University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > CamPoS (Cambridge Philosophy of Science) seminar > Catharine Cockburn on substantival space: a 'new' 18th-century solution

Catharine Cockburn on substantival space: a 'new' 18th-century solution

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Substantivalism is the thesis that space (or spacetime) is a concrete, irreducible entity. Early modern substantivalists face a problem: as space is often held to possess properties that are traditionally only attributed to God – including eternality, infinity and immutability – early moderns who argue that space is a substance run the risk of ‘polytheistic blasphemy’, the blasphemy of positing a second God. Early moderns generally take one of two strategies to avoid this: they either claim like Descartes that space is a substance but deny that it has divine properties, or they claim like Newton that space has divine properties but deny that it is a substance. In the early eighteenth century, the English philosopher Catharine Cockburn puts forward a ‘new’ account of substantival space inspired by a neo-Platonic thesis known as the Great Chain of Being. This paper examines that account, and the novel third solution it offers.

This talk is part of the CamPoS (Cambridge Philosophy of Science) seminar series.

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