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Caird, Edward (1835-1908)

Scottish Hegelian philosopher. Caird was one of the first generation of 'British idealists,' whose philosophical work was largely in reaction to the then-dominant empiricist and associationist views of Alexander Bain (1818-1903) and J.S. Mill. Best known for his studies of KantA Critical Account of the Philosophy of Kant (1877) and The Critical Philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1889) — and HegelHegel (1883), Caird also exercised a strong influence on later idealists such as John Watson and Bernard Bosanquet, particularly concerning the development of an 'evolutionary' account of religion; see his two series of Gifford lectures, The Evolution of Religion (1893), and The Evolution of Theology in the Greek Philosophers (1904). [Contributed by Will Sweet.]

Recommended Reading: The Collected Works of Edward Caird, ed. by Colin Tyler (Thoemmes, 1999).

Also see IEP, EB, and ELC.

Cambridge Platonists

An influential group of seventeenth-century English philosophers and latitudinarian theologians who rejected the tenets of (Oxford-taught) scholasticism in favor of an eclectic rationalism that employed a neoplatonic metaphysics and placed great emphasis on the role of innate ideas in the acquisition of worthwhile knowledge of reality, while opposing the mechanism of the new science and the atheism to which they feared it might lead. Prominent members of the group included Cudworth, Cumberland, Glanvill, More, Conway and Norris.

Recommended Reading: The Cambridge Platonists in Philosophical Context: Politics, Metaphysics, and Religion, ed. by G. A. J. Rogers, J. M. Vienne, and Y. C. Zarka (Kluwer, 1997) and Frederick James Powicke, Cambridge Platonists (Greenwood, 1955).

Also see SEP and EB.


Name given by medieval logicians to a categorical syllogism whose standard form is AEE-4.

Example: All first-degree murders are premeditated homicides, but no premeditated homicides are actions performed in self-defence, so it follows that no actions performed in self-defence are first-degree murders.

This is one of the fifteen forms in which syllogisms are always valid.


Name given by medieval logicians to any categorical syllogism whose standard form may be designated as AEE-2.

Example: All terriers are dogs, while no cats are dogs, so no cats are terriers.

This is another of the fifteen forms of valid syllogism.

Camus, Albert (1913-1960)

French-Algerian journalist and novelist. Camus explored the practical consequences of existentialist philosophy in his novels, L'Étranger(The Stranger) (1942), La Peste(The Plague) (1947), L'Homme Révolté(The Rebel) (1951), and La Chute(The Fall) (1956). His essay Le Mythe de Sisyphe (Essai sur l'absurde) (The Myth of Sisyphus) (1943) describes the inherent absurdity of human life, a profound meaninglessness that can be mitigated only by moral integrity and social solidarity. Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1957 and died in an automobile accident three years later.

Recommended Reading: Olivier Todd and Benjamin Ivry, Albert Camus: A Life (Carroll, 2000); Joseph McBride, Albert Camus: Philosopher and Litterateur (St. Martins, 1992); and Harold Bloom and William Golding, Albert Camus (Chelsea House, 1989).

Also see SEP, EB, Joseph Bien, ELC, and Paul M. Willenberg.

Cantor, Georg Ferdinand Ludwig Philipp (1845-1918)

German mathematician. Cantor developed modern set theory as the foundation for all of mathematics and used the "diagonal proof" to demonstrate that lines, planes, and spaces must all contain a non-denumerable infinity of points; that is, they cannot be counted in a one-to-one correspondence with the rational numbers. The reality of trans-finite quantities within the set of real numbers leads, in turn to "Cantor's paradox"—that every set has more subsets than members, so that there can be no set of all sets.

Recommended Reading: Georg Cantor, Contributions to the Founding of the Theory of Transfinite Numbers, tr. by Philip E. Jourdain (Dover, 1955); Keith Simmons, Universality and the Liar: An Essay on Truth and the Diagonal Argument (Cambridge, 1993); and Joseph Warren Dauben, Georg Cantor (Princeton, 1990).

