Donald L. M. Baxter
University of Connecticut
Storrs, CT 06269-1054
Office: 231 Manchester Hall
Phone: (860) 486-4419
Metaphysics and Early Modern Western Philosophy
My overarching interest so far has been the problem of the one and the many, which makes me think about numerical identity, composition, change, time, identity in the loose and popular sense, instantiation, and other problems in metaphysics. I approach them from my theory of many-one identity, which is a part of my general theory of aspects and the discernibility of identicals. As a result I defend composition as identity and instantiation as partial identity.
I've followed this interest into Hume studies in thinking about Hume on identity, time, space, the external world, skepticism, and other topics, and into Leibniz studies in thinking about the composition of the continuum.
In doing the history of philosophy I am reluctant to use the principle of charity, whereby we assume the philosopher was trying to express things we now understand and know to be true. I prefer using what I term the principle of defensibility, whereby we show how to give a broad and detailed defense of the philosopher's position, paying close attention to the text and taking the philosopher at his or her word, even if the position strikes us as alien. In this way, rather than presuming to teach the great historical figures, we learn from them.
I also have thought about free choice, but haven't had much to say about it beyond proposing my “election to actuality” theory of free choice and investigating Leibniz on contingent conceptual truths.
I make tentative forays from metaphysics into ethics in my papers “Altruism, Grief, and Identity” and "Oneness, Aspects, and the Neo-Confucians."