Classics of Early Modern Philosophy, translated.
February 28, 2005 12:58 PM   Subscribe

Early Modern Texts. Versions of some classics of early modern philosophy, prepared with a view to making them easier to read while leaving the main arguments, doctrines, and lines of thought intact. Recently added: John Locke's Second Treatise of Government. Via Crooked Timber.
posted by monju_bosatsu (6 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Nature is the art through which God made the world and still governs it. The art of man imitates
in it many ways, one of which is its ability to make an artificial animal. Life is just a motion of
limbs caused by some principal part inside the body; so why can’t we say that all automata
(engines that move themselves by springs and wheels as a watch does) have an artificial life? For
what is the heart but a spring? What are the nerves but so many strings? What are the joints but so
many wheels enabling the whole body to move in the way its designer intended?
-T. Hobbes

Absolutely wonderful, refreshing post. Thanks monju, you fixed my flu-ridden afternoon!
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:53 PM on February 28, 2005

CURSE LOCKE and his blasted social contract... he's why we're in this mess now... the right to rebel indeed.
posted by sourbrew at 2:00 PM on February 28, 2005

I saw this this morning on my blogrun. As a philosophy student I had to drudge through all these texts in their "pure" form. All I can say is that this project was long overdue. Thanks to Bennett, Crooked Timber, and monju.

I do wonder though, if resources like this will substantively change the teaching of philosophy ...
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:11 PM on February 28, 2005

Whatsamatta, sourbrew? Wanna opt-out? Don't tell me you've never once depended on the machine for anything. Then again, maybe you'd rather go it alone.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:14 PM on February 28, 2005

Thanks, m_b. I'm always a little skeptical of reading or citing works on the web that are translated, and these go far beyond simple translation - they are heavily modified (Bennett even introduces his own comments within the texts!). I'm sure he's knowledgeable, but I'd like to hear what someone who knows well of the subject thinks of these before I spend time with his interpretation of the Prolegomena (for instance), or before I recommend it to anyone. The discussion on Crooked Timber is intriguing, but inconclusive.
posted by painquale at 4:41 PM on February 28, 2005

As a philosophy teacher, I think this is pretty overdue too. I have some reservations. There are very complex debates about what (say) Hobbes means by "nature" in some passages. Specialists in early modern philosophy come to have views about what these passages mean and that can easily leak through to a translation. So in some ways the best people to "translate" probably wouldn't be philosophers like Bennett. On the other hand, who knows the material better than these specialists?

A quick anecdote: I taught Mill's On Liberty when I got to grad school (big, public university) in about 1998-1999 and it was my students' favorite book. Fast-forward about three or four years and I taught it again. This time many of my students complained that they had no idea what Mill was writing about. Both were fairly representative samples of modern students. Things seem like they're going downhill fast with my students' reading skills.

It can be very rewarding to work through these old guy's language, but sometimes people just need to learn the claims that they make -- and for this I think Bennett's project is ideal.

BTW, anyone who hasn't read it should read Bennett's "Conscience of Huckleberry Finn".
posted by ontic at 5:31 PM on February 28, 2005

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