[SydPhil] Notification: Elena Gordon, "Claude Buffier: Metaphysics within the bou... @ Wed 31 Aug 2022 15:30 - 17:00 (AEST) (Seminars)

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Elena Gordon, "Claude Buffier: Metaphysics within the bounds of Common  
Wednesday 31 Aug 2022 ⋅ 15:30 – 17:00
Eastern Australia Time - Sydney

Philosophy Seminar RoomSimulcast via  
Zoom :https://uni-sydney.zoom.us/j/87937027507Claude Buffier is an almost  
entirely forgotten figure in the history of philosophy. However, during the  
time at which he lived (1661-1737) he was a well-known Jesuit  
philosopher, and educationist, whose work received considerable attention  
and held considerable influence. Indeed, scholars interested in the revival  
of Buffier’s work have noted that aspects of his work had considerable  
influence on figures such as Hume, Voltaire, Kant, and Reid. In this paper,  
I focus on unpacking Buffier’s metaphysics and the relationship it has with  
his common sense philosophy. In La Traite, Buffier argues that  
there are several first truths of common sense for which we should easily  
discern collective agreement. He includes, for example, the fact that there  
are other beings in the world besides me as an obvious and undeniable first  
truth of common sense. However, he points out that some human beings  
routinely abandon common sense and fail to see (or claim to fail to see)  
that the first truths are in fact true. Buffier includes madmen, fools,  
children and philosophers among those who do so. We can pardon  
the mad since they cannot make proper use of reason; we can pardon  
children, because they have not reached the age and use of reason and  
therefore have not accrued the experience necessary to discerning even the  
most basic information delivered by the senses. But neither of these  
excuses are available to philosophers since they are neither mad nor  
juvenile. So, one might ask, why is it so difficult for philosophers to  
cultivate common sense? And relatedly, what exactly is it about philosophy  
that encourages scepticism about things that only the mad or the very young  
would question? In answering these questions, I show that for Buffier, the  
principal reason philosophers have struggled to accept the first truths of  
common sense is because they operate with a false (but common) conception  
of metaphysics. For Buffier, true metaphysics is not a science concerned  
with identifying the fundamental nature of reality beyond that which we can  
observe, nor should it be. In fact, for him, the pursuit of certainty about  
what lies beyond the reach of human perception is what leads philosophers  
to reject the first truths of common sense. To rectify this situation,  
Buffier argues that we must renew our understanding of metaphysics and  
reclaim it from those philosophers who have abused it. By sharpening our  
conception of metaphysics, for Buffier, we can see clearly both why  
philosophers have struggled to heed the dictates of common sense, and why  
there is a need to make common sense the basis of our philosophy. 

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