Saturna sunset


My current research is centered in three areas. The most far reaching is a book project entitled The Wisdom of the Moderns. In it I argue that the systems of seven major figures of early modern philosophy (Gassendi, Descartes, Hobbes, Malebranche, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke) retain a closer connection to those of the ancients than is often recognized. In particular, early modern thinkers continue to see philosophical inquiry as directed by the end of happiness: philosophy is the search for a kind of knowledge or perfection—wisdom—that is necessary (and for some sufficient) for happiness. Material related to the book can be found among my recent publications on Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and the history of ethics.

Although I have published extensively on Leibniz, I continue to return to his texts and find new topics worth exploring. Most recently, I have published on his theodicy (in connection with the 300th anniversary of the Essais de Théodicée), the primacy of law and power as explanatory principles in physics and metaphysics, and the interpretation of the doctrine of preestablished harmony. In the queue are papers on the ideality of space, the interpretation of monadic change, and the ethical basis of the "Monadology." Further down the road, I plan to complete a second monograph on Leibniz's philosophy (working title: "Leibniz and the Architectonic of Existence").

A third focus of my work, pursued more intermittently, is the philosophy of Nietzsche. Here, too, I favor a historical approach, exemplified in my article “Freedom as a Philosophical Ideal: Nietzsche and his Antecedents” (Inquiry, 2011), in which I situate Nietzsche's positive account of freedom in relation to those of the Stoics and Spinoza. Other work on Nietzsche's perfectionism and his conception of experience as the starting point for philosophical inquiry is in progress.