Current Research Interests

I am currently finishing a book (George Berkeley and Early Modern Philosophy) on how Berkeley is best understood by noting how his doctrines draw on or compare with ideas developed by his contemporaries. Rather than focusing primarily on how Descartes, Malebranche, and Locke influence him (as is usually done), I also highlight Berkeley's relations to classical Stoic thinkers, 17th century Ramists, the early 17th century scholastic Francisco Suárez, Pierre Bayle, Baruch Spinoza, G. W. Leibniz, the freethinker John Toland, the English divines William King and Peter Browne, and the American Puritan Jonathan Edwards. By broadening our understanding of Berkeley's connections with other philosophers, I show how his epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of science, morality, and theology are united by his belief that God's creation of objects of experience (ideas) is the same act as his creation of sequences of acts of experience (minds). This interrelational approach reveals not only how his views on causality, the laws of nature, human freedom, morality, and God are united, but also (and more importantly) how seemingly disparate aspects of early modern philosophy can be reconciled.

I am also beginning work on another book on the influence of classical Stoicism on early modern philosophy. Humanists have long acknowledged the importance of Stoicism in 17th and 18th century literature, religion, and philosophy. But the heritage of Stoic ideas in early modern philosophy is typically understood only in terms of the moral psychology of Cicero and Seneca; and scholars rarely consider the impact of the logic, physics, or metaphysics of early Stoics such as Zeno of Citium and Chrysippus on the early moderns. Past studies of the influence of Stoicism on 17th and 18th century thought have also usually been piecemeal, often focusing only on how a particular philosopher (e.g., Lipsius, Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Shaftesbury) adopts Stoic ideas. My book project will show how the doctrines of a variety of early modern thinkers are internally strengthened and mutually supported by their integration of Stoic logic, physics, and ethics. Indeed, it is the dissolution of such a linkage that accounts for the decline of the influence of classical Stoicism in the 18th century.