Sunday, May 10, 2009

06 Anne Conway

Anna Maria van Verschuur and Mary Astell were two women philosophers with a social plan: a plea for access to education for women. There is nothing alike known about Anne Conway. She was an independent philosopher with her own position in the philosophical discourse of her time.

Although as a woman she was bared from university, she came in touch with Henry More, a Cambridge Platonist and tutor of her stepbrother, who studied in Cambridge.

Her philosophical education was the result of an intensive correspondence between her tutor and her. And although she only wrote one philsophical treatise it is beyond doubt that she obtained a high academic level, which was expressed by her tutor by describing her as his equal.

She was a woman, who was well informed, was in contact with numerous intellectuals of her time, stood in the middle of the philosophical debates of her time. The Latin version of her treatise was anonymously published in Amsterdam in 1690, the English translation as "The Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy" in 1692.

It was read by a man like Leibniz and the content of her treatise definitely influenced his ideas, which can be seen in the fact that he probably took over the idea and word "monad" from her metaphysics for his own monadology.

There are three systems to which Anne Conway's theories are opposed: first, she is opposed to the materialism of Thomas Hobbes, who held matter or substance to be divided up only according to the arbitrary categories which language imposes on it;

secondly, she is opposed to the dualism of Descartes, who held that there were two, and only two kinds of substance - thinking substance, and material or extended substance - and that humans were essentially thinking beings;

thirdly, she is opposed to the theory of Spinoza, according to whom the whole of nature is identical with God but seen under a different aspect.

Anne Conway was the creator of a personal philosophical theory about what is, a personal metaphycis, in which she distinguished herself from her contemporaries, men and women philosophers.

According to Conway, there is only one substance in created reality. This substance contains both matter and spirit. A purely material or spiritual substance is, she argues, an impossibility. This is an example of a monistic metaphysics.

Monism is the belief that only things of a single kind exist. In its most extreme form, monism may lead to Spinoza's conviction that only a single being is real or the idealist's supposition that everything is comprised by the Absolute.

Contemporary philosophers more commonly suppose that many distinct things exist, each of them exhibiting both mental and physical properties.

Let us concentrate on Conway's objections to the dualism of Descartes, for it illustrates perfectly what was the big revolution in metaphysics in those days.

For centuries the Aristotelian view had dominated ontology: it regarded the soul as the form of the body, making it that particular body and as the source of the vital functions of the body, that is, the vegetative, sensitive and rational functions. Thus body and soul were a kind of a unity, the one could not exist without the other, you could say.

Then there is Descartes: he puts a gost in the machine, seperates body and mind, regards the body as a mechanism. And that leads immediately to one of Conway's objections.

While denying that concepts such as extension are applicable to spiritual substance, this was yet applied to it, for the mind had to be somewhere in space, in the body.

An other objection was that when body and mind were so distinct, maybe even two different substances, there is no explanation of how these two substances interact with eachother.

Anne Conway was a remarkable woman philosopher. She died at the age of 47. And contrary to Verschuur and Astell she was a married woman and a mother; her one child, Heneage, died in infancy.

What she had in common with her two fellow women philosophers was the motivation for her philosophy: devotion. In a later stage of her life she left philosophical discourse behind and became interested in Lurianic Kabbalah and Quackerism.

I could continue about the metaphysics of Anne Conway in its historical context, but it would take to long. Interesting is to see how she in a way relects the leading philosophical ideas of her days, a debate between monism and dualism.

