Fall 2009 Papers

Here are the links to the papers (with brief summaries) that I wrote this semester.

1: "Omne Quod Movetur, Ab Alio Movetur: An Exposition of St. Thomas Aquinas's Demonstrations for the Beginning of a Rational Ascent to God From Motion."

The cosmological proofs from motion all depend upon the "motor causality principle," namely, every thing in motion is moved by another. I provide here an exposition of St. Thomas's demonstrations of this principle from the ratio of the physical continuum (from Physics VII.1) and from act and potency (Physics VIII.5, SCG I.13). These demonstrations are shown to provide sufficient grounds to answer certain objections and clarify the science they belong to.

2: "Why Is the Angle In A Semicircle a Right Angle? An Examination of the Aristotelian Logic of the Middle Term."

Aristotle argues (Prior Analytics I.23) that all arguments either proceed through syllogism or can be reduced to syllogism. A fortiori this applies to scientific demonstration, and praecipue (it would seem) to mathematics. I examine two approaches to understanding Aristotle's use of the semicircle right-angle theorem, and argue for the proper demonstrative structure for this demonstration.

3: "Follow What Is Common To All: Hobbes, Civil Science, and a Common Wealth of Public Words."

This paper presents a critical review of the core of Phillip Pettit's Made With Words, an examination of Hobbesian civil science. I first present the Hobbesian model of the idealized civil state (i.e. that under Leviathan) and then critique its foundations as interpreted by Pettit. Hobbes's understanding of the public use of language and speech is built upon a circular argument. This relates ultimately to the way in which the rational mind is present in the world, and the world is present to it.

4: "The Passion of a Generous Promethean: Cartesian Monastic Ethics and the Mastery of Nature."

In this paper I examine a fundamental tension between the scientific (Baconian/Promethean) project of the mastery of nature and a stoic ethical view in Descartes' philosophy. The former advocates eliminating restrictions in the natural order, the latter advocates accepting them within a broader program of attaining psychological tranquility. This tension is first found in Discourse on Method, and further articulated in The Passions of the Soul. After examining a proposed solution to this dilemma, I argue that the tension is ultimately unresolvable, and that Cartesian ethics can instead only provide an account for a monadic kind of happiness.


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