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Margaret Cavendish PHIL3210.docx

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Department
Philosophy
Course
PHIL 3210
Professor
Patricia Sheridan
Semester
Fall

Description
Margaret Cavendish – Descartes’s Physics and his theory of Perception Descrates Mechaism Sept 17 th Descartes’s prescription for happiness  A life ruled by reason o The control of the passions by the mind o The body can affect the mind but this is something we must act to avoid  Enlightenment ideal of mastery over nature o Recall: women equated with the corporeal, the physical “mother nature”  The thinking self can disengage from the physical self, can reflect purely abstractly o Its connected to the body but still distinct in a defining way o Self defined by distinctness from physical body Abstract thought vs Imagination  “being able to imagine…..by the mind or one perceived by the senses” Meditation VI, 28  I am the one who thinks by body is the one that imagines Soul: Dispassionate Observer  The soul when elevated contemplates body without being personally affected by it  Soul can be a dispassionate observer, the objective subject  “just as sad pitiful stories…. Things that befall them.” (May 18, 1645) Elizabeth’s Personal Experience  Political and personal issues  Plagued by health problems; suffered from constant physical complaints  For Descartes, dualism is something known by reason alone, not by experience in a physical body  Interesting: prescription again to rise above or out of the body for philosophical success  “Although… I don’t……of its own conscience.” Reasoning and the body Elizabeth, 1645  Can the soul be a detached observer?  Can dualism be correct?  “some diseases completely remove the power of reasoning…. Require quick decisions.” (June 1645) Elizabeth’s Demand  Single defining feature approach in adequate o Eg soul = thinking things Descartes telling response  There are two things we can know about the soul: o It thinks o It interacts with the body and suffers with it (13)  “I have said nearly nothing…. While the other would have been an impediment.” (13) A Contradiction of Selves  This creates a tension, as Elizabeth points out  A soul that is understood as completely separate  A soul with no illness, passions, distractions o Yet lived experience has all those things all the time  “Sometimes the interests…. Useless for anything else (16) Soul Ruled by the Body  It is very difficult to …. Yet is so ruled by it (17) Primitive Notion  “I consider that there are in us certain primitive notiions that are like originals on whose model (slide) Elizabeth: Maybe the soul is extended?  The sense may confirm this but they do not explain the phenomenon  “I too find that… manner in which she does it.”  We need to explain it, perhaps, with more accurate definitions  “I admit it would be… immaterial being” (16) Elizabeth’s Alternative Definition  “I think there are…. Inextention (21)”  “Although extension is not… less essential to her (21)”  Intuitive and non-philosophical  “your highness still has…. That happen to it.” (19) Descartes final answer: The pineal gland  “nevertheless there is a certain.. the movements of the gland”  non symmetrical part of the brain and beginning of the spinal colum Cavendish: a vitalistic response to Descartes – Sept 19 Margaret Cavendish Paper topics General introduction to Cavendish Cavendish vs. Descartes  Motion of bodies  Organicism vs. Mechanism Cavendish on Women’s Lot “We are shut out of all power… and through a despisement of us” (1655) very connected woman, her husband was rich and supportive so she was able to get to know many Mechanical view of the Universe Dualism  Mind or spirit – human reason as archetype  Matter – everything else Figure out physical laws can figure out how the world works Atomism  Everything in the world is made up of small tiny parts  All big thing actually function at a micro level World as machine  God is the divine watch maker Atomism --- Corpuscularianism Atomic theory of Nature  Everything made up of tiny particles  Things differ based of these particles and how they move relative to each other o Chair vs. Human, Simple vs. Complex Matter in motion  Things can only interact by contact  Things don’t move on there own, not even atoms, matter is DEAD Things don’t affect each other at a distance, no attraction or repulsion World a machine  All things are more or less complex arrangements of material parts Problems Mind-body interaction Action at a distance  Motion without impact World as dead matter, human exceptionalism  Only ones with souls and rational abilities Legacy? Dualistic picture evident in contemporary views of nature Reductionist physical/chemical accounts of nature  Life and consciousness a distinct phenomenon from the objects of physics and chemistry  Materialist science cannot explain consciousness and mind Panpsychism All material things have sense and reason  Self motion Physical things have something like knowledge or reason  They know how to interpret and react to other objects Organicism Everything in nature has an organic basis or explanation; everything in nature is part of an organic whole Cavendish was a materialist, denying that anything in nature has an immaterial soul (except humans) Insists on a rational soul, that is in some sense material, that inhabits all of the natural world (distinguishing the human soul) Cavendish’s Ontology Cavendish is a materialist World consists of two kinds of matter  Active sensitive (spiritual) matter o Rational, animate  Inactive gross matter  Everything in universe on a continuum of more or less gross material things Cavendish’s Science: September 24 th  Motion and animation  The failures of modern science  Mechanism as bias  The pansychic theory of motion
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