A New Modern Philosophy
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A New Modern Philosophy

The Inclusive Anthology of Primary Sources

Eugene Marshall, Susanne Sreedhar, Eugene Marshall, Susanne Sreedhar

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eBook - ePub

A New Modern Philosophy

The Inclusive Anthology of Primary Sources

Eugene Marshall, Susanne Sreedhar, Eugene Marshall, Susanne Sreedhar

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Über dieses Buch

The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are arguably the most important period in philosophy's history, given that they set a new and broad foundation for subsequent philosophical thought. Over the last decade, however, discontent among instructors has grown with coursebooks' unwavering focus on the era's seven most well-known philosophers—all of them white and male—and on their exclusively metaphysical and epistemological concerns. While few dispute the centrality of these figures and the questions they raised, the modern era also included essential contributions from women—like Margaret Cavendish, Elisabeth of Bohemia, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Émilie Du Châtelet—as well as important non-white thinkers, such as Anton Wilhelm Amo, Julien Raimond, and Ottobah Cugoano. At the same time, there has been increasing recognition that moral and political philosophy, philosophy of the natural world, and philosophy of race—also vibrant areas of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—need to be better integrated with the standard coverage of metaphysics and epistemology.

A New Modern Philosophy: The Inclusive Anthology of Primary Sources addresses—in one volume—these valid criticisms. Weaving together multiple voices and all of the era's vibrant areas of debate, this volume sets a new agenda for studying modern philosophy. It includes a wide range of readings from 34 thinkers, integrating essential works from all of the canonical writers along with the previously neglected philosophers. Arranged chronologically, editors Eugene Marshall and Susanne Sreedhar provide an introduction for each author that sets the thinker in his or her time period as well as in the longer debates to which the thinker contributed. Study questions and suggestions for further reading conclude each chapter. At the end of the volume, in addition to a comprehensive subject index, the book includes 13 Syllabus Modules, which will help instructors use the book to easily set up different topically structured courses, such as "The Citizen and the State, " "Mind and Matter, " "Education, " "Theories of Perception, " or "Metaphysics of Causation."

And an eresource offers a wide range of supplemental online resources, including essay assignments, exams, quizzes, student handouts, reading questions, and scholarly articles on teaching the history of philosophy.

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1 Michel de Montaigne

Author Introduction

Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592) was a French nobleman who is most famous for popularizing the essay format of writing. At his father’s direction, young Michel received a rigorous classical education, which is apparent from the many quotations from ancient authors that appear in his essays. He wrote his most famous works in three volumes of Essays between 1580 and 1595, though this final volume was written and published with assistance from his adopted daughter Marie de Gournay, a philosopher in her own right. In addition to writing essays, he was also elected Mayor of Bordeaux.
His essays discuss a variety of topics, though they are attempts to address the human condition with total honesty. The essay included here, “Apology for Raymond Sebond,” presents Montaigne’s skepticism. Here, Montaigne takes what might be seen as two distinct skeptical positions. In some of the text, he argues polemically against any chance of knowledge, whereas elsewhere he suggests instead that we can never be certain and therefore must balance competing opinions. After all, he concludes, “What do I know?” The skepticism(s) we find here will be relevant to Descartes’s later use of skepticism as a method, as well as the knowledge claims of other thinkers in this volume.

