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Copernicus, Nicolas (1473-1543)

Polish astronomer whose De Revolutionibus Orbium Caelestium (About the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres) (1543) proposed a heliocentric view of the universe. Copernicus argued that geocentric astronomies, with their complex appeals to epicyclic motion in the planets, should not be regarded as scientific. His own explanation, in terms of circular motion about the sun, was a much more simple (if somewhat less accurate) way of accounting for the observed facts.

Recommended Reading: Alexandre Koyre, Astronomical Revolution: Copernicus-Kepler-Borelli (Dover, 1992) and Thomas S. Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution: Planetary Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought (Harvard, 1957).

Also see SEP, EB, WSB, and MMT.

Cordemoy, Géraud de (1622-1684)

French philosopher and early follower of Descartes. In his efforts to resolve Cartesian difficulties with the unobservable interaction of mind and body in his Le discernment du corps et de l'âme (The Mind-Body Distinction) (1666), Cordemoy noted how commonly the two elements of any human being fail to correspond with each other.

Recommended Reading: Géraud de Cordemoy, A Philosophical Discourse Concerning Speech (Scholars' Facsimilies, 1999).

Also see SEP and EB.


Seventeenth century physical theory that supposed all matter to be composed of minute particles. Corpuscularians included Gassendi, Boyle, and Locke.

Recommended Reading: Peter Alexander, Ideas, Qualities and Corpuscles: Locke and Boyle on the External World (Cambridge, 1983); Robert Boyle on Natural Philosophy, ed. by Marie Boas Hall (Greenwood, 1980); and The Concept of Matter in Modern Philosophy, ed. by Ernan McMullan (Notre Dame, 1969).

Also see EB.

correspondence theory of truth

Belief that a proposition is true when it conforms with some fact or state of affairs. While this theory properly emphasizes the notion that propositions are true when they correspond to reality, its proponents often have difficulty explaining what facts are and how propositions are related to them.

Recommended Reading: Andrew Newman, The Correspondence Theory of Truth: An Essay on the Metaphysics of Predication (Cambridge, 2002); Alan R. White, Truth (Anchor, 1970); and Lawrence E. Johnson, Focusing on Truth (Routledge, 1992).

Also see SEP, EB, and DPM.

cosmological argument

An attempt to prove the existence of god by appeal to contingent facts about the world. The first of Aquinas's five ways (borrowed from Aristotle's Metaphysics), begins from the fact that something is in motion: since everything that moves must be moved by another but the series of prior movers cannot extend infinitely, there must be a first mover (which is god). The second and third of the five ways begin from efficient causation and the existence of contingent beings.

Recommended Reading: William Rowe, The Cosmological Argument (Fordham, 1998); William Lane Craig, Cosmological Argument from Plato to Leibnitz; and Bruce Reichenbach, Cosmological Argument: A Reassessment (Thomas, 1972).

Also see SEP and EB.


A particular instance that demonstrates the falsity of a general claim. Thus, for example, the fact that Don DeLillo is clean-shaven is a counter-example to the claim that all great American novelists have beards.


A conditional statement whose antecedent is known (or, at least, believed) to be contrary to fact. Thus, for example, "If George W. Bush had been born in Idaho, then he would never have become President." Unlike material implications, counterfactuals are not made true by the falsity of their antecedents. Although they are not truth-functional statements, counterfactuals may be significant for the analysis of scientific hypotheses.

Recommended Reading: Igal Kvart, A Theory of Counterfactuals (Ridgeview, 1986) and David K. Lewis, Counterfactuals (Blackwell, 2000).

Also see SEP and EB.

courage {Gk. ανδρεια [andreia]}

Willingness to take reasonable risks in pursuit of a worthwhile goal. According to Plato, courage is vital for both social and personal embodiments of virtue.

Recommended Reading: Walter T. Schmid, On Manly Courage: A Study of Plato's Laches (Southern Illinois, 1992).

Crescas, Hasdai ben Abraham (1340-1412)

Jewish poet and philosopher. An outspoken opponent of the Aristotelian philosophy of Maimonides and Gersonides, Crescas argued in Or Adonai (The Light of the Lord) (1410) that happiness is to be achieved in mystical union with god rather than through the application of human reason. His work was a significant influence on that of Spinoza.

Recommended Reading: Hasdai Crescas, The Refutation of the Christian Principles, tr. by Daniel J. Lasker (SUNY, 1992); Harry Austryn Wolfson, Crescas's Critique of Aristotle: Problems of Aristotle's Physics in Jewish and Arabic Philosophy (Cambridge, 1929); and Warren Zev Harvey, Physics and Metaphysics in Hasdai Crescas (Benjamin's, 1999).

Also see EB.


