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My current research on Cavendish addresses her materialism about the mind. Whereas Descartes and Henry More argue that the mind is simple and, hence, immaterial. Cavendish turns their arguments upside down. Cavendish argues that the mind is composite and, therefore, material. I have also written about Cavendish's view that matter is self-moving and her colour realism.

Forthcoming. In Powers and Abilities in Early Modern Philosophy, edited by Dominik Perler and Sebastian Bender.

Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673) argues that when someone throws a ball, their hand does not cause the ball to move. Instead, the ball moves itself. In this chapter, I reconstruct Cavendish’s argument that material things—like the ball—are self-moving. Cavendish argues that body-body interaction is unintelligible. We cannot make sense of interaction in terms of the transfer of motion nor the more basic idea that one body acts in another body. Assuming something moves bodies around, Cavendish concludes that bodies move themselves. Still, Cavendish needs to explain why bodies appear to causally interact even if they do not really. Balls do not usually throw themselves without a helping hand. I offer a new reading of the way bodies respond to their external circumstances in terms of prerequisites or enabling conditions.

ForthcomingPhilosophers' Imprint.

Sometimes we love and hate the same thing at the same time. Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673)—the maverick early modern materialist—appeals to this type of passionate conflict to argue that the mind is a material thing. When our passions conflict, the mind or reason conflicts with itself. From this Cavendish infers that the mind has parts and, therefore, is material. Cavendish says this argument is among the best proofs of the mind’s materiality. And yet, the existing scholarship on Cavendish lacks the kind of detailed reconstruction required to evaluate this argument’s merits. In this paper, I provide just such a reconstruction. I also show that Cavendish’s argument is an effective intervention in her dispute with René Descartes and Henry More about the (im)materiality of the mind.

2022. Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy XI: 97-136.

Henry More argues that materialism cannot account for cases where a single subject or perceiver has multiple perceptions simultaneously. Since we clearly do have multiple perceptions at the same time--for example, when we see, hear, and smell simultaneously--More concludes that we are not wholly material. In response to More's argument, Margaret Cavendish adopts a two-fold strategy. First, she argues that there is no general obstacle to mental unification in her version of materialism. Second, Cavendish appeals to the mind or rational matter--terms she often uses interchangeably—to explain the integration of sensory input from multiple senses. When the mind integrates perceptions across modalities, the different parts of rational matter share their knowledge so that they all come to perceive alike. When rational parts successfully communicate their knowledge, each part knows what all the others know. They pool their knowledge; they perceive alike. Thus, when someone hears, sees, and tastes, each part of her mind hears, sees, and tastes alike, in parallel and in unison. The Cavendishian mind, in short, approximates simplicity by achieving uniformity or homogeneity of perceptions across its parts.

2019. Philosophical Review 128(3): 293-336.

Consider the distinctive qualitative property grass visually appears to have when it visually appears to be green. This property is an example of what I call sensuous color. Whereas early modern mechanists typically argue that bodies are not sensuously colored, Margaret Cavendish (1623–73) disagrees. In cases of veridical perception, she holds that grass is green in precisely the way it visually appears to be. In defense of her realist approach to sensuous colors, Cavendish argues that (i) it is impossible to conceive of colorless bodies, (ii) the very possibility of color experience requires that bodies are sensuously colored, and (iii) the attribution of sensuous colors to bodies provides the best explanation of color constancy. Although some passages might suggest that Cavendish endorses a reductive account of sensuous color, according to which sensuous color reduces to a body's microscopic surface texture (or some other mechanistically respectable property), I argue that she accepts a nonreductive account, on which sensuous color is not thus reducible.

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