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Faculty of Philosophy Organization Departments Department of the History of Philosophy Groningen Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Thought
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Emanuele Severino (1929 – 2020)

Emanuele Severino: taking philosophy seriously

Date:24 January 2020
Author:Andrea Sangiacomo

‘Being’ is not being a nothing. ‘Being’ is the ‘force’ that pushes nothingness away. Since it is impossible for being to be nothing, ‘nothing’ is just the positive content of a contradiction (the content ‘nothing’ that wants to signify its own not being a positive...

Anne Conway

Some Thoughts on Teaching Early Modern Women

Date:18 December 2019
Author:Peter West

Just a couple of weeks ago I finished teaching a semester-long course called ‘Early Modern Women on Knowledge and Nature’ at University College Dublin. This is the first time I have run this course (though it won’t be the last) and I’ve come out the other side...

Vico, Scienza Nuova, Dipintura allegorica (detail)

Spoiler: Theory of silence

Date:06 December 2019
Author:Andrea Sangiacomo

I’m revising the manuscript of a book that should (hopefully) appear next spring (2020). The title is Theory of silence. Original experience and language starting from Giambattista Vico (my English rendering for the actual title: Teoria del silenzio. Esperienza...

Digital Methods for Corpus Expansion

Digital Methods for Corpus Expansion in Early Modern Philosophy Research

Date:18 September 2019
Author:Raluca Tanasescu; Andrea Sangiacomo; Silvia Donker; Hugo Hogenbirk

In September 2019 we presented a poster at the DH Benelux annual conference, organized at Université de Liège (Belgium), in which we reported on the initial corpus expansion stage and its attendant digitally-inflected methodologies of the ERC-funded research...

Maxime Rovere The Games of Philosophy

Spinozism as a game: Meta-readings of the Ethics

Date:02 September 2019
Author:Maxime Rovere

There are many ways to read Spinoza, actually many ways to practice philosophy. Some discuss the conceptual organization within Spinoza’s system, others study Spinoza’s sources, others can say a lot about the historical context. How do we conceive of the unity...


The knight move: two steps forward, one step away from Descartes

Date:08 March 2019
Author:Andrea Sangiacomo

In a previous post, I suggested that it may be helpful to look at Descartes’s Meditations as actual meditations. Over the past three weeks, I’ve been teaching the Meditations to first year students. I learned a lot from this experience. This post is an attempt...

From Dorian Gray (2009)

Cogito, sum objectum: Descartes in a Buddhist perspective

Date:01 February 2019
Author:Andrea Sangiacomo

Second Meditation. The meditator just reflected that even if there is an evil demon who deceives him or her, then s/he necessarily exists in order to be deceived. Well known argument. Just after this famous statement of the Cogito, Descartes writes:

Berkeley Plaque

The Impact of ‘Philosophical Prejudice’ (feat. Berkeley and Reid)

Date:07 December 2018
Author:Peter West

It’s worth noting from the outset that in what follows I am interested in philosophical prejudice – i.e. a commitment or set of commitments which is either unargued-for or unacknowledged (or both) – rather than any other kind of prejudice. In the context of...

Cavendish's signature Source:

Antagonising the canon

Date:16 November 2018
Author:Barnaby Hutchins

In turns out that Laura Georgescu (the editor of this blog) and I happen to be working on somewhat convergent papers. In my terms (Laura, sensibly, wouldn't put it as grandiosely as this), they're both about metametaphysical pluralism—the position that multiple...

Il Gattopardo, movie poster, wikipedia

Two hypotheses on the history of thought

Date:02 November 2018
Author:Andrea Sangiacomo

I’m about to start a five-year project on “The Normalisation of Natural Philosophy: How teaching practices shaped the evolution of early modern science” (see description here). The leading intuition of the project is the following:

Francisco de Goya, Los Caprichos 72, No te escaparas. Wikimedia commons

On being and not being the master of one’s own imagination

Date:28 September 2018
Author:Doina Cristina Rusu

In his entry from the Encyclopédie (1751–1766), Voltaire makes a puzzling statement: we ought to understand that “on n’est pas le maître de son imagination.” As Lorraine Daston observes, Voltaire is presenting a view that is typical for the Enlightenment: imagination...

