from the Cambridge guide to EMP

1. "Malebranche...reiterates the Augustinian view that, before Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, their passions were forceful enough to protect them from harm but not so strong as to distract them from the one true good, namely God. It is part of humanity's punishment for original sin that our passions are now much stronger and more compelling than they were, so that any attempt to lead a good life is an unremitting struggle, and the task of overcoming or counteracting our affects is a central aspect of any good life." (James 203)

2. In the modern period: "writers indebted to Stoicism viewed the passions as erroneous judgments, and argued that reason ought in principle to transcend them completely. People who progressively overcome their passions by cultivating a rational and correct understanding of the world are gradually released from the emotional ups and downs of a passionate life, and come to experience a state of...ataraxia" (205)

3. True understanding of the good is achieved extra-rationally: "An enormously influential version of this stance had been articulated by Luther, who argued that, since reason cannot enlight us as to how God wishes us to act, the only way to attain virtue is to cultivate a passive faith in the diety, who may then grace individuals with a kind of unmerited righteousness." (208)

4. On Locke's Essays on the Law of Nature: "Human beings can infer both the content and form of natural law from empirical observations. From the manifest design of the universe, we can infer the existence of a supremely wise and powerful Creator. And since we need to live 'in society with other men,' it is evidently God's will that we do so. But how can we do so if there are collective action problems and if, as Locke also believes, self-interest is the only rational motive? God does not will in vain, so since our only rational motive is self interest, he must have created supernatural benefits for compliance and burdens for noncompliance, beyond their natural consequences, sufficient to make obedience invariably in each agent's interest, and, moreover, given us a way to determine ourselves by our knowledge of this very conclusion. This effectively gives Locke a deduction of the immortality of the soul, the availability of self-determination, and the doctrine of eternal sanctions as necessary conditions for the very possibility of morality and reasonable social unity." (Darwall 227)

5. "In a striking opening move, Hume reverts to Hobbes's analysis of the impotence of reason and, reversing orthodoxy with a rhetorical flourish that Hobbes would have admired, pronounces reason to be the slave of the passions." (James 214)

6. "For Aquinas, natural law and individual benefit effectively provide the same normative standard. In the classical view, teleological metaphysics is what gives natural law its normative purchase. Inherent in every being's nature is an ideal end: what that being should be. Normativity is 'built into' nature." (Darwall 222)

7. The 'Grotian problematic': "Lacking hope of agreement on a common good rooted in a shared religious outlook, Grotius attempted to articulate a conception of moral and political order that could be convincing to people without a common vision of the good life or any reason to believe that outcomes that would be good for one must be good for all." (223)

8. On Spinoza's 'source of darkness': "The masses thik God made everything for their benefit. They develop their own ways of trying to influence God to direct all of nature to satisfy their own 'insatiable greed.' Thus the prejudice that everything in nature works for an end 'was changed into superstition' and lodged firmly in men's minds. We would all have remained in this sorry state had not mathematics, which is not concerned with ends, 'shown men another standard of truth.' It will take a clear deductive demonstration of the truth, such as his own Ethics, to free men from their superstitions; but this is exactly the kind of thinking most people cannot follow." (Schneewind 332)

9. "By identifying Aufklarung with adopting a maxim, Kant rejects all views holding that the clouds are dispelled simply by the removal of factual or scientific ignorance." (i.e. he rejects the 'sources of darkness' of Hume and d'Holbach.)

10. "The enlightenment maxim ('Have the courage to use your own reason') is 'a negative principle in the use of one's faculty of cognition.' By this Kant means that the Enlightenment maxim will lead us to reject certain cognitive claims - those made by the advocate of superstition or enthusiasm...To accept what they urge upon us, we must accept the principle that there is some nonmoral way of pleasing God. This is what enlightened agents reject [acc. to Kant]. When thinking for themselves, they will always reject any claim grounded on the belief that there are nonmoral means to God's approval...we conclude that we do not know what the religious advocates claim to know. In this way the maxim leads, as Kant also says, to the death of both aberrant forms of divine service." (340, 346)
Written on July 15, 2008