Research

2007
McDonough, Jeffrey K.Leibniz: Creation and Conservation and Concurrence.” Leibniz Review 17 (2007): 31-60. Publisher's VersionAbstract
In this paper, I argue – contrary to current consensus – that the hoary theological doctrine of divine concurrence poses no deep threat to Leibniz’s views on theodicy and creaturely activity even as they have been traditionally understood. The paper itself falls into four main sections. The first revisits Leibniz’s views on creation, paying special attention to his twin aims of showing that God is neither morally nor physically responsible for the initial imperfections of the world, as well as to the thesis that through creation God brings into existence genuine secondary causal agents. The second turns to Leibniz’s understanding of the doctrine of divine conservation, focusing on the compatibility between God’s immediate per se conservation of creatures and the possibility of change within the order of nature. The third takes up Leibniz’s views on concurrentism directly, with special care being given to the question of how God and creatures might be thought to act together in bringing about creaturely effects, and how God’s role in bringing about those effects within the order of nature is to be reconciled with the demands of Leibnizian theodicy. Finally, the fourth section looks at worries arising from the bridging principle that conservation is a continued, or continuous, creation. What emerges from the discussion is, I hope, a clearer picture of Leibniz’s views on the nature of monadic causation, his understanding of the relationship between divine and creaturely activity, and his position with respect to later medieval and early modern debates over secondary causation.
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McDonough, Jeffrey K. ““Comments on ‘Berkeley on the Activity of Spirits’ by Sukjae Lee,” Eastern Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Baltimore, MD,” 2007. PDF Copy
2003
McDonough, Jeffrey K.A Rosa multiflora by Any Other Name: Taxonomic Incommensurability and Scientific Kinds.” Synthese 136, no. 3 (2003): 337-358. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This paper attempts to explore, criticize and develop Thomas Kuhn’s most mature – and surprisingly neglected – view of incommensurability. More specifically, it focuses on (1) undermining an influential picture of scientific kinds that lies at the heart of Kuhn’s understanding of taxonomic incommensurability; (2) sketching an alternative picture of scientific kinds that takes advantage of Kuhn’s partially developed theory of disciplinary matrices; and (3) using these two results to motivate revisions to Kuhn’s theory of taxonomic incompatibility, as well as, to the purported bridge between taxonomic incompatibility and some of the traditional problems associated with incommensurability.
Offprint
2002
McDonough, Jeffrey K.Hume's Account of Memory.” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 10, no. 1 (2002): 71-87. Publisher's VersionAbstract
This essay attempts to provide a sympathetic reading of Hume’s often tangled discussion of memory in the Treatise. It divides into three main sections. The first section isolates three puzzles in Hume’s account of memory. The second section attempts to show how those puzzles arise as a result of Hume’s understandable failure to recognize a necessary connection between memory and causation. Finally, the third section looks at how the reading of Hume’s account of memory offered in the first two sections fits into the larger context of his work by considering the roles he assigns to memory in his famous account of personal identity.
Offprint
2000
McDonough, Jeffrey K.Rough Drafts without Tears: A Guide to a Manageable Procedure for Improving Student Writing.” Teaching Philosophy 23, no. 2 (2000): 127-137.Abstract
This teaching paper sketches a procedure that I have used in introductory courses to improve student writing by having students comment upon one another’s work. It contains two sections and an appendix. The first section looks briefly at the most traditional procedure for requiring rough drafts in order to highlight some of the difficulties which used to lead me – and no doubt others - away from requiring rough drafts from introductory students. Section 2 falls into three subsections. Part (A) outlines the proposed alternative strategy as I have used it in my own courses, and also suggests some ways in which it might be modified to better fit the needs of particular instructors. Part (B) discusses advantages of the alternative strategy over the more traditional approach to rough drafts. Part (C) then considers and responds to three major concerns raised with regards to the alternative strategy. An example handout is included as an appendix.
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McDonough, Jeffrey K.Defending the Refutation of Idealism.” Southwestern Philosophy Review 17, no. 1 (2000): 35-44.Abstract
In his Kant and the Claims of Knowledge, Paul Guyer offers an influential reading of Kant’s famous “Refutation of Idealism.” Guyer’s reading has been widely praised as Kantian exegesis but less favorably received as an anti-skeptical line of argument worthy of contemporary interest. In this paper, I focus on defending the general thrust of Guyer’s reading as a response to Cartesian skepticism. The paper falls into two sections. The first section constructs Guyer’s central argument in three steps and gives it a quasi-formal presentation. That presentation reveals the principal obstacle to the argument’s being convincing to a contemporary audience, namely, its apparent reliance on Kant’s prohibition against psychological laws governing mental states. The second section constructs a lemma in defense of Guyer’s general line of attack. In effect, it suggests that that line does not depend on a metaphysical ban on psychological laws, but only on the modest premise that according to the Cartesian’s concept of knowledge such laws cannot justify claims about the temporal order of the self.
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1998
Hawthorne, John, and Jeffrey K. McDonough. “Numbers, Minds, and Bodies: A Fresh Look at Mind-Body Dualism.” Philosophical Perspectives: Language, Mind and Ontology 12 (1998): 349-371.Abstract
In this essay, we explore a fresh avenue into mind-body dualism by considering a seemingly distant question posed by Frege: "Why is it absurd to suppose that Julius Caesar is a number?". The essay falls into three main parts. In the first, through an exploration of Frege’s Julius Caesar problem, we attempt to expose two maxims applicable to the mind-body problem. In the second part, we draw on those maxims in arguing that “full blown dualism” is preferable to more modest, property-theoretic, versions. Finally, in the third part we close by suggesting that full blown dualism need not be spooky, resurrecting a broadly Lockean, rather than Cartesian, metaphysical picture.
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