Journal of Early Modern Studies, Volume 10, issue 1 (Spring 2021)



Journal of Early Modern Studies, Volume 10, issue 1 (Spring 2021)

ISSN: 2285-6382 (paperback) / ISSN: 2286-0290 (electronic)



Patrick BRISSEY, Reasons for the Method in Descartes’ Discours
Abstract: In the practical philosophy of the Discours de la Méthode, before the theoretical metaphysics of Part Four and the Meditationes, Descartes gives us an inductive argument that his method, the procedure and cognitive psychology, is veracious at its inception. His evidence, akin to his Scholastic predecessors, is God, a maximally perfect being, established an ontological foundation for knowledge such that reason and nature are isomorphic. Further, the method, he tells us, is a functional definition of human reason; that is, like other rationalists during this period, he holds the structure of reason maps onto the world. The evidence for this thesis is given in what I call the groundwork to Descartes’ philosophical system, essentially the first half of the Discours, where, through a series of examples in the preamble of Part Two, he, step-by-step, ascends from the perfection of artefacts through the imposition of reason (the Architect Example) to the perfection of a constituent’s use of her cognitive faculties (the Wise-Lawgiver Example), to God perfecting and ordering reality (the Divine Artificer Example). Finally, he descends, establishing the structure of human reason, which undergirds and entails the procedure of the method (the Laws of Sparta Example).

Hanoch BEN-YAMI, Word, Sign and Representation in Descartes
Abstract: In the first chapter of his The World, Descartes compares light to words and discusses signs and ideas. This made scholars read into that passage our views of language as a representational medium and consider it Descartes’ model for representation in perception. I show, by contrast, that Descartes does not ascribe there any representational role to language; that to be a sign is for him to have a kind of causal role; and that he is concerned there only with the cause’s lack of resemblance to its effect, not with the representation’s lack of resemblance to what it represents. I support this interpretation by comparisons with other places in Descartes’ corpus and with earlier authors, Descartes’ likely sources. This interpretation may shed light both on Descartes’ understanding of the functioning of language and on the development of his theory of representation in perception.

Osvaldo OTTAVIANI, The Young Leibniz and the Ontological Argument: from Rejection to Reconsideration
Abstract: Leibniz considered the Cartesian version of the ontological argument not as an inconsistent proof but only as an incomplete one: it requires a preliminary proof of possibility to show that the concept of ‘the most perfect being’ involves no contradiction. Leibniz raised this objection to Descartes’s proof already in 1676, then repeated it throughout his entire life. Before 1676, however, he suggested a more substantial objection to the Cartesian argument. I take into account a text written around 1671-72, in which Leibniz considers the Cartesian proof as a paralogism and a petition of principle. I argue that this criticism is modelled on Gassendi’s objections to the Cartesian proof, and that Leibniz’s early rejection of the ontological argument has to be understood in the general context of his early philosophy, which was inspired by nominalist authors, such as Hobbes and Gassendi. Then, I take into account the reconsideration of the ontological argument in a series of texts of 1678, showing how Leibniz implicitly replies to the kind of criticism to the argument he himself shared in his earlier works.

Joseph ANDERSON, The ‘Necessity’ of Leibniz’ Rejection of Necessitarianism
Abstract: In the Theodicy, Leibniz defends the justice of God from two impious conceptions of God—a God who makes arbitrary choices and a God who doesn’t make choices at all. Many interpret Leibniz as navigating these dangers by positing a kind of non-Spinozistic necessitarianism. I examine passages from the Theodicy which reject not only blind (Spinozistic) necessitarianism but necessitarianism altogether. Leibniz thinks blind necessitarianism is dangerous due to the conception of God it entails and the implications for morality. Non-Spinozistic necessitarianism avoids many of these criticisms. Leibniz finds that even necessary actions should receive certain rewards and punishments as long as they necessarily lead to a change in future behaviour. But Leibniz rejects even non-Spinozistic necessitarianism on the grounds that it is inconsistent with punitive justice. Whether Leibniz successfully avoids necessitarianism, it ought to be clear that he sees his own position as significantly distinct from necessitarianism and not just Spinozism.


Dana JALOBEANU, Big Books, Small Books, Readers, Riddles and Contexts: The Story of English Mythography [Anna-Maria Hartmann, English Mythography and its European Context. 1500-1650, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, x + 283 pp.]


Andrea SANGIACOMO, Raluca TANASESCU, Silvia DONKER, Hugo HOGENBIRK: Expanding the Corpus of Early Modern Natural Philosophy: Initial results and a review of available sources


Ruth Boeker, Locke on Persons and Personal Identity, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021.

Stefano Marino and Pietro Terzi (eds.), Kant’s ‘Critique of Aesthetic Judgment’ in the 20th Century: A Companion to its Main Interpretations, Berlin: De Gruyter, 2021.

Doina RUSU
Jennifer M. Rampling, The Experimental Fire. Inventing English Alchemy 1300-1700, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2020.

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