Catharine Trotter Cockburn: Philosophical Writings by Catharine Trotter Cockburn, Patricia Sheridan

By Catharine Trotter Cockburn, Patricia Sheridan

A major philosopher who contributed to eighteenth-century debates in epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics, Catharine Trotter Cockburn pursued the lifetime of a dramatist and essayist, regardless of the existing social, cultural, and ethical prescriptions of her day. Cockburn’s philosophical writings have been polemical items in defence of such philosophers as John Locke and Samuel Clarke, within which she grappled with the ethical and theological questions that involved them and produced her personal special solutions to these questions. Her works are attention-grabbing either for his or her method of philosophical concerns that remain debated this day and for a way that they tell our figuring out of the early-modern interval.

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As I said above, the individuation of a species consists basically of two separate operations, a sorting operation performed by natural selection and a consolidation operation performed by reproductive isolation. The mech­ anism of these two operations may, in turn, be characterized in terms of intensive differences and thresholds. The idea that, for example, a given predator species exerts selection pressures on a prey species needs to be explained in terms of the relations between the densities of the populations of predators and prey.

There are, of course, realist scientists, that is, scientists who believe that entities like hydrogen atoms or electrons are every bit as real as large animals and plants. But many of them would defend the mind­ independent identity of these unobservables in a naive way, that is, by asserting that this identity depends on the possession of an essence. The essence of a hydrogen atom, for example, would be its possession of a single proton in its nucleus. Why? Because if we added another proton the atom would lose its identity as hydrogen and become helium.

One is that intensive differences drive processes. At its simplest, a difference in intensity will tend to cancel itself out and in the process it will drive a system back to equilibrium. This tendency explains why temperature or pressure cannot be divided in extension: whatever differences are created during the division process will be objectively averaged out and the original equilibrium temperature or pressure will be restored. The second idea is that intensities are characterized by critical thresholds marking points at which a material spontaneously and abruptly changes in structure.

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