Welcome to a Best of Cirrus Special Collection. This exhibition collects superlative work from students across three years of PHIL2013: Rise of Modern Philosophy at The University of Queensland.
The digital portfolios collected here have been selected by course staff, led by Professor Deborah Brown, and edited for publication by the students under the guidance of PHIL2013 and Cirrus staff.
Cirrus was built in part on the principle that excellent student work should not be forgotten once it is assessed, and we are delighted to publish this special collection of thoughtful, engaged, and beautiful student pieces.
'n this paper, I will briefly discuss Aristotle’s account of nature and his thoughts about monstrous births. In addition, I will explain why Aristotle’s account of nature created problems for mechanical philosophy and suggest a way of understanding monstrous births from the mechanist’s point of view.'
'An automaton is a self-operating machine, a machine or control mechanism designed to automatically follow a predetermined sequence of operations or respond to predetermined instructions. The viewing of the fountain by Descartes influenced the development of his ideas of ‘beast machines’ (animal automatism) — the idea that all of nature can be explained according to the same principles that explain how machines work (Descartes, 1991).'
'This work is a synoptic account of 17th century philosopher, René Descartes [...], comprising a critical evaluation of his thought. I begin by mapping out his epistemological claims, to then show how this informs his metaphysics and arguments on automata. My analysis will reference responses from his critics, secondary material, and incorporate contemporary examples I create and find, to generate my own critique of his philosophical worldview.'
'Like many early modern thinkers, Spinoza’s philosophy is systematic. His metaphysical framework - his ideas about the first principles of things - serves as the foundation for his claims on everything from causation to morality. For this reason, it is important that we identify Spinoza’s metaphysical commitments, and understand how he came to his conclusions.'
'How could a man so universally shunned in his own time go on to exert such an impact on philosophy? In this examination of Spinoza, I will show his views on metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics- showing how all three areas are intrinsically linked and form the totality of Spinoza’s world-view.'
'Perhaps the most compelling feature of Spinoza's philosophy is its holism, whereby his metaphysics encases and underlies his beliefs across different branches of philosophy. I argue that the combination of Spinoza's metaphysics and epistemology will ultimately justify his ethics. In his magnum opus 'Ethics', Spinoza gives geometric proofs starting from his metaphysics and ending with ethical conclusions. For this reason, I find 'Ethics' the fitting text to give a synoptic outline of Spinoza's philosophy and the progression of ideas in the 'Ethics' will be mirrored in my portfolio. The significance of this progression will be discussed, and throughout, I will evaluate the cogency of the metaphysical underpinnings and resulting implications.'
'Thomas Hobbes was a landmark philosopher of the early-modern period, best known for his political philosophy, which brought social contractarianism to the forefront of arguments about government, interaction, and the best way to live in a time when the power of religious ethical doctrine was waning. Most significantly, he claimed that if one were to follow logic of social contracts to its conclusion, one would agree that submitting to a dictator is the most peaceful way of organising a society. To properly understand the arguments which lead him to his controversial political claims, we must first understand the foundations of his philosophy.'
'This portfolio seeks to demonstrate through critical examination of Cartesian, Hobbesian and Spinozist metaphysics, particularly their epistemology, ontology, and method of individuation, that Spinoza is the thinker who most radically departs from Aristotelianism. In so doing, it will examine Aristotelianism, the trends in scholastic thought that preceded Descartes, the Cartesian revolution, and the problems Cartesian metaphysics encountered. It will examine Hobbesian metaphysics, contrasting it with both scholastic and Cartesian thought. It will then turn to Spinozism, and it should become clear that whilst Descartes and Hobbes started a revolution, it is Spinoza who developed the most distinct metaphysical system.'
'As crucial figures in the discourse of modern philosophy, thinkers Rene Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, and Baruch Spinoza developed new philosophical approaches that attempted to explain the role of humans within nature. The mechanists’ rejection of Aristotelian approaches has greatly impacted contemporary ideas surrounding animal intelligence and sentience. For example, current factory farming practices and Western meat consumption rely on philosophical approaches proposed by Descartes, who claimed that animals were no more than complex machines.'
'This portfolio aims to explore how each of these three philosophers applies their conception of human nature to their explanation of the birth and persistence of the State and civil society, ultimately arguing for the conclusion that the theories put forward by Spinoza most closely align with how we understand human nature and the function of the State in contemporary times.'
'Hobbes’ metaphysics reduces the mind to a product of physical mechanics and hence avoids the problem altogether. However, his materialism encounters difficulties in modelling the phenomenal experience of consciousness. On the other hand, Spinozistic monism resolves Descartes’ mind-body issue by separating thought and extension epistemologically. With a model of human consciousness corroborated by recent empirical evidence about the brain's functioning, Spinoza can be seen as offering a robust solution to the mind-body problem.'
'While there are myriad factors that influence how we see ourselves and our relation to nature, I argue that metaphysics radically affects where we place ourselves. I argue that the most severe anthropocentric views reflect the legacy of Cartesian dualism. I suggest that Hobbes espoused a version of materialism that expands the moral circle but nonetheless regards humans as exceptional and therefore remains anthropocentric. Finally, I examine Spinoza's explicit and heretical break from anthropocentrism and look at his impact on ecophilosophy, connecting his monism with the contemporary Deep Ecology platform.'
'This portfolio will argue that Hobbes fundamentally had the greatest impact on modern thinking about statehood and citizenship when compared to Descartes and Spinoza. To demonstrate this point, it will explore how each thinker understood the individual, the state, and the relationship between the two. Furthermore, the extent to which their ideas were integrated into political structures will also be evaluated. Note that the phrase 'modern statehood and citizenship' will generally be understood as a nation state with liberal democratic values.'
You might be interested in...