Scribner's magazine (1887) (wikicommons)

Against confidence in opinions – with Glanvill

Date:11 September 2018
Author:Laura Georgescu

We’re obsessed with confidence. Glossy magazines and their online descendants,  along with social media, YouTube, and the vast self-help literature are all swimming in exhortations to be more confident, and advice as to how. There's plenty of academic research...

David Hume by Allan Ramsay (plus football)

Hume, Hobbes, and the World Cup

Date:13 July 2018
Author:Alexandra Chadwick

As a member of a Dutch university, perhaps I shouldn’t talk about the World Cup. But as a (casual) supporter of the English football team, I’ve been talking about it far more than I expected. England, of course, are out of the competition. Football is not coming...

Dina, @Cichero Valley, IT

Spinoza on Junk Society, Social Media and Status Quo

Date:29 June 2018
Author:Andrea Sangiacomo

Despite its name, junk food is good, tasty and appealing to many people [*]. Many people consciously decide to eat junk food simply because they just like it. Doctors say that junk food is unhealthy, and that a junk food diet is going to have bad consequences...

Figure CLXXXVIII in Le diverse et artificiose machine del Capitano Agostino Ramelli, an illustration of a bookwheel (1588)

Pay attention! Early moderns on our mind’s (in)ability to focus

Date:15 June 2018
Author:Pieter Present

It will soon be exactly ten years since Nicholas Carr wrote his much discussed article “Is Google Making us Stupid? What the Internet is doing to our brains”.* In it, Carr discusses the effects of extended internet use on his mind and that of his friends. A...

Moni Ayou Nikolaou Adam naming animals (wikicommons)

Spinoza’s Retelling of the Story of the First Human

Date:01 June 2018
Author:Li-Chih Lin

The story of the Fall could be seen as a basic motif for early modern thinkers, for the story crystallizes mankind’s moral and intellectual struggle. Let’s look at what Spinoza says about it in the Ethics:

Caravaggio, Narcissus

The analogy of nature

Date:18 May 2018
Author:Lukas Wolf

In 1776, James Boswell visited David Hume on his deathbed and asked him about his religious beliefs. Hume famously replied that he hadn’t entertained any belief in religion, ever since he began reading Locke and Clarke. This anecdote has become famous for showing...

From The Whole Blooming Family, George McManus, 1916

We have always been wrong: Thomas Browne on the inescapability of error

Date:04 May 2018
Author:Laura Georgescu

Man errs. And, indeed, man cannot not err… because man is, fundamentally and unavoidably, of a “deceptible condition”, which is the “common infirmity of human nature” and the “first and father cause of common error”. This is the warning that sir Thomas Browne...

Steps (Martin Lenz)

Socialising Minds – Intersubjectivity in the History of Philosophy*

Date:20 April 2018
Author:Martin Lenz

**Today, most of us find it commonsensical to think that our minds are tucked away in our bodies, hidden from others, while the skin provides a boundary of our precious selves. But this is not the only way to think about ourselves. What if thoughts and feelings...

Wihelm Janson and Antonio Tempest, Proserpina Turning Ascalaphus into an Owl (Public Domain)

Limiting Infinity. Anne Conway and the Direction of the Universe

Date:06 April 2018
Author:Doina-Cristina Rusu

Anne Conway rejected the existence of hell. A possible reason is theological: punishing finite sins with infinite suffering would be unjust and contradict the divine nature (see Hutton, SEP). But such an interpretation suggests that we have access to God’s...

Composite by Lukas Wolf

Spinoza for a #PlantPoweredCommunity

Date:23 March 2018
Author:Andrea Sangiacomo (Groningen)

Habits are a key component of our daily life. Our habits are all those actions that we perform so often and so regularly that we do them almost automatically and without thinking. Now, no habit was a habit in the beginning. But because habits are so interiorized...

Francesco de Goya, El sueño de la razón produce monstruos, Source: wiki commons

Descartes’s Provisional Skepticism, Morality, and Epistemic Bubbles

Date:09 March 2018
Author:Daniel Collette

In a time with unprecedented access to information, unraveling truth is sometimes overwhelming. When in an epistemic bubble, it is often easier to resign oneself either to that way of thinking, or to a sense of skepticism, than to experience the anxiety that...

From Kerckring's Spicilegium anatomicum

Antoine Le Grand on Human Bodily Identity over Time

Date:23 February 2018
Author:Han Thomas Adriaenssen

In the Principles, Descartes famously claimed that ‘the nature of matter, or body considered in general’ is to be ‘extended in length, breadth and depth’ (AT VIIA 42, CSM I 224). As the wording makes clear, what Descartes is offering here, is a general claim...

Cavendish, Reason and the thoughts (poem)

Cavendish contra contextualism

Date:09 February 2018
Author:Laura Georgescu

 "Wherefore I beseech my readers to be so charitable, and just, as not to bury my work in the monuments of other writers, but if they will bury them, let it be in their own dust, or oblivion, for I had rather be forgotten, then scrape acquaintance, or insinuate...

Photo by erin walker on Unsplash

Are Space and Time Just Relations? On Early Modern British Relationists

Date:26 January 2018

When you walk to the shops, or take a train to Amsterdam, you are moving through space. From second to second, you are ageing in time. Yet what are space and time? Today, there are two popular answers.

Automaton Ben Franklin Museum - Philadelphia (licensed by Creative Commons)

If a robot lied to us

Date:12 January 2018
Author:Oberto Marrama

In a passage in the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, Spinoza claims that, under certain circumstances, some individuals "must be regarded as automata, completely lacking a mind" (TIE, 48; Curley 1985, 22). Examples that employ soulless automata...

CC0 Creative commons

Bacon on the classification of natural processes

Date:15 December 2017
Author:Doina–Cristina Rusu

Within Aristotelian philosophy, imperfect mixtures occupy a singular place: they are the only bodies that do not have a substantial form of their own. This entails that bodies such as meteors and other meteorological bodies – which qualify as imperfect mixtures...

“Slime Molds” by Maia Valenzuela is licensed under CC BY 2.0; converted to greyscale.

(Enlightenment) vitalism and mainstream science

Date:01 December 2017
Author:Charles T. Wolfe (Ghent University/IAS, CEU) (guest post)

In some respects, the history of science is still written by the victors. Even if the categories of actors that we investigate have broadened – from artisans and magi to practitioners of ‘subaltern sciences’, or from Galileo and Descartes to Athanasius Kircher...

An anatomical drawing, showing the connection of the pericardium to the diaphragm

The Tell-Tale Heart

Date:17 November 2017
Author:Lukas Wolf

Within natural theology, the heart and circulatory system has long been an icon of intelligent design. Not only does the heart so admirably show the craftsmanship of God, but William Harvey’s discovery of the circulatory system was considered exemplary of the...

Philosophers lamp made by Lukas Wolf

What Is an Error? Wittgenstein’s Voluntarism

Date:03 November 2017
Author:Martin Lenz

Imagine that you welcome your old friend Fred in your study. Pointing at the door, he asks you whether he should shut the window. You’re confused. Did Fred just call the door a window? He’s getting old, but surely not that old. You assume that Fred has made...

Alta via dei monti liguri, M. Toraggio (Photo: Andrea Sangiacomo)

What did I learn from applying for an ERC Starting Grant? The half-full glass.

Date:20 October 2017
Author:Andrea Sangiacomo

In the last few weeks I attended two Spinoza conferences (on both sides of the Atlantic). I spent the last ten years working on Spinoza. I consider him a friend. Yet, for the first time, I felt that I was somehow disconnected from the surrounding conversations...

Polyphemus by Hendrick van der Burgh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

What’s the point of a history of ideas? Or, on Bacon and the cyclops

Date:06 October 2017
Author:Laura Georgescu

There’s no history of the world without a history of ideas. Or even, perhaps – without a history of ideas, all knowledge is kind of useless. These seem to be the consequences of a brief, somewhat cryptic, and deceptively simple remark that Francis Bacon makes...