This book presents and analyses the most important parts of the philosophical works of
Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Volume 1: the shift from
Aristotelian to Cartesian physics; Descartes on matter and space, on causation, and on
certainty; Descartes and Spinoza on matter and mind, and on desire; Leibniz's
metaphysics (monads) and physics, his theory of animals. Volume 2: Locke on ideas, on
necessity, on essences, on substance, on secondary qualities, on personal identity;
Descartes on modality; Berkeley's epistemology and metaphysics; Hume on ideas, on
belief, on causation, on bodies, on reason; Hume and Leibniz on personal identity.
This half of my two-volume work is devoted mainly to themes in the works of Descartes,
Spinoza, and Leibniz. The second volume is primarily addressed to Locke, Berkeley, and
Hume, though Leibniz will come in a good deal in his role as a commentator on Locke
and (in Chapters 23 and 40) in other ways as well. Chapter 24 will be wholly devoted to a
theory of Descartes's which I prefer to expound only after presenting related work by
Locke and Leibniz.
Chapters 6\u201311 overlap my Study of Spinoza's Ethics (Hackett, 1984), especially on
themes treated in Parts 1 and 2 of theEthics. But the work is deepened, sharpened, and
clarified; I also do more than I did in the earlier book to relate Spinoza's work to the
thought of Descartes before him and Leibniz after.
I respond to some criticisms of my earlier work, where it seems profitable to do so. But
my main concern is to present what I now have to say in as clear and uncluttered a
manner as possible.
Each volume contains the Contents and Abbreviations for the entire work. The
Bibliography and Indexes have been divided, with each volume containing only what is
relevant to it. Each Index of Topics includes references to the \u2018six philosophers\u2019; all other
personal references are in the Index of Persons. In the Bibliography for this volume I do
not list works by Leibniz to which I refer only briefly and infrequently.
A comprehensive treatment of my six philosophers, even on the topics within their work
which I discuss, could not be achieved by one person or presented in a mere forty
chapters. I have chosen topics which I find interesting and nourishing to wrestle with. A
reader who stays with me will at the end have some sense of the overall shape of each of
the six, though providing this has not been my chief aim.
The title Learning from Six Philosophers declares my attitude in this work: I want to
learn from these men, which I do by arguing with them. Whether this is worthwhile is the
topic of the Introduction.
Where I can, I refer to French and Latin texts through inexpensive English translations,
because I want the work to be useful to students with small libraries. I often modify the
translations a little, without notice. For Leibniz translations, I refer in the text to Francks
and Woolhouse, failing which the less accurate Ariew and Garber, failing which the more
expensive Loemker, failing which the less widely available Morris and Parkinson.
This work arises out of teaching across forty years at several universities\u2014Cambridge,
Cornell, Michigan, Princeton, British Columbia, Syracuse. My intellectual debts to
colleagues and students at those institutions are too numerous, and not clearly enough
remembered, for me to acknowledge them in detail; but I place on record my gratitude for
the doctoral programme at Syracuse University and for my eighteen happy years of
contact with its students and faculty.
Further opportunities to interact with able and dedicated philosophers were provided by
two Summer Seminars for College Teachers which I conducted in Syracuse in 1995 and
1996. These did much to push along my thinking about Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz.
I was also helped by sabbatical leaves in which I was supported by Syracuse University
and (in two) by the National Endowment for the Humanities and (in a third) by the John
Simon Guggenheim Foundation. To all three organizations I am grateful.
At a late stage in its life, the entire manuscript was read for Oxford University Press by
Don Garrett, who provided several dozen comments and suggestions for its improvement.
I have availed myself of many of these, and thank Garrett for the generosity and
thoughtfulness of his help.
Readers who have comments, suggestions, or corrections to offer are invited to send them
to me at email@example.com.
The symbol \u2018\u00a7\u2019 refers only to sections of this book. Unadorned occurrences of the form
\u2018\u00a7n\u2019 mean \u2018[Some aspect of] this was discussed in \u00a7n above\u2019 or \u2018 . . . will be more fully
discussed in \u00a7n below\u2019.
An asterisk after a reference to a translation means that the translation contains a
significant error which I have corrected in quoting.
All references are by page number unless otherwise indicated here.
In quotations from Descartes, material in <angle brackets> is not in the original, and
comes from a later translation which Descartes is thought to have approved.
Individual works by the \u2018six philosophers\u2019 that are listed here are characterized more
fully in the Bibliography.
similarly \u2018Dia 2\u2019 and \u2018Dia 3\u2019; reference by page in LJ 3.
DM Leibniz, Discourse on Metaphysics (1686a); reference by section.
DP Spinoza, Parts I and II of Descartes's \u2018Principles of Philosophy\u2019 (1663).
Ethics Spinoza, Ethics Demonstrated in Geometrical Order (1675?); reference by part and axiom (a), definition (d), proposition (p), corollary (c), demonstration (d), and scholium (s) (thus 1d4 is the fourth definition in part 1, and \u20182p13,d' refers to part 2's 13th proposition and its demonstration), or by page in CS.
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