Also see MMT, EB, WSB, Andy Blunden, ELC, and Peter Suber.

Carnap, Rudolf (1891-1970)

German-American philosopher. A leading logical positivist, Carnap proposed in Der logische Aufbau der Welt (The Logical Structure of the World) (1929) and Logische Syntax der Sprache (The Logical Syntax of Language) (1934) that all meaningful assertions in a description of reality must be derived from basic statements of experience. Carnap's influential articles "Pseudo-Problems in Philosophy" (1928) and "The Elimination of Metaphysics trough Logical Analysis of Language" (1932) propose that many traditional philosophical disputes amount to little more than differences in poetic rhetoric. His "Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology" (1950) considers the degree of ontological commitment entailed by linguistic reference to abstract entities. In Meaning and Necessity: A Study in Semantics and Modal Logic (1947) and Logical Foundations of Probability (1950), Carnap tried to devise a purely formal representation of the degree of confirmation to which scientific hypotheses are susceptible. Carnap's notions about the formation of scientific theories are expressed in Philosophical Foundations of Physics (1966).

Recommended Reading: Alan W. Richardson, Carnap's Construction of the World: The Aufbau and the Emergence of Logical Empiricism (Cambridge, 1997); Bryan G. Norton, Linguistic Frameworks and Ontology: A Re-Examination of Carnap's Metaphilosophy (De Gruyter, 1977); and Philosophy of Rudolph Carnap, ed. by Paul A. Schilpp (Open Court, 1974).

Also see IEP, EB, Andy Blunden, Curt Ducasse, ELC, and Austria-Forum.

Carneades (214-129 B.C.E.)

Greek philosopher. As leader of the Academy, Carneades advocated a moderate skepticism, which permitted the qualified assertion of probabile judgments. In his own time, Carneades was famous for the ability to develop convincing arguments on both sides of any philosophical dispute.

Recommended Reading: Edwyn Bevan, Stoics and Skeptics (Ares, 1980).

Also see SEP, IEP, EB, and ELC.

Carroll, Lewis (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) (1832-1898)

English logician, mathematician, and author. Carroll's fascination with logical and philosophical puzzles is apparent in the popular books Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass (1876) as well as in the more technical Games of Logic (1887) and Symbolic Logic (1893). The philosophical paper on "What the Tortoise said to Achilles" (1895) raised a significant issue about the legitimacy of reiterated demands for epistemological justification.

Also see J. R. Lucas and EB.


School of seventeenth-century thinkers who pursued the philosophical aims of Descartes. Prominent examples include Cordemoy, Geulincx, Malebranche, Pascal, Régis, and Rohault. The Cartesians tried to develop a comprehensive science of nature and to resolve the problems about mind-body interaction raised by Descartes's dualism.

Recommended Reading: Richard A. Watson, The Breakdown of Cartesian Metaphysics (Hackett, 1998); Tad M. Schmaltz, Radical Cartesianism: The French Reception of Descartes (Cambridge, 2002); and Causation in Early Modern Philosophy: Cartesianism, Occasionalism, and Preestablished Harmony, ed. by Steven Nadler (Penn. State, 1993).

Also see EB, Alfred Weber, and ISM.

Cassirer, Ernst (1874-1945)

German neo-Kantian philosopher who supposed that the fundamental categories of human thought are genuinely a priori, yet develop historically. In his massive Die Philosophie der symbolischen Formen (The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms) (1929), Cassirer suggested that these basic concepts are most clearly revealed in the cultural symbols of language, science, and mythology.

Recommended Reading: Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment, tr. by J. Pettegrove and F. Koelin (Princeton, 1968) and Ernst Cassirer: A 'Repetition' of Modernity, ed. by Steve G. Lofts and Michael Krois (SUNY, 2000).

Also see SEP, Patrick Conley, EB, and ELC.


Approach to ethics that begins by examining a series of concrete cases rather than by trying to deduce the consequences of a moral rule. Although Pascal criticized this method for the excessive, misleading, or harmful cleverness with which it was practiced in his day, it remains a common tool for applied ethics in a theological vein.

