Debates in Modern Philosophy: Essential Readings and Contemporary Responses, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Debates in Modern Philosophy

Essential Readings and Contemporary Responses, 1st Edition

Edited by Stewart Duncan, Antonia LoLordo


390 pages

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Paperback: 9780415887984
pub: 2012-12-20
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Debates in Modern Philosophy: Essential Readings and Contemporary Responses provides an in-depth, engaging introduction to important issues in modern philosophy. It presents 13 key interpretive debates to students, and ranges in coverage from Descartes' Meditations to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.

Debates include:

  • Did Descartes have a developed and consistent view about how the mind interacts with the body?
  • Was Leibniz an idealist, or did he believe in corporeal substances?
  • What is Locke's theory of personal identity?
  • Could there be a Berkeleian metaphysics without God?
  • Did Hume believe in causal powers?
  • What is Kant's transcendental idealism?

Each of the thirteen debates consists of a well known article or book chapter from a living philosopher, followed by a new response from a different scholar, specially commissioned for this volume. Every debate is prefaced by an introduction written for those coming upon the debates for the first time and followed by an annotated list for further reading. The volume starts with an introduction that explains the importance and relevance of the modern period and its key debates to philosophy and ends with a glossary that covers terms from both the modern period and the study of the history of philosophy in general.

Debates in Modern Philosophy will help students evaluate different interpretations of key texts from modern philosophy, and provide a model for constructing their own positions in these debates.


Debates in Modern Philosophy is a clear and accessible volume that engages the core issues in modern philosophy, from Descartes to Kant. Using a novel format, the editors have fashioned a fascinating conversation between scholars by commissioning new papers in response to classic essays on key topics such as Dualism, Personal Identity, Causation, Mechanism and Idealism. This format provides a model of philosophical debate and interpretation in the history of philosophy, and will prove indispensable both to students and scholars currently working in the field.

-Lisa Shabel, Ohio State University

This is a superbly conceived and realized introduction to Modern Philosophy. The debates are sophisticated enough to be useful to advanced students, while the editors' clear introductions also make Debates in Modern Philosophy suitable for introductory courses.

-Alan Nelson, University of North Carolina

There have now been three generations of analytical philosophers who have studied the early modern period from Descartes to Kant. This collection spans all three, exhibiting the excellence of scholarship and philosophy found in this tradition. It also illustrates some of the changes in position, and in approach, that have occurred in the analytical tradition. We also see in this collection how the analytical study of modern philosophy has come to recognize that analytical philosophy itself, earlier in its history, tended to overestimate the extent to which it had made progress over the philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. There is a lot to be learned from reading this book both about the philosophy of the early modern period and the philosophy of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

-Allen Wood, Stanford University

Debates in Modern Philosophy is an extremely useful collection. The exchanges here are accessible and provocative, and show just how philosophically productive debate over the interpretation of historical texts can be. The model of one commentator directly engaging the interpretation of another works well, giving students concrete illustrations of reasoned interpretive disagreement and a sense of what is at stake in the construction and assessment of rival readings of historical texts. The topics are well chosen, providing both a representative sample of key issues in modern epistemology and metaphysics, and a range of texts that are ripe for further analysis and debate in the classroom.

-Tom Holden, University of California Santa Barbara

Table of Contents

Part I The Cartesian Circle 1. Descartes on the Consistency of Reason Harry G. Frankfurt 2. Frankfurt and the Cartesian Circle Lex Newman Part II Descartes on Mind-Body Interaction 3. Understanding Interaction: What Descartes Should Have Told Elisabeth David Garber 4. Understanding Interaction Revisited Deborah Brown Part III Making Sense of Spinoza’s Ethics 5. Excerpts from Spinoza Michael Della Rocca 6. The Sirens of Elea: Rationalism, Monism and Idealism in Spinoza Yithak Melamed Part IV The Appeal of Occasionalism 7. Causation, Intentionality, and the Case for Occasionalism8. Malebranche on Necessary Connections, Omniscience, and Omnipotence Sukjae Lee Part V Did Leibniz Believe in Corporeal Substances? 9.Why Corporeal Substances Keep Popping Up in Leibniz’s Later Philosophy Glenn A. Hartz 10. Idealism and Corporeal Substance in Leibniz’s Metaphysics Brandon Look Part VI The Role of Mechanism in Lock’s Essay 11. Lockean Mechanism Edwin McCann 12. Mechanism and Essentialism in Locke’s Thought Lisa Downing Part VII Locke on Personal Identity 13. Locke on People and Substances William P. Alston and Jonathan Bennett 14. Revisiting People and Substances Matthew Stuart Part VIII Idealism Without God 15. Berkeley Without God Margaret Atherton 16. Response to Atherton: No Atheism Without Skepticism Tom Stoneham Part IX Hume on Causation 17. David Hume: Objects and Power Galen Strawson 18. Reply to Strawson: ‘David Hume: Objects and Power’ Helen Beebee Part X Hume on Miracles 19. Bayes, Hume, Price, and Miracles John Earman 20. Earman on Hume on Miracles Peter Millican Part XI Defending the Synthetic A Priori 21. Necessity, Analyticity, and the A Priori James Van Cleve 22. Pure Intuition and Kant’s Synthetic A Priori Emily Carson Part XII What Is Transcendental Idealism? 23. Excerpts from Kantian Humility Rae Langton 24. Langton, Kant, and Things in Themselves Lucy Allais Part XIII 25. Does History Have a Future? Some Reflections on Bennett and Doing Philosophy Historically Daniel Garber 26. Philosophy and Its History Martin Lin

About the Editors

Stewart Duncan is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Florida.

Antonia LoLordo is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Virginia.

About the Series

Key Debates in the History of Philosophy

New students to the history of philosophy face a serious risk when first encountering the classic texts of the canon.  They often may equate a summary of an important philosopher as the final word on that thinker.  Lost in the introductions and primers to the great philosophers are the complexities and range of competing interpretations that result from close readings of the primary texts.  Unlike any other undergraduate introduction in this field, Key Debates in the History of Philosophy are designed to lead students back to the classic works so that they may better understand what's at stake in these competing viewpoints.

Each volume in the series contains 10 to 15 interpretive issues, or sections, with two chapters included in each section.  The first chapter is a re-printed well known journal article or book chapter.  The second chapter either takes to task or build upon the argument in the first article and is written by a different scholar especially for the volume.  The result is a new kind of introduction–one that enables students to understand philosophy's history as a still-living debate, rather than a string of unearthed truths from the past.  A volume introduction and an introduction to each section enable the student to enter the debates more fully informed.  The section introductions will explain how the interpretive problem arises and why it matters and provide a short range of possible solutions.  They also will offer information on important political and social contexts, explain any technical terms, and unpack references to larger arguments.  An annotated Suggested Reading List at the end of each section will point the new student to additional scholarship on each debate.  Each volume concludes with a glossary of terms germane to both the period and the history of philosophy in general.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHILOSOPHY / History & Surveys / Modern