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The UC San Diego Philosophy Department Presents:

Historical Perspectives on God's Order, Man's Order and the Order of Nature

March 4th to March 6th at UC San Diego

Organized by Eric Watkins


Historical Perspectives on God's Order, Man's Order, and the Order of Nature aims to promote a more detailed historical appreciation of the connection between the perfection of God’s plan, the order of nature, and the laws of nature as it was understood by philosophers in the modern period.

Part of what is distinctive about the project undertaken by modern philosophers – especially by those committed to the “new sciences” – is that they rejected Aristotelian natural philosophy and introduced in its place a powerful new picture of the order of nature as governed by exceptionless regularities that followed from God’s Nature. Aristotelians typically held that the bodies investigated in physics are primarily living organisms, are composed of prime matter and qualitative forms, and operate according to final causes that are ultimately determined by God’s benevolent, but not fully transparent intentions.

Descartes rejected this account in its fundamentals, asserting instead that the bodies of physics are both lifeless and purposeless, consist merely of extension, and act according to exceptionless mathematical laws that follow directly from God’s perfect and unchanging rational nature. Descartes’s general picture of natural philosophy was accepted, in its essentials if not in all its details, by Malebranche, Leibniz, Spinoza and Newton. By the end of the modern period, however, this basic picture had come under serious attack and undergone considerable revision, for instance, in the work of Hume and Kant.

It is hoped that this conference will lead to a better understanding of (1) what is distinctively new in 17th century accounts of the relationship between God’s Nature, the order of the world, and universal laws of nature (in contradistinction to earlier accounts), and (2) the nature of the rival accounts of this relationship that emerged in the 18th century.

The conference begins Friday, March 4 at 9:00 am and ends Sunday, March 6 at 2:00 pm. It will be held at the University of California, San Diego in the Weaver Center in the Institute of the Americas.

The registration deadline for the conference is Thursday, February 24. Please see the Registration page for details.

This conference is part of the research initiative God’s Order, Man’s Order and the Order of Nature, which is sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation For more on this research initiative, click here.