The Rationalists: Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz
September 2006, Polity
Broad terminological agreement and a shared appreciation of the role of reason in ethics do not mask the very significant disagreements that led to three distinctive philosophical systems: Cartesian dualism, Spinozan monism and Leibnizian pluralism. The book explores the nature of, and offers reasons for, these differences. Phemister contends that Spinoza and Leibniz developed their systems in part through engagements with and amendment of Cartesian philosophy, and critically analyses the arguments and contributions of all three philosophers. The clarity of the authors discussion of their key ideas including their views on knowledge, universal languages, the nature of substance and substances, bodies, the relation of mind and body, freedom, and the role of distinct perception and reason in morals will make this book the ideal introduction to rationalist philosophy.
Chapter One – System Builders.
Chapter Two – Knowledge and Ideas.
Chapter Three – Substance.
Chapter Four – Spinoza’s God.
Chapter Five – One and Many.
Chapter Six – Body: Descartes and Spinoza.
Chapter Seven – Body: Leibniz.
Chapter Eight – Mind and Body: Descartes.
Chapter Nine – Mind and Body: Spinoza and Leibniz.
Chapter Ten – Problems of Freedom.
Chapter Eleven – Freedom, Activity and Self-determination.
- Clear introduction to the work of Descartes, Leibniz and
- Explains the similarities of each philosopher's stance within
the rationalist system, and analyses their differences
- Concise account of the epistemology, metaphysics and ethics of
- Shows how Spinoza and Leibniz responded to and developed
- An ideal introductory text for philosophy courses
Roger Woolhouse, University of York
"Pauline Phemister’s comparative study of Descartes,
Spinoza and Leibniz is an important contribution to the
historiography of philosophy as well as a delight to read. The
central issues of seventeenth-century metaphysics, including the
nature of substance, ideas, God, mind and body, causality and
freedom, are treated in depth and with exemplary lucidity. This is
simply the best and most comprehensive survey of rationalism
Catherine Wilson, City University of New York