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Title: Time and the soul in the seventeenth century
Author: Edwards, M. J.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2006
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My thesis considers the complex and productive relationship established between theories of time and theories of the soul in the late sixteenth and early to mid-seventeenth century. The first chapter examines treatments of how time relates to the soul in commentaries on Aristotle’s Physics in this period. It shows that these late Aristotelian theories of the ontology of time were diverse and philosophically interesting, and that new, eclectic answers to this question emerged in textbooks of natural philosophy in the early seventeenth century. I argue that this period saw a shift from describing time in terms of its relationship to the soul towards a notion of being in time. The second chapter examines the role of time in early modern commentaries on Aristotle’s De anima. It shows how assumptions about time and duration drawn from contemporary metaphysics and natural philosophy related (sometimes uneasily) to theories of how the bodies and souls of human and animals operated in time, in a complex and unjustly-neglected ‘psychology’ of time. The third chapter concerns the role of the concept of time in French and English theories of the passions of the soul in the early seventeenth century. These authors drew in part on the rich Aristotelian context previously examined, but also engaged with Stoic and Thomist themes. I show how many authors explored the operation and pathology of the passions, and the need to govern our passions, in terms of temporality and the human subject’s self-orientation in time. The second part of the thesis relates the arguments of the three previous chapters to the philosophy of Hobbes and Descartes. It argues that the complexity of baroque scholasticism and passion psychology informed the ways that they thought about the nature of man as a temporal and political subject. The fourth chapter argues that much of Descartes’ treatment of time can be read as a critical engagement with his late Aristotelian context, and identifies the place of these arguments about time and the soul within his account of the human subject. The final chapter reconstructs Hobbes’s theory of how time relates to the mind in De corpore, The elements of law and in his debate with Thomas White. It shows how a concern with time fundamentally underlies his psychology and concept of the human subject and consequently shaped the political theory of his best-known work, Leviathan (1651).
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available