Innovation or Orthodoxy?

In preparation for our mid-term exam next week, I want us to play a bit of a game on Monday. We started off our discussion of modern philosophy by thinking about the interplay between innovation and orthodoxy that characterizes the intellectual climate of sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe. Under ‘orthodoxy’ we discussed Aristotelian natural philosophy and Catholic theology, which Aquinas synthesizes in his influential works that serve as the general starting points for Medieval scholastic philosophical thinking. We have also discussed some ‘innovations’ that mathematicians, natural scientists, and philosophers bring about in certain areas during the modern period as replacements for some of these ‘orthodoxies’ that either can or cannot be reconciled with ‘orthodoxies’ in other areas.

The point of this game is to identify the claims below as either Innovations or Orthodoxies relative to the period of modern philosophy.

If the claim is an orthodoxy:

Indicate what tradition or traditions is it associated with.

If the claim is an innovation:

  • Who is associated with the innovation
  • What orthodoxy or orthodoxies does it challenge
  • How might we try to reconcile it with other orthodoxies

Try to finish it on your own before class on Monday. We will play it together as a team and all of us will win (though none of us will get trophies!).

  1. Human beings are rational animals.
  2. The Sun revolves around the Earth.
  3. The nature of body is extension.
  4. Substances have natures that explain their capacities for acting and being acted upon.
  5. Motion is the cause of heat
  6. Natural changes occur in accordance with the telos, end, or good for natural beings.
  7. God created the world.
  8. The human soul is immortal.
  9. There is a harmony between human needs, human capacities, and the natural world.
  10. The mind is better known than the body.
  11. Freedom of the will is the explanation for human error and sin
  12. All natural bodies have the same basic nature and are subject to the same basic laws of motion.
  13. Geometry and Logic can be used for demonstrations.
  14. The only things in the natural world that have souls are human beings.
  15. Non-human animals and plants have souls.
  16. There is a crucial division in the natural world between bodies and motions in the sub-lunary realm and celestial bodies and their motions.
  17. The spatial extension of bodies is not the primary attribute of a substance.
  18. The human soul and the human body stand in a relation of form and matter to one another.
  19. Matter is a purely passive principle of potentiality to be informed and to undergo changes in form.
  20. Form is the principle that actualizes the potentiality in matter.
  21. The nature of mind is thinking.
  22. Thinking and extension are the primary attributes of two distinct kinds of substance.
  23. Geometry allows us to grasp the basic principles of the natural world.
  24. The properties of complex bodies can be explained by reference to the size, shape, and motion of the tiny bodies that compose them.
  25. Heat is the cause of Heat.
  26. God is a causa sui, or cause of itself.
  27. Belief in final causes results from ignorance and desire.
  28. I think, I am is necessarily true ever time I assert it.


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