Recommended Reading: The Context of Casuistry, ed. by James F. Keenan, Thomas A. Shannon, and Albert R. Jonsen (Georgetown, 1995) and Richard B. Miller, Casuistry and Modern Ethics: A Poetics of Practical Reasoning (Chicago, 1996).

Also see EB, and CE.

categorical / hypothetical imperative

In the moral philosophy of Kant, a distinction between ways in which the will may be obliged. A hypothetical imperative (of the form, "If you want X, then do A.") is always conditioned on something else, but a categorical imperative (of the form "Do A.") is absolute and universal. Moral action for Kant always follows from the categorical imperative, "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it become a universal law."

Recommended Reading: Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, tr. by James W. Ellington (Hackett, 1993); Roger J. Sullivan, An Introduction to Kant's Ethics (Cambridge, 1994); and Terence Charles Williams, The Concept of the Categorical Imperative: A Study of the Place of the Categorical Imperative in Kant's Ethical Theory (Oxford, 1993).

Also see Steven Darwall, EB, and CE.

categorical logic

The traditional interpretation of the logic of classes developed by Aristotle and the medieval logicians.

Recommended Reading: Aristotle, Prior Analytics, ed. by Robin Smith (Hackett, 1989) and Jan Lukasiewicz, Aristotle's Syllogistic from the Standpoint of Modern Formal Logic (Clarendon, 1957).

Also see EB, and SEP on Aristotelian logic and Classical logic.

categorical proposition

A statement of the relationship between two classes, each of which is designated by a categorical term. Within each proposition, the subject term occurs before the copula and the predicate term after. There are only four forms of categorical proposition, distinguished by their quantity and quality.

Also see EB.

categorical syllogism

A logical argument consisting of exactly three categorical propositions, two premises and the conclusion, with a total of exactly three categorical terms, each used in only two of the propositions.

Also see EB.

categorical term

A word or phrase that designates a class. Each categorical term divides the world into two parts: the original class and its complement; the things to which the term applies and those to which it does not.

category {Gk. κατηγορια [katêgoria]}

Predicate; hence, a fundamental class of things in our conceptual framework. In Aristotle's logic specifically, the categories are the ten general modes of being (substance, quantity, quality, relation, place, time, position, possession, doing, and undergoing) by reference to which any individual thing may be described. Following the lead of stoic thought, medieval logicians commonly employed only the first four of these ten, but allowed for additional, syncategorematic terms that belonged to none of them. Kant employed a schematized table of a dozen categories as the basis for our understanding of the phenomenal realm. Gilbert Ryle used the term much more broadly, warning of the category mistakes that occur when we fail to respect the unique features of kinds of things.

Recommended Reading: F. E. Peters, Greek Philosophical Terms: A Historical Lexicon (NYU, 1967) and Aristotle, Categories, ed. by Hugh Tredennick (Harvard, 1938).

Also see IEP, SEP, EB, and PP.

category mistake

Confusion in the attribution of properties or the classification of things. Thus, to suppose that sleep is furious or that a city is nothing more than its buildings is to commit a category mistake. Ryle maintained that Cartesian dualism arises from the implicit occurrence of just such an error, the supposition that the origins of human behavior must reside in an immaterial substance.

Recommended Reading: Gilbert Ryle, The Concept of Mind (Chicago, 1984).

Also see EB.

catharsis {Gk. κα&thata;αρσις [katharsis]}

Cleansing from guilt or defilement; hence, in Aristotle, the elimination of destructive emotions through appreciation of an aesthetic experience. The notion here is that vicariously experiencing strong feelings renders us less likely to be overcome by them in our own lives.

Recommended Reading: F. E. Peters, Greek Philosophical Terms: A Historical Lexicon (NYU, 1967); Aristotle, Poetics, tr. by Malcolm Heath (Penguin, 1997); and Adnan K. Abdulla, Catharsis in Literature (Indiana, 1985).

Also see EB, Chris Higgins, and PP.


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Last modified 10 December 2011.
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