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Current Issue Article Abstracts

July 2017  Vol. 78.3

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"Scholasticism Is a Daughter of Judaism": The Discovery of Jewish Influence on Medieval Christian Thought

George Y. Kohler

This article retells the surprising discovery of a considerable Jewish influence on Christian scholasticism in the Middle Ages. While most students of Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas knew that both had read Jewish philosophy, only the rediscovery of especially Maimonides's Guide of the Perplexed by Jewish philosophers in the nineteenth century showed the whole extent of the scholastics' dependence on Jewish predecessors – especially where they do not refer to them specifically. This Jewish discovery naturally faced Catholic resistance, if not denial, and turns thus into an interesting chapter in the history of theological ideas.

Francis Bacon's Valerius Terminus and the Voyage to the "Great Instauration"

Richard Serjeantson

Francis Bacon's earliest surviving natural philosophical treatise (composed circa 1603) bears the title Valerius Terminus of the Interpretation of Nature. This study, resting on fresh attention to the surviving authorial manuscript, has three goals. It begins by identifying a lost precursor work apparently entitled "Of Active Knowledge." It then examines the significance of the pseudonyms Bacon chose to introduce his ideas, considering especially his invocation of Erasmus's emblem, the Roman deity Terminus. Finally, it shows how the Valerius Terminus's global vision of contemporary knowledge ultimately helped shape the iconography of Bacon's published Instauratio magna.

The Picture Multiple: Figuring, Thinking, and Knowing in Descartes's Essais (1637)

Melissa Lo

Throughout his Essais (1637), Descartes appropriated the visual language of practical mathematics in order to forge a new natural philosophy. This article argues that by grafting geometric line onto descriptive figure, the philosopher and his illustrator, Frans van Schooten Jr., underscored doubts about a natural philosophy based on qualities, all the while situating his new epistemology in the 17th-century present and exercising a deep attention to the differences between nature seen, nature pictured, and nature understood.

Deformities of Nature: Sleepwalking and Non-Conscious States of Mind in Late Eighteenth-Century Britain

Sasha Handley

This article examines the didactic appropriation of sleepwalking reports in late eighteenth-century Britain in pedagogical treatises, conduct books, and children's literature. It examines how and why reports of sleepwalkers were used to edify young minds and in so doing traces a critical shift in understandings of sleepwalkers, which were transformed from preternatural wonders to deformities of nature that exemplified the dangerous consequences of irrational, unregulated bodies and minds. This new role was predicated on new medical and philosophical understandings of sleepwalking and on the prioritisation of developmental psychology by pedagogues and philosophers.

The Greatest Metaphor Ever Mixed: Gold in the British Bible, 1750–1850

Timothy Alborn

Given the frequency of negative references to gold in British allusions to filthy lucre, it emerges as an historical puzzle that Britons resorted to biblical metaphors of gold so often in describing heaven and their aspiration to be purified in God's crucible. This article provides evidence for the prominence of these two metaphors in British religious and secular discourse between 1750 and 1850, and argues that Britons tried to resolve the resulting tensions by celebrating their uniquely abstract valuation of gold, in contrast to less "civilized" connotations of gold in Catholic and non-Christian cultures.

The Metaphysics of Morris R. Cohen: From Realism to Objective Relativism

Lawrence Cahoone

Morris Cohen is mainly remembered as a philosopher of history and law, a friend of jurists (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Felix Frankfurter), and a teacher of more prominent philosophers (e.g., Ernest Nagel, Paul Weiss, Morton White). But his unique position as a student of the work of Russell and Peirce led him to make a distinctive contribution to the debate over realism in in the 1910s. Largely ignored and completely uncited, his early papers formulated what would later be called "objective relativism," influencing the later work of Columbia naturalism, hence American philosophy, from the 1940s to the 1960s.

The Philosophical Genealogy of Taylor's Social Imaginaries: A Complex History of Ideas and Predecessors

Guido M. Vanheeswijck

The deepest sources of Charles Taylor's use of the concept "social imaginaries" are often related to political philosophy or social anthropology (Anderson, Castoriadis). The purpose of this article is to show that they also form part of Taylor's struggle to overcome the epistemological construal in modern philosophy and culture. Taylor locates the concept "social imaginaries" in the Kantian tradition, identifying their role to that of transcendental schemes. However, there remains a central difference between Kant's transcendental schemes and Taylor's social imaginaries. To elucidate that difference, this article will track the philosophical genealogy of Taylor's concept of "social imaginaries" in three steps.