My research is motivated by two convictions that serve as working hypotheses. The first is that early modern scholasticism is one of the most philosophically creative, sophisticated, interesting movements in the history of philosophy, second only to twentieth and twenty-first century philosophy in terms of precision and analytical rigor. The second is that “canonical” early modern philosophy developed out of an intellectual milieu shaped by scholastic thought; a thorough understanding of early modern scholasticism will therefore not only be philosophically interesting in its own right, but it also stands to illuminate significantly our understanding of “canonical” early modern philosophy. My overarching research agenda is to confirm these two working hypotheses.
My doctoral research on truth and truthmaking in early modern scholasticism is what gave rise to the first hypothesis. The guiding question was this: what is required of the world for a proposition to be true? I came to this question through the contemporary debates about truthmaking, and I found that early modern scholastics also had the notion of a truthmaker [verificativum], which is a part of reality responsible for the truth of a proposition. Early modern scholastics had sophisticated debates about how to understand truthmaking and what sorts of truthmakers are required for negative truths, tensed truths, and modal truths.
My work on truthmaking led to an interest in conceptions of being and existence in early modern scholasticism. In my recent work, I push a new reading of Francisco Suárez's conceptions of being, eternal truths, and beings of reason.
My paper on Descartes's theory of free will is a nod to my second working hypothesis. There I show that a mainstream early modern scholastic theory of "moral possibility" might be in the background of Descartes's use of that phrase, and the scholastic theory provides a new solution to longstanding exegetical difficulties with Descartes's theory of free will.
I am in the early stages of a project on the notion of substance in early modern scholasticism. The goal of this project is to discover the ways in which early modern scholastics develop or depart from traditional, medieval conceptions of substance and how early modern scholastic debates might have influenced "canonical" theories of substance. My working hypothesis is that early modern scholastics, especially Jesuits, develop the Aristotelian, hylomorphic framework in ways that are philosophically compelling and can be seen as paving the way to mechanical conceptions of substance.
PUBLICATIONS (‘FC’ = Forthcoming)
FC 'On (Not) Believing that God Has Answered a Prayer,' Faith and Philosophy.
2016 ‘Pedro da Fonseca’, The Cambridge Descartes Lexicon, ed., Lawrence Nolan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).