In progress/unpublished


Research Interests


Contact info:

sfp [at]

203 Hutchins Dr.
Wilmore, KY 40390


I have mixed feelings about putting my unpublished work online, but my feelings are much less mixed about sharing it with colleagues. I'm happy to share and even more happy to discuss, so just email.

In progress/unpublished

Stuff that I have worked on recently tends to be closer to the top of the page. Click on a title for a brief description of that paper.

  • 'A Unified Account of Unified Wholes: Suárez's Arguments for Substantial Forms'.

    Conceived of as a companion piece to my paper 'Suárez on Substantial Forms: A Heroic Last Stand?', this paper examines Suárez's arguments for substantial forms more systematically. I argue for an interpretation that makes Suárez sound more traditional, and emphasize the unifying role that substantial forms are supposed to play in Suárez's account.

  • 'Malebranche and Scholasticism'.

    Despite Malebranche's repudiation of scholasticism, there are more traces of it in his thought than perhaps he wished to acknowledge. The clearest case of engagement with scholastic thought comes in Elucidation 15 of The Search after Truth, where he cites Fonseca, Rubio, and Suárez, among other scholastic representatives of concurrentism. In some cases, though, the scholastic background has to be discovered without the help of any citations. For example, the eliminative argument for the view that we see all things in God is also rooted in scholastic thought, despite no explicit acknowledgement to that effect. The eliminative argument also serves as an example of how knowing the scholastic background can aid in understanding Malebranche. This article examines Malebranche’s engagement with scholasticism, focusing on his discussions of occasionalism and the vision in God.

  • 'Suárez and Malebranche on Necessary Causes'.

    Suárez's account of causation has received some attention recently from Malebranche scholars hoping to enlist him in service of the thesis that Malebranche's 'no-necessary-connection' argument finds a target. The claim is that Suárez accepts that there is a necessary connection between an efficient cause and its effect. I argue, however, that Suárez does not think that efficient causation essentially involves a necessary relation and so would see no reason to accept the premises of Malebranche's 'no-necesssary-connection' argument.

  • '"The Word of God is My Dutch Tube": Geulincx, Occasionalism, and Eudaimonism'.

    As is well-known, ancient and medieval philosophy is dominated by variations of eudaimonism. Both psychological eudaimonism and rational eudaimonism are widely endorsed. In modern philosophy, however, eudaimonism is widely rejected, leading Sidgwick and others to seeing the rejection of eudaimonism as one of the key characteristics of modern philosophy. But scholars disagree about who first rejects eudaimonism. Some suggest, contrary to the relatively simple narrative told by Sidgwick, that there were medieval philosophers who already rejected eudaimonism. Among those who accept a more unqualified Sidgwickian narrative, Grotius is sometimes suggested being the one who breaks with the eudaimonist tradition. But whether he in fact does so is controversial.

    The Dutch philosopher Arnold Geulincx typically receives no mention at all in these discussions. He merits attention, however, since he expressly rejects eudaimonism. For example, he considers the widespread Aristotelian version infected with paganism and a “broad highway to popular vices.” Instead, he crowns humility as the most exalted cardinal virtue. Humility includes two key components: inspection of oneself and disregard of oneself. The inspection leads one to recognize the truth of occasionalism, especially with respect to oneself. It is mere illusion to think that we are capable of acting in the world. In accord with that standing of ours, humility also dictates completely abandoning our pursuit of happiness.

  • 'Aquinas on Lying and Happiness'.

    Kant is often ridiculed for his absolute prohibition of lying, even when faced with a murderer at the door. What is often overlooked is that Kant is firmly within the mainstream of the Western philosophical tradition. Of special interest is that many philosophers one might read as eudaemonists think they can defend an absolute prohibition of lying. In this paper I critically examine the account of one such philosopher, Aquinas. I argue that his argument for an absolute prohibition fails, in the end, to convince.

  • `Francisco Suárez on Acting for the Sake of the Ultimate End'.

    My dissertation. You can see the abstract here and the preface (something of a historical introduction to Suárez) here.

  • 'Termini and Final Causes'.

    As it stands, this paper has too much going on in it. I look at Suárez and Descartes on final causation, and, as if that weren't enough, throw in some Aquinas and Boyle as well. Among other things, I argue that Suárez has a more precise notion in mind when he talks about final causation than the notion we have in mind when we talk about teleology. This matters for interpreting Descartes, since, I argue, this more precise notion is the one he inherits. At the end of the day, I think Descartes leaves far more room for teleology than is commonly thought.


  • 'Hurtado on the Individuation of Effects', in Hurtado and the Matrix of Baroque Scholasticism, edited by Daniel D. Novotný and Lukáš Novák, forthcoming.

    One of Suárez’s arguments against mere conservationism is a curious argument that relies on the premise that secondary causes cannot explain why an effect is numerically this one rather than another. Hence, though creatures may specify effects, God needs to individuate the effects. The argument receives almost no elaboration in Suárez, but Pedro Hurtado de Mendoza devotes an entire section to the individuation of effects and argues that divine concurrence is required. I examine Hurtado's account in this paper, and briefly trace the legacy of this argument up to Leibniz.

  • 'Suