John Grey on “Conway’s Ontological Objection to Cartesian Dualism”

John Grey, “Conway’s Ontological Objection to Cartesian Dualism” Philosopher’s Imprint 17.13 (July 2017),


Anne Conway disagrees with substance dualism, the thesis that minds and bodies differ in nature or essence. Instead, she holds that “the distinction between spirit and body is only modal and incremental, not essential and substantial” (CP 6.11, 40). Yet several of her arguments against dualism have little force against the Cartesian, since they rely on premises no Cartesian would accept. In this paper, I show that Conway does have at least one powerful objection to substance dualism, drawn from premises that Descartes seems bound to accept. She argues that two substances differ in nature only if they differ in their “original and peculiar” cause (CP 6.4, 30); yet all created substances have the same original and peculiar cause; so, all created substances have the same nature. As I argue, the Cartesian is under a surprising amount of pressure to accept Conway’s argument, since its key premise is motivated by a conception of substance similar to one endorsed by Descartes in his Principles of Philosophy.

Full-text also available here.


Discovery of A New Conway Letter

The Cambridge Platonist Research Group

Professor Sarah Hutton has recently discovered a Conway letter not included in the Conway Letters edited by herself and M.H. Nicolson. It is National Library of Ireland MS, from Lord Conway to his wife, written from Dublin and dated 24 August 1678–the year before her death. It tells her that he has arranged for imprisoned Quakers to be released and for the charges against others to be dropped. It also tells the story of a “bad” Quaker who cheated someone of his inheritance. And other things.

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New Narratives in Philosophy: Rediscovering Neglected Works by Early Modern Women


New Narratives in Philosophy:
Rediscovering neglected works by early modern women

Co-Directed by Andrew Janiak and Marcy Lascano

Hosted at the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University
Durham, NC, USA
April 14 – 17, 2016

The New Narratives in Philosophy conference will be held at the Ahamdieh FamilyLecture Hall, Franklin Humanities Institute (Smith Warehouse, Bay 4, Duke University.) The four day conference will focus on the early modern philosophers Margaret Cavendish, Anne Conway, and Emilie Du Châtelet and will explore the various aspects of each figure’s primary philosophical works, investigate the relationships between her works and those of her contemporaries, and examine her works in relation to the political, social, ethical, theological, and scientific works of the period. In addition, the final, fourth day of the conference will be devoted to methodological questions that are important for transforming the teaching and study of early modern philosophy. All conference proceedings and materials – video clips, sample syllabi, papers, bibliographies and translated texts – will be disseminated on the Project Vox website, so that philosophers will have everything required to alter the teaching and research of early modern philosophy. The conference is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, with additional funding and support provided by Duke University.

For more information about Project Vox, visit our webpage