The Discussion

[13:21] herman Bergson: This on Anne Conway...
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: There was a comment of one of the pages that because she was published anonymously it was almost lost but I think if she were published in her name she would have been totally IGNORED.
[13:22] Laila Schuman: Herman... when one asks... about the concept of being concious.... do you have thoughts regarding the relationship of mind, spirit, soul, conciousness?
[13:22] herman Bergson: You might be right on that Gemma
[13:22] Daruma Boa: yes all was ignored written by women these days
[13:22] Laila Schuman: curious about conciousness and thinking
[13:23] herman Bergson: Although the work of Verschuur was well known and had 7 reprints
[13:23] Gemma Cleanslate: ah
[13:23] herman Bergson: I dont agree Daruma
[13:23] Daruma Boa: why?
[13:23] hope63 Shepherd: even hildegard von bingen was not ignored by the church..
[13:23] herman Bergson: Because as I said...Verschuur was printed and reprinted
[13:24] herman Bergson: during a period of 9 years
[13:24] Daruma Boa: but without a name i think
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: was her interest in the kabal and quakerism expressed in the printed book??
[13:24] herman Bergson: But I agree if you say then women never made the top 10 in those days
[13:24] hope63 Shepherd: the saviour is called gutenberg..)
[13:24] Apple Myrtle: Can you go into more detail about rene vs. her beliefs in body and mind?
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: along with her philosophical beliefs on god?
[13:25] Apple Myrtle: yea that would be interesting too
[13:25] herman Bergson: No gemma the book was printed 20 years earier
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: ah
[13:25] Laila Schuman: and where conciousness fits in...
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[13:25] herman Bergson: and a real treatise on metaphysics of those days
[13:25] Apple Myrtle: beause what I am getting at is that she belived that we were both spirit and body and not just spsiri as with renen?
[13:25] Apple Myrtle: is that correct?
[13:26] herman Bergson: That is a way we were one substance with a mind and a body, but not as distinct substances
[13:26] herman Bergson: More as two aspects of the same being
[13:26] Laila Schuman: conciousness??????????
[13:26] hope63 Shepherd: believed until today<:) [13:26] Apple Myrtle: ok so we have spirit and body that work together in her view [13:27] herman Bergson: the relation with god was in the fact that we posses qualities God also posseses [13:27] Apple Myrtle: but are two disticnt things [13:27] Apple Myrtle: yet connected [13:27] Apple Myrtle: hmmm that is interesting [13:27] Apple Myrtle: because I am mormon and that is what we believe as well [13:27] hope63 Shepherd: what i said [13:27] herman Bergson: Well Anne Conway hadn't much arguments for her monism only that it was more sublime [13:27] hope63 Shepherd: till today:) [13:28] herman Bergson: more sublime than the dualism and mechanism of Descartes [13:28] Apple Myrtle: What are her views on he a spirit or is he a body and spirit [13:28] hope63 Shepherd: to her descartes must have seemed like a mathematical calculation.. [13:28] herman Bergson: I would say neither....God was the ultimate perfection [13:28] Ze Novikov: what about Laila's question?? [13:28] Apple Myrtle: which is [13:29] Apple Myrtle: both body and mind or just body or just mind [13:29] Apple Myrtle: or completly together body and mind morphed into perfect being [13:30] hope63 Shepherd: relationship between mind spirtit consciousness.. that was it laila? [13:30] Laila Schuman: yes... mind does not necessarily mean "concious".... [13:30] Laila Schuman: is the spirit conciousness? [13:31] hope63 Shepherd: apple.. let's not go too deep into specific today understanding of some christian idealogy.. [13:31] herman Bergson: I think that we here have to keep a sharp eye on the use of concepts [13:31] Apple Myrtle: Well I am just interested [13:31] hope63 Shepherd: tell us first what the spirit is for you laila.. [13:31] Apple Myrtle: she seems religous and I wanted to know if that influnced her philopsophy [13:31] herman Bergson: the three concepts body - mind - consciousness dont belong in one phrase in those days [13:32] Ze Novikov: nods [13:32] herman Bergson: Body and mind are primarily ontological concepts in philosophical discourse [13:32] herman Bergson: while consciousness is closer to psychology [13:32] hope63 Shepherd: apple things that could be discussed between us individuals,.. but here we should stick to the main subject..:) [13:33] Apple Myrtle: oh whats the main subject then [13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: from what i read her philosolphy was based all