Apology for Raymond Sebond

This discourse has put me upon the consideration of the senses, in which lies the greatest foundation and proof of our ignorance. Whatsoever is known, is doubtless known by the faculty of the knower; for, seeing the judgment proceeds from the operation of him that judges, ’tis reason that this operation be performed by his means and will, not by the constraint of another; as it would happen if we knew things by the power, and according to the law of their essence. Now all knowledge is conveyed to us by the senses; they are our masters:
“It is the surest path that faith can find
By which to enter human heart and mind.”
Science begins by them, and is resolved into them. After all, we should know no more than a stone if we did not know there is sound, odor, light, taste, measure, weight, softness, hardness, sharpness, color, smoothness, breadth, and depth; these are the platforms and principles of the structure of all our knowledge; and, according to some, science is nothing else but sense. He that could make me contradict the senses, would have me by the throat; he could not make me go further back. The senses are the beginning and the end of human knowledge:
“Of truth, whate’er discoveries are made,
Are by the senses to us first conveyed;
Nor will one sense be baffled; for on what
Can we rely more safely than on that?”
Let us attribute to them the least we can; we must, however, of necessity grant them this, that it is by their means and mediation that all our instruction is directed … There can be nothing absurd to a greater degree than to maintain that fire does not warm, that light does not shine, and that there is no weight nor solidity in iron, which are things conveyed to us by the senses; neither is there belief nor knowledge in man that can be compared to that for certainty.
The first consideration I have upon the subject of the senses is that I make a doubt whether or not man be furnished with all natural senses. I see several animals who live an entire and perfect life, some without sight, others without hearing; who knows whether to us also one, two, three, or many other senses may not be wanting? For if any one be wanting, our examination cannot discover the defect. ’Tis the privilege of the senses to be the utmost limit of our discovery; there is nothing beyond them that can assist us in exploration, not so much as one sense in the discovery of another:
“Can ears the eyes, the touch the ears, correct?
Or is that touch by tasting to be check’d?
Or th’ other senses, shall the nose or eyes
Confute in their peculiar faculties?”
They all make the extremest limits of our ability:
“Each has its power distinctly and alone,
And every sense’s power is its own.”
It is impossible to make a man naturally blind conceive that he does not see; impossible to make him desire sight, or to regret his defect; for which reason we ought not to derive any assurance from the soul’s being contented and satisfied with those we have; considering that it cannot be sensible herein of its infirmity and imperfection, if there be any such thing. It is impossible to say any thing to this blind man, either by reasoning, argument, or similitude, that can possess his imagination with any apprehension of light, color, or sight; there’s nothing remains behind that can push on the senses to evidence. Those that are born blind, whom we hear wish they could see, it is not that they understand what they desire; they have learned from us that they want something; that there is something to be desired that we have, which they can name indeed and speak of its effect and consequences; but yet they know not what it is, nor apprehend it at all.
I have seen a gentleman of a good family who was born blind, or at least blind from such an age that he knows not what sight is; who is so little sensible of his defect that he makes use as we do of words proper for seeing, and applies them after a manner wholly particular and his own. They brought him a child to which he was godfather, which, having taken into his arms, “Good God,” said he, “what a fine child! How beautiful to look upon! what a pretty face it has!” He will say, like one of us, “This room has a very fine prospect;—it is clear weather;—the sun shines bright.” And moreover, being that hunting, tennis, and shooting are our exercises, and he has heard so, he has taken a liking to them, will ride a-hunting, and believes he has as good share of the sport as we have; and will express himself as angry or pleased as the best of us all, and yet knows nothing of it but by the ear. One cries out to him, “Here’s a hare!” when he is upon some even plain where he may safely ride; and afterwards, when they tell him, “The hare is killed,” he will be as overjoyed and proud of it as he hears others say they are. He will take a tennis-ball in his left hand and strike it away with the racket; he will shoot with a harquebuss at random, and is contented with what his people tell him, that he is over, or wide.
Who knows whether all human kind commit not the like absurdity, for want of some sense, and that through this default the greatest part of the face of things is concealed from us? What do we know but that the difficulties which we find in several works of nature proceed hence; and that several effects of animals, which exceed our capacity, are not produced by faculty of some sense that we are defective in? and whether some of them have not by this means a life more full and entire than ours? We seize an apple with all our senses; we there find redness, smoothness, odor and sweetness; but it may have other virtues besides these, as to heat or binding, which no sense of ours can have any reference unto. Is it not likely that there are sensitive faculties in nature that are fit to judge of and to discern those which we call the occult properties in several things, as for the loadstone to attract iron; and that the want of such faculties is the cause that we are ignorant of the true essence of such things? ’Tis perhaps some particular sense that gives roosters to understand what hour it is at midnight, and when it grows to be towards day, and that makes them crow accordingly; that teaches chickens, before they have any experience of the matter, to fear a sparrow-hawk, and not a goose or a peacock, though birds of a much larger size; that cautions them against the hostile quality the cat has against them, and makes them not to fear a dog; to arm themselves against the mewing, a kind of flattering voice, of the one, and not against the barking, a shrill and threatening voice, of the other; that teaches wasps, ants, and rats, to fall upon the best pear and the best cheese before they have tasted them, and inspires the stag, elephant, and serpent, with the knowledge of a certain herb proper for their cure. There is no sense that has not a mighty dominion, and that does not by its power introduce an infinite number of knowledges. If we were defective in the intelligence of sounds, of harmony, and of the voice, it would cause an unimaginable confusion in all the rest of our science; for, besides what belongs to the proper effect of every sense, how many arguments, consequences, and conclusions do we draw to other things, by comparing one sense with another? Let an understanding man imagine human nature originally produced without the sense of seeing, and consider what ignorance and trouble such a defect would bring upon him, what a darkness and blindness in the soul; he will then see by that of how great importance to the knowledge of truth the privation of such another sense, or of two or three, should we be so deprived, would be. We have formed a truth by the consultation and concurrence of our five senses; but perhaps we should have the consent and contribution of eight or ten to make a certain discovery of it in its essence.