A standard by means of which to judge the features of things. Possession of appropriate criteria necessarily constitutes adequate evidence for our attribution of the feature in question. Thus, as Wittgenstein noted, for example, observation of writhing and groaning are criteria for our belief that someone is in pain.

Recommended Reading: Ludwig Wittgenstein, Blue and Brown Books (Harpercollins, 1986); Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, tr. by G. E. M. Anscombe (Prentice Hall, 1999); and John V. Canfield, Wittgenstein, Language and the World (Massachusetts, 1981).

critical theory

The theoretical approach of the Frankfurt School of social philosophers. Relying on the work of Hegel and Marx, they tried to exhibit dialectically the contradictions imposed upon modern human beings by varieties of social organization that abuse formal rationality in order to deny power to classes of citizens. Rejecting the detached insularity of traditional efforts at objectivity, critical theorists of any sort generally hope that their explanation of the causes of oppression will result in practical efforts to eliminate it.

Recommended Reading: Max Horkheimer, Critical Theory, tr. by Mathew J. O'Connell (Continuum, 1975); David Held, Introduction to Critical Theory: Horkheimer to Habermas (California, 1981); Hauke Brunkhorst, Adorno and Critical Theory (U of Wales, 1999); and Ben Agger, Critical Social Theory: An Introduction (Westview, 1998).

Also see SEP, EB, and Douglas Kellner.

Croce, Benedetto (1866-1952)

Italian philosopher whose Estetica come scienza dell'espressione e linguistica generale (The Aesthetic as the Science of Expression and of the Linguistic in General) (1902) proposed a non-cognitivist account of artistic intuition as an expression of personal creativity. In Materialismo storico ed economia marxista (Historical Materialism and the Economics of Karl Marx) (1914) and Teoria e stòria della storiografia (Theory and History of Historiography) (1921), Croce defended an understanding of history akin to that of Hegel. He was also an outspoken critic of the Fascist movement.

Recommended Reading: Benedetto Croce, My Philosophy, and Other Essays on the Moral and Political Problems of Our Time, tr. and ed. by Raymond Klibansky and E. F. Carritt (AMS, 1977) and Thought, Action and Intuition: A Symposium on the Philosophy of Benedetto Croce (Lubrecht & Cramer, 1976).

Also see EB and SEP.

Cudworth, Ralph (1617-1688)

English philosopher. His True Intellectual System of the Universe (1678) and Eternal and Immutable Morality (1731) are excellent expositions of Cambridge Platonism in opposition to the mechanistic philosophy of Hobbes. Cudworth's daughter, Damaris Masham, also became an influential philosopher.

Recommended Reading: Frederick James Powicke, Cambridge Platonists (Greenwood, 1955).

Also see IEP and EB.

Cumberland, Richard (1631-1718)

English philosopher. Cumberland opposed the ethical egoism of Hobbes in his De Legibus Naturae Disquisitio Philosophica (Treatise of the Laws of Nature) (1672), arguing that a universal benevolence motivates each human being to seek the happiness of all, leaving no room for the exercise of free will.

Recommended Reading: Jon Parkin, Science, Religion and Politics in Restoration England: Richard Cumberland's De Legibus Nature (Royal Historical Society, 1999).

Also see IEP, EB, and ELC.

Cusa, Nicolas of (Nikolas Krypffts von Küs) (1400-1464)

German theologian; author of De docta ingnorantia (Of Learned Ignorance) (1440) and De visione dei (Of the Vision of God) (1554). Cusa's late exposition of neoplatonic philosophy, according to which all contradictions are unified in the infinite divine nature, was greatly influential on major figures of the Renaissance.

Recommended Reading: Jasper Hopkins, A Concise Introduction to the Philosophy of Nicholas of Cusa (Banning, 1986); Karl Jaspers and Hannah Arendt, Anselm and Nicholas of Cusa, tr. by Ralph Manheim (Harcourt Brace, 1974); and Jasper Hopkins, Nicholas of Cusa's Metaphysic of Contraction (Banning, 1983).

Also see Rudolf Steiner, SEP, Austria-Forum, and MMT.


Belief (expressed by Diogenes) that the entire point of human life is the satisfaction of our most basic natural needs, without any respect for social conventions. Thus, the Cynics practiced self-discipline in order to avoid the unhappiness that invariably results from any effort to pursue artificial obligations.

Recommended Reading: The Cynics: The Cynic Movement in Antiquity and Its Legacy, ed. by R. Bracht Branham and Marie Odile Goulet-Caze (California, 2000); Luis E. Navia, Classical Cynicism (Greenwood, 1996); and D. R. Dudley, A History of Cynicism (Ares, 1980).

Also see IEP, EB, Menahem Luz, CE, and ISM.


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Last modified 10 December 2011.
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