around god [13:33] Laila Schuman: could you say that the spirit and conciousness are the same? [13:33] Gemma Cleanslate: adn relationship [13:33] hope63 Shepherd: f.ex body and mind concepts in a given time:) [13:33] herman Bergson: As I said Apple....Like the other women philosophers in her time, her philosophy was motivated by devoution [13:34] Apple Myrtle: so my question stands then "P [13:34] Apple Myrtle: :P [13:34] Apple Myrtle: unless there is a narrower topic we are talking about [13:34] Apple Myrtle: in regards to her philosophy [13:34] herman Bergson: the difference between Astell Verschuur and her is, that the first two focused on growth of devoution by education [13:34] Elia Scribe: Was atheism a viable philosophy in those times Herman? [13:34] hope63 Shepherd: but gemma tell me who was the philosopher in those days who excluded god in his concepts [13:34] herman Bergson: Anne Conway designed a whole metaphysical system [13:35] herman Bergson: in which human suffering and pain were to increase spirituality... [13:35] Elia Scribe: Lutheran? [13:35] herman Bergson: so physical punishment was in her ideas a means to increase the spirituality of the individual [13:35] hope63 Shepherd: anglican i think.. [13:36] herman Bergson: And atheism, Elia, even the atheist used quotes from the bible to strengthen their arguments in those days [13:36] herman Bergson: It was an age dominated by Christian thought [13:37] Ze Novikov: was spirituality for her the same as consciousness?? [13:37] herman Bergson: I think that Descartes opened the debate [13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: it seems all of them put caveates in their wrtings to appease the chucrch [13:37] Apple Myrtle: But what was "the church" at the time [13:37] Elia Scribe: So to answer Apple's question, all thought was dominated by Christianity? Even hers? [13:37] Apple Myrtle: was she american or where was so from [13:37] Apple Myrtle: another country [13:37] herman Bergson: Well Ze.....the spirituality was the state to be in...the more spiritual the closer to god [13:38] Apple Myrtle: interesting [13:38] herman Bergson: She was from the UK, Apple [13:38] hope63 Shepherd: don't agree ari.. youcan only think on the vbasis of what you know.. [13:38] Apple Myrtle: ok cool thanks [13:38] Ze Novikov: so Laila's question again [13:39] Laila Schuman: is conciousness a bodily function or a spiritual function [13:39] herman Bergson: If you identify the concept of mind in her context with spirituality, which, I guess, wouldnt be wrong... [13:39] herman Bergson: It isnt a concept in the metaphysics of Conway [13:40] Elia Scribe: Can one exist without the other, Laila, at least in this world? [13:40] Laila Schuman: animals? [13:40] Elia Scribe: But what would Conway's view have been? [13:40] herman Bergson: this concept of consciousness only begins to play a part in the discourse when the empiricists appear [13:41] herman Bergson: I think she would not have understood what you mean by consciousness [13:41] Laila Schuman: thank you [13:41] herman Bergson: in metaphysical terms [13:42] herman Bergson: As you see, Anne Conway is a completely different woman philosopher than those who we already have seen [13:42] Apple Myrtle: yea what about animals [13:42] herman Bergson: To me, in fact she was a philosopher among philosophers [13:42] Laila Schuman: they have minds...but are they concious? [13:42] hope63 Shepherd: apple.. we are [13:42] Daruma Boa: ^^ [13:42] Apple Myrtle: animals other than humans [13:42] Apple Myrtle: did she think there was a distinction [13:43] Apple Myrtle: were they they same as humansin spirit and mind [13:43] Elia Scribe: Consciuous of what Laila? [13:43] hope63 Shepherd: like spiders others than ants? [13:43] herman Bergson: That is not a discussion that relates to Conway's metaphysics I would say [13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: the better question may be are they self-concious? [13:43] Apple Myrtle: yea thanks [13:43] Laila Schuman: ahhh Ari...very good [13:43] Apple Myrtle: aristole :P [13:43] Qwark Allen: you welcome [13:44] herman Bergson: I would say that that is even more beside the historical context here [13:44] Qwark Allen: :-) [13:44] Samuel Okelly: in considering how we look consciousness and at spirituality vs the biological, we should maybe consider the unity of opposites heralclitus introduced? [13:44] Laila Schuman: what is spiritual? a thing like a soul... or a thought process of dedication etc [13:44] Samuel Okelly: heraclitus [13:44] Elia Scribe: Chritianity does not consider lower animals to have souls or consciousness in that sense? So Conway would not have conisdered it either? [13:45] hope63 Shepherd: hosw could she.. [13:45] herman Bergson: Spirituality is not a psychological concept in