The sects that controvert the knowledge of man do it principally by the uncertainty and weakness of our senses; for since all knowledge is by their means and mediation conveyed unto us, if they fail in their report, if they corrupt or alter what they bring us from without, if the light which by them creeps into the soul be obscured in the passage, we have nothing else to hold by. From this extreme difficulty all these fancies proceed: “That every subject has in itself all we there find. That it has nothing in it of what we think we there find”; and that of the Epicureans, “That the sun is no bigger than ’tis judged by our sight to be:”
“But be it what it will in our esteems,
It is no bigger than to us it seems”:
that the appearances which represent a body great to him that is near, and less to him that is more remote, are both true:
“Yet that the eye’s deluded we deny;
Charge not the mind’s faults, therefore, on the eye”:
“and, resolutely, that there is no deceit in the senses; that we are to lie at their mercy, and seek elsewhere reasons to excuse the difference and contradictions we there find, even to the inventing of lies and other flams, if it come to that, rather than accuse the senses.” Timagoras vowed that, by pressing or turning his eye, he could never perceive the light of the candle to double, and that the seeming so proceeded from the vice of opinion, and not from the instrument. The most absurd of all absurdities, with the Epicureans, is to deny the force and effect of the senses:
“That what we see exists I will maintain,
And if our feeble reason can’t explain
Why things seem square when they are very near,
And at a greater distance round appear;
’Tis better yet, for him that’s at a pause,
To assign to either figure a false cause,
Than shock his faith, and the foundations rend
On which our safety and our life depend:
For reason not alone, but life and all,
Together will with sudden ruin fall;
Unless we trust our senses, nor despise
To shun the various dangers that arise.”
This so desperate and unphilosophical advice expresses only this,—that human knowledge cannot support itself but by reason unreasonable, foolish, and mad; but that it is yet better that man, to set a greater value upon himself, make use of any other remedy, how fantastic soever, than to confess his necessary ignorance—a truth so disadvantageous to him. He cannot avoid owning that the senses are the sovereign lords of his knowledge; but they are uncertain, and falsifiable in all circumstances; ’tis there that he is to fight it out to the last; and if his just forces fail him, as they do, to supply that defect with obstinacy, temerity, and impudence. In case what the Epicureans say be true, viz: “that we have no knowledge if the senses’ appearances be false”; and if that also be true which the Stoics say, “that the appearances of the senses are so false that they can furnish us with no manner of knowledge,” we shall conclude, to the disadvantage of these two great dogmatical sects, that there is no science at all.
As to the error and uncertainty of the operation of the senses, every one may furnish himself with as many examples as he pleases; so ordinary are the faults and tricks they put upon us …
I set aside the sense of feeling, that has its functions nearer, more lively, and substantial, that so often, by the effects of the pains it helps the body to, subverts and overthrows all those fine Stoical resolutions, and compels him to cry out of his belly, who has resolutely established this doctrine in his soul—“That the colic, and all other pains and diseases, are indifferent things, not having the power to abate any thing of the sovereign felicity wherein the wise man is seated by his virtue.” There is no heart so effeminate that the rattle and sound of our drums and trumpets will not inflame with courage; nor so sullen that the harmony of our music will not rouse and cheer; nor so stubborn a soul that will not feel itself struck with some reverence in considering the gloomy vastness of our churches, the variety of ornaments, and order of our ceremonies; and in hearing the solemn music of our organs, and the grace and devout harmony of our voices. Even those that come in with contempt feel a certain shivering in their hearts, and something of dread that makes them begin to doubt their opinions. For my part I do not think myself strong enough to hear an ode of Horace or Catullus sung by a beautiful young mouth without emotion; and Zeno had reason to say “that the voice was the flower of beauty.” One would once make me believe that a certain person, whom all we Frenchmen know, had imposed upon me in repeating some verses that he had made; that they were not the same upon paper that they were in the air; and that my eyes would make a contrary judgment to my ears; so great a power has pronunciation to give fashion and value to works that are left to the efficacy and modulation of the voice. And therefore Philoxenus was not so much to blame, hearing one giving an ill accent to some composition of his, in spurning and breaking certain earthen vessels of his, saying, “I break what is thine, because thou corruptest what is mine.” …
Put a philosopher into a cage of small thin set bars of iron, hang him on the top of the high tower of Notre Dame at Paris; he will see, by manifest reason, that he cannot possibly fall, and yet he will find (unless he has been used to the plumber’s trade) that he cannot help but the sight of the excessive height will fright and astound him; for we have enough to do to assure ourselves in the galleries of our steeples, if they are made with open work, although they are of stone; and some there are that cannot endure so much as to think of it. Let there be a beam thrown over betwixt these two towers, of breadth sufficient to walk upon, there is no philosophical wisdom so firm that can give us the courage to walk over it as we should do upon the ground. I have often tried this upon our mountains in these parts; and though I am one who am not the most subject to be afraid, I was not able to endure to look into that infinite depth without horror and trembling, though I stood above my length from the edge of the precipice, and could not have fallen unless I would. Where I also observed that, what height soever the precipice was, provided there were some tree, or some jutting out of a rock, a little to support and divide the sight, it a little eases our fears, and gives greater assurance; as if they were things by which in falling we might have some relief; but that direct precipices we are not to look upon without being giddy: “‘To that one cannot look without dizziness’”; which is a manifest imposture of the sight. And therefore it was that that fine philosopher put out his own eyes, to free the soul from being diverted by them, and that he might philosophize at greater liberty; but, by the same rule, he should have dammed up his ears, that Theoph...