence and of that of a good God, his account of the material world as one of extended matter in motion, all stirred up controversy and discussion whose waves rocked the remainder of the seventeenth century and troubled most of the eighteenth, and whose ripples are still discernible today. Contemporary reports, from both sides of the English Channel, testify to one aspect of his importance: his freshness and newness. According to Christian Huygens, the Dutch mathematician, astronomer, and physicist,

What greatly pleased in the beginning when this philosophy began to appear is that one understood what M. des Cartes was saying, while the other philosophers gave us words that made nothing comprehensible, such as qualities, substantial forms, intentional species, etc. He rejected more universally than any other before him this irrelevant paraphernalia. But what especially recommended his philosophy, is that he did not stop short at giving a disgust for the old, but he dared to substitute causes that can be understood of all there is in nature.

(trans. Dugas 1958:312) . . .

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