Matter Matters: Metaphysics and Methodology in the Early Modern Period

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Overview

Why is there a material world? Why is it fundamentally mathematical? Matter Matters explores a seventeenth-century answer to these questions as it emerged from the works of Descartes and Leibniz. The "mathematization" of the physics is shown to have been conceptually underwritten by two methods of philosophizing, namely, analysis and synthesis. The connection between these things—mathematics, matter, and the methods of analysis and synthesis—has thus far gone unexplored by scholars. The book is in four Parts: Part I works out the context in which the theory of modern matter arose. Part II develops the method of analysis, showing how it aligns with Descartes's famous doctrine of clear and distinct ideas. Part III develops the method of synthesis, focusing primarily on Leibniz, showing how it establishes the very conditions necessary and sufficient for mathematics. Analysis and synthesis turn out to establish isomorphic conceptual systems, which turn out to be isomorphic to what mathematicians today call a group. The group concept expresses the conditions underwriting all of mathematics. Part IV examines several relatively new interpretations of Descartes—the realist and idealist readings—which appear to be at odds with one another. The examination shows the sense in which these readings are actually compatible, and together reveal a richer picture of Descartes's position on the reality of matter. Ultimately, Matter Matters establishes the claim that mathematics is intelligible if, and only if, matter exists.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Kurt Smith's Matter Matters is a brilliantly suggestive study of early modern philosophy."—Joseph Zepeda, Isis
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199583652
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 6/25/2010
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Kurt Smith is Professor of Philosophy at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. His work can be found in such publications as the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, History of Philosophy Quarterly, and in the Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy series.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Part I: Preliminaries: The Context of Modern Matter
1. The Visible and the Intelligible
2. Plato's Early and Late Methods
3. Matter and Division
Part II: Analysis
4. Analysis and Clarity and Distinctness
5. A General Theory of Clarity and Distinctness
6. The General Theory Continued
7. Enumeration, Quantity, and Measurement
Part III: Synthesis
8. Synthesis and System Building
9. Synthesis and the Principle of Addition
10. Metaphysics, Mathematics, and Metaphor
11. Material Structure and Calculating Machines
12. How Analysis and Synthesis are Related
Part IV: Sensible and Intelligible Matter
13. Is Matter Real?
14. Empirical Ideality, Reality, and Matter
15. Empirical Reality and Intelligible Matter
16. Transcendental Matter
Tying Up the Loose Ends-Closing Remarks
Bibliography

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