those days... [13:45] hope63 Shepherd: even we here think we are the top of the [13:45] herman Bergson: you better could translate it into a deep inner believe in god [13:45] Samuel Okelly: christinaity holds the view that animals are conscious [13:45] herman Bergson: All was focused on chistian belief [13:45] Elia Scribe: Would you explain a bit more the distinction you are making with psychology Herman? [13:45] Daruma Boa: i will not hope, that we are the top^^ [13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: :) [13:46] herman Bergson: You cant apply present day categories on history [13:46] hope63 Shepherd: evolutionary wise we are certainly not the top:) [13:46] herman Bergson: the mind was not a psychological concept in those days [13:47] Apple Myrtle: what was it then? [13:47] Apple Myrtle: spiritual? [13:47] Laila Schuman: should we be using the word spiritual or the word soul for those days [13:47] Laila Schuman: ?? [13:47] CONNIE Eichel: see you, nice class prof :)) [13:47] hope63 Shepherd: for all those who ignore.. galileo was just condemmed the 30 year war was in full bloom.. everything was upside down in history in europe,.. [13:47] CONNIE Eichel: bye all :)) [13:48] Ze Novikov: bye [13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: bye [13:48] Daruma Boa: bye [13:48] herman Bergson: To keep our spirits up I would suggest to end our discussion about consciousness vs spirituality [13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: lol [13:48] hope63 Shepherd: bye connie besos:) [13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: cu [13:48] Apple Myrtle: but it is just unclear what she believed , and sesen you said she was the oppiste of rene I was just wondering if you could clarify that statement [13:48] herman Bergson: and I suggest you read the article in the Stanford Encyclopedia on Conway [13:49] Apple Myrtle: ok I will [13:49] Apple Myrtle: that might clear it up [13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: i did that and i am wondering if she really did not consider the idea of animals [13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: in her construction [13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: she may well have [13:49] herman Bergson: yes she did... [13:49] hope63 Shepherd: in what sense gemma.. [13:49] Apple Myrtle: can you elaborate [13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: well read it and see [13:50] hope63 Shepherd: you read it.. so tell us:9 [13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: she was very universal in her ideas of life [13:50] herman Bergson: she even hold that all creation had a spiritual and a material quality [13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: of god and creation [13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: yes [13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: down to the smallest partice [13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: particles [13:50] Apple Myrtle: so like plants and leaves and rocks and statues could hold soul and body? [13:50] herman Bergson: she was a monistic thinker, like Spinoza, altho she didnt agree with him [13:51] herman Bergson: yes Apple...but to minor degrees than men [13:51] Apple Myrtle: What did she not agree with about about [13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: perhaps not souls as we consider them [13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: but a relationship to god [13:51] Apple Myrtle: ahhhhhh ok [13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: yes [13:51] Apple Myrtle: interesting [13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: actually very modern [13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: :-) [13:51] hope63 Shepherd: pitty Corona is not here.. she would have something to say .. [13:51] herman Bergson: the relationship to god was based on the resemblance between the creatures and god [13:51] Apple Myrtle: so could inanimate objects in her philiosophy have mind body connection or just animate [13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: monads stupped me [13:52] herman Bergson: :-) [13:52] hope63 Shepherd: the idea is that all is creation.. so all is the result of god's will.. [13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: stumped me [13:52] Apple Myrtle: ok so even metal [13:52] Apple Myrtle: but to a leaser degree [13:52] herman Bergson: I wouldnt say that so explicitely Apple [13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: actually i think so apple [13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: in a curious way [13:53] Apple Myrtle: because I know that in some cultures they believe that spirits can inhabit masks or statues [13:53] Apple Myrtle: so I was wondering if that was her concept too [13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: not exactly [13:53] Laila Schuman: even drawings and paingints [13:53] AristotleVon Doobie: so, it one thinks about it we are merely one big creature [13:53] Daruma Boa: yeah i agree [13:53] herman Bergson: That is a bit too farfetched Apple [13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: i thought she was very interesting to read about [13:53] Apple Myrtle: ok so just natural items then [13:53] herman Bergson: Again I must say...stay within the historical context and thinking of those days [13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: yes [13:54] hope63 Shepherd: smile:9 [13:54] herman Bergson: People believed in god, that he had created everything , that his creation looks like him [13:54] herman Bergson: but yet isnt as perfect [13:54] Apple Myrtle: hmm interesting [13:54] Elia Scribe: Created man in his image. [13:55] herman Bergson: exactly Elia [13:55] AristotleVon Doobie: :) [13:55] herman Bergson: and the metaphysical question is: WHAT IS? [13:55] Laila Schuman: image not defined [13:55] AristotleVon Doobie: what could be more perfect than nature? [13:55] Apple Myrtle: TV [13:55] itsme Frederix: mature [13:55] Apple Myrtle: :P [13:55] herman Bergson: In those days, Aristotle, God was [13:55] hope63 Shepherd: another nature ARI? [13:56] AristotleVon Doobie: yes, they adjective for nature surely was God [13:56] Elia Scribe: So I understand that the bible was a reference point, a criterion of truth with which philosophy was derived. [[13:56] herman Bergson: Almost Elia, indeed.... [13:56] herman Bergson: you neede an argument for a quote from the bible... [13:56] Gemma Cleanslate: have to go now ..see you next week [13:56] herman Bergson: you needed a quote from the bible for your argument [13:56] Daruma Boa: bye gemma [13:57] Daruma Boa: bye qwark [13:57] hope63 Shepherd: BYE GEMMA:9 [13:57] AristotleVon Doobie: bye gemma, qwark [13:57] Qwark Allen: interesting as allways, and very actual [13:57] Qwark Allen: ty herman [13:57] Cailleach Shan: cu guys. [13:57] Qwark Allen: vya later ny friends [13:57] herman Bergson: As our best students have to leave , we may read it as a sign to dismiss class ^_^ [13:57] AristotleVon Doobie: Thank you , Herman [13:58] Daruma Boa: thxs herman [13:58] hope63 Shepherd: CAL:) [13:58] herman Bergson: Thank you for the good discussion and your participation [13:58] Rodney Handrick: Thanks Herman [13:58] Laila Schuman: she seems like a more major who should be [13:58] Laila Schuman: in more books [13:59] itsme Frederix: THX Herman, I'm gone - friday is not my favorite sl day - laggy [13:59] herman Bergson: not a major player in the sense that she brought innovative ideas Laila [13:59] AristotleVon Doobie: bye itsme [13:59] Laila Schuman: listens [13:59] Cailleach Shan: Before you go please give kind thoughts to my friend Kia Scherr whose husband Alan and 13 year old daughter Naomi died at the Oberei Hotel in Mumbai yesterday. [13:59] Laila Schuman: oh Caille [13:59] Ze Novikov: oh my [13:59] herman Bergson: goodness [13:59] Elia Scribe: Well, I'm off to see the wizard. [13:59] Daruma Boa: oh [13:59] Ze Novikov: my sympathy [13:59] Anne Charles: So sorry [13:59] AristotleVon Doobie: yes, another tradegy [14:00] Elia Scribe: Sp sprry Cailleach [14:00] Rodney Handrick: my sympathy [14:00] Anne Charles: Thank you Professor and goodbye [14:00] Daruma Boa: bye ane [14:00] Elia Scribe: terrible things are happening in our world today. [14:00] herman Bergson: Thank you.... [14:00] Cailleach Shan: The only thing I ask is that no-one adds to the fear and hatred that already exsists in our world. [14:00] AristotleVon Doobie: bye Anne [14:00] hope63 Shepherd: OMG.. REALITY IS SOMETHING WHEN CONFRONTED .. WORDS ARE MISSING.. [14:00] herman Bergson: Terrible message Cailleach [14:00] Ze Novikov: ty professor bbeveryone see you all next time.. [14:00] Rodney Handrick: Understood [14:01] Cailleach Shan: Thanks everyone... x x x [14:01] AristotleVon Doobie: one has to question over and over again, how far have we really come [14:01] Rodney Handrick: true Ari [14:01] Daruma Boa: well, humans are NOT the top 10;-(( [14:01] herman Bergson: It is so meaningless [14:01] AristotleVon Doobie: indeed [14:02] Elia Scribe: We are not all so depraved. [14:02] AristotleVon Doobie: no Elia , there is a light at the end of the tunnel [14:02] Daruma Boa: so bye. i will be here again next thursday [14:02] Daruma Boa: have a good week. [14:03] AristotleVon Doobie: bye Daruma [14:03] Rodney Handrick: Bye Dar [14:03] herman Bergson: Next class is on Tuesday Daruma [14:03] Elia Scribe: bye Herman, Hope, Ari, all. [14:03] Daruma Boa: bye all
Posted by herman_bergson on 2008-11-30 11:17:45

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