Meeting 29

NOTE that this session and the one next week are at 1 PM EST as usual, but this means they are an hour earlier than usual for Europe (7 PM in Bucharest). America moves to Daylight Saving Time two weeks before Europe does.

We are using the same link as in the fall. If you don’t have it, email us at

DATE: Tuesday, March 16

TIME: 1 PM Princeton time (EST) / 7 PM Bucharest time (GMT+2)

PANEL: Cudworth on Matter, Mind, Animals, and Selves

SPEAKERS: Anna Corrias (University of Toronto), Matthew Leisinger (York University), Marleen Rozemond (University of Toronto)


Cudworth against Thinking Matter

Marleen Rozemond, University of Toronto

In his True Intellectual System of the Universe, Cudworth argued energetically and extensively against the possibility of thinking matter.  He did so by relying on a mechanistic, or what he called “atomistic” notion of matter and the Cartesian line of thought that the properties or states of matter must be modification of its nature.  Mental states fail this test.   Central to his argument is his reliance on the “ex nihilo” principle: nothing can come from nothing.

Cudworth on the Souls of Animals and their Afterlife

Anna Corrias,  Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Toronto.

Against Descartes’s notorious view (as received by his contemporaries) that animals are machines, Cudworth argues that animals share with humans the sensitive and vegetative faculties of the soul. Being incapable of thinking, animal souls are certainly epistemologically inferior to human souls. However, they are no less substantial. Against those who argue that substantiality implies immortality, Cudworth presents a rich account of the afterlife of animal souls which, he says, survive the death of the body but only for a short period of time.

Cudworth’s Theory of the Self

Matthew Leisinger, York University

In his (largely unpublished) freewill manuscripts, Cudworth develops a novel theory of the self, which he identifies with “the soul as comprehending itself” or “the whole soul reduplicated upon itself”. I focus in particular on the relationship between Cudworth’s theory of the self and his views about reflective consciousness, reflection, and consciousness. I argue for three key claims: (i) reflective consciousness is partially constitutive of the Cudworthian self; (ii) the Cudworthian self is able to reflect upon itself; (iii) not all conscious states of the soul properly constitute the Cudworthian self.

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