Faculty Books

Eternity: A History Cover

Eternity is a unique kind of existence that is supposed to belong to the most real being or beings. It is an existence that is not shaken by the common wear and tear of time. Over the two and half millennia history of Western philosophy we find various conceptions of eternity, yet one sharp distinction between two notions of eternity seems to run throughout this long history: eternity as timeless existence, as opposed to eternity as existence in all times. Both kinds of existence stand in sharp contrast to the coming in and out of existence of ordinary beings, like hippos, humans, and toothbrushes: were these eternally-timeless, for example, a hippo could not eat, a human could not think or laugh, and a toothbrush would be of no use. Were a hippo an eternal-everlasting creature, it would not have to bother itself with nutrition in order to extend its existence. Everlasting human beings might appear similar to us, but their mental life and patterns of behavior would most likely be very different from ours.

Much contemporary thinking about language is animated by the idea that the core function of language is to represent how the world is and that therefore the notion of representation should play a fundamental explanatory role in any explanation of language and language use. Leading thinkers in the field explore various ways this idea may be challenged as well as obstacles to developing various forms of anti-representationalism. Particular attention is given to deflationary accounts of truth, the role of language in expressing mental states, and the normative and the natural as they relate to issues of representation. The chapters further various fundamental debates in metaphysics–for example, concerning the question of finding a place for moral properties in a naturalistic world-view–and illuminate the relation of the recent neo-pragmatist revival to the expressivist stream in analytic philosophy of language.

by Steven Gross (Editor), Nicholas Tebben (Editor), Michael Williams (Editor)

The Young Spinoza Book Cover

Ex nihilo nihil fit. Philosophy, especially great philosophy, does not appear out of the blue. In the current volume, a team of top scholars-both up-and-coming and established-attempts to trace the philosophical development of one of the greatest philosophers of all time. Featuring twenty new essays and an introduction, it is the first attempt of its kind in English and its appearance coincides with the recent surge of interest in Spinoza in Anglo-American philosophy.

There can be little doubt that without Spinoza, German Idealism would have been just as impossible as it would have been without Kant. Yet the precise nature of Spinoza’s influence on the German Idealists has hardly been studied in detail. This volume of essays by leading scholars sheds light on how the appropriation of Spinoza by Fichte, Schelling and Hegel grew out of the reception of his philosophy by, among others, Lessing, Mendelssohn, Jacobi, Herder, Goethe, Schleiermacher, Maimon and, of course, Kant. The volume thus not only illuminates the history of Spinoza’s thought, but also initiates a genuine philosophical dialogue between the ideas of Spinoza and those of the German Idealists. The issues at stake – the value of humanity; the possibility and importance of self-negation; the nature and value of reason and imagination; human freedom; teleology; intuitive knowledge; the nature of God – remain of the highest philosophical importance today.

  • Traces the reception history of Spinoza’s philosophy through key German Idealists
  • Discusses the philosophical debt which each of the key German idealists owes to Spinoza
  • Brings leading scholars of Early Modern thought and German Idealism into dialogue with each other

Spinoza's Metaphysics

Yitzhak Melamed here offers a new and systematic interpretation of the core of Spinoza’s metaphysics. In the first part of the book, he proposes a new reading of the metaphysics of substance in Spinoza: he argues that for Spinoza modes both inhere in and are predicated of God. Using extensive textual evidence, he shows that Spinoza considered modes to be God’s propria. He goes on to clarify Spinoza’s understanding of infinity, mereological relations, infinite modes, and the flow of finite things from God’s essence. In the second part of the book, Melamed relies on this interpretation of the substance-mode relation and the nature of infinite modes and puts forward two interrelated theses about the structure of the attribute of Thought and its overarching role in Spinoza’s metaphysics. First, he shows that Spinoza had not one, but two independent doctrines of parallelism. Then, in his final main thesis, Melamed argues that, for Spinoza, ideas have a multifaceted (in fact, infinitely faceted) structure that allows one and the same idea to represent the infinitely many modes which are parallel to it in the infinitely many attributes. Thought turns out to be coextensive with the whole of nature. Spinoza cannot embrace an idealist reduction of Extension to Thought because of his commitment to the conceptual separation of the attributes. Yet, within Spinoza’s metaphysics, Thought clearly has primacy over the other attributes insofar as it is the only attribute which is as elaborate, as complex, and, in some senses, as powerful as God.

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What is meant by scientific evidence, and how can a definition of this concept be applied in the sciences to determine whether observed facts constitute evidence that a given theory is true?

In this book, Peter Achinstein proposes and defends several objective concepts of evidence. He then explores the question of whether a scientific method, such as that represented in the four “Rules for the Study of Natural Philosophy” that Isaac Newton invoked in proving his law of gravity, can be employed in demonstrating how the proposed definitions of evidence are to be applied to real scientific cases. In answering this question, he offers a new interpretation of Newton’s controversial rules. Contrary to what many methodologists assume, whether the rules, so interpreted, can be used to determine whether observed phenomena provide evidence for a theory is an empirical question, not an a priori one. Finally, in order to deal with numerous cases in which evidence is insufficient to establish a theory, or where no theory is even available, Achinstein describes and defends three scientific methods proposed by the 19th century theoretical physicist James Clerk Maxwell, in the course of developing his electrical and molecular theories.

Sextus Empiricus' Against the Physicians

Sextus Empiricus’ Against the Physicists examines numerous topics central to ancient Greek inquiries into the nature of the physical world, covering subjects such as god, cause and effect, whole and part, bodies, place, motion, time, number, coming into being and perishing and is the most extensive surviving treatment of these topics by an ancient Greek sceptic. Sextus scrutinizes the theories of non-sceptical thinkers, and generates suspension of judgement through the assembly of equally powerful opposing arguments. Richard Bett’s edition provides crucial background information about the text and elucidation of difficult passages. His accurate and readable translation is supported by substantial interpretative aids, including a glossary and a list of parallel passages relating Against the Physicists to other works by Sextus. This is an indispensable edition for advanced students and scholars studying this important work by an influential philosopher.

The Twenty-Five Years of Philosophy by Eckart Forster

Kant declared that philosophy began in 1781 with his Critique of Pure Reason. In 1806 Hegel announced that philosophy had now been completed. Eckart Förster examines the reasons behind these claims and assesses the steps that led in such a short time from Kant’s “beginning” to Hegel’s “end.” He concludes that, in an unexpected yet significant sense, both Kant and Hegel were indeed right.

The Twenty-Five Years of Philosophy follows the unfolding of a key idea during this exceptionally productive period: the Kantian idea that philosophy can be scientific and, consequently, can be completed. Förster’s study combines historical research with philosophical insight and leads him to propose a new thesis. The development of Kant’s transcendental philosophy in his three Critiques, Förster claims, resulted in a fundamental distinction between “intellectual intuition” and “intuitive understanding.” Overlooked until now, this distinction yields two takes on how to pursue philosophy as science after Kant. One line of thought culminates in Fichte’s theory of freedom (Wissenschaftslehre), while the other—and here Förster brings Goethe’s significance to the fore—results in Goethe’s transformation of the Kantian idea of an intuitive understanding in light of Spinoza’s third kind of knowledge. Both strands are brought together in Hegel and propel his split from Schelling.

Förster’s work makes an original contribution to our understanding of the classical era of German philosophy—an expanding interest within the Anglophone philosophical community.

Hegel's Conscience, by Dean Moyar

This book provides a new interpretation of the ethical theory of G.W.F. Hegel. The aim is not only to give a new interpretation for specialists in German Idealism, but also to provide an analysis that makes Hegel’s ethics accessible for all scholars working in ethical and political philosophy. While Hegel’s political philosophy has received a good deal of attention in the literature, the core of his ethics has eluded careful exposition, in large part because it is contained in his claims about conscience. This book shows that, contrary to accepted wisdom, conscience is the central concept for understanding Hegel’s view of practical reason and therefore for understanding his ethics as a whole. The argument combines careful exegesis of key passages in Hegel’s texts with detailed treatments of problems in contemporary ethics and reconstructions of Hegel’s answers to those problems. The main goals are to render comprehensible Hegel’s notoriously difficult texts by framing arguments with debates in contemporary ethics, and to show that Hegel still has much to teach us about the issues that matter to us most. Central topics covered in the book are the connection of self-consciousness and agency, the relation of motivating and justifying reasons, moral deliberation and the holism of moral reasoning, mutual recognition, and the rationality of social institutions.

Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise: A Critical Guide, Edited by Yitzhak Melamed

Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise was published anonymously in 1670 and immediately provoked huge debate. Its main goal was to claim that the freedom of philosophizing can be allowed in a free republic and that it cannot be abolished without also destroying the peace and piety of that republic. Spinoza criticizes the traditional claims of revelation and offers a social contract theory in which he praises democracy as the most natural form of government. This new Critical Guide presents new essays by well-known scholars in the field and covers a broad range of topics, including the political theory and the metaphysics of the work, religious toleration, the reception of the text by other early modern philosophers, and the relation of the text to Jewish thought. It offers valuable new perspectives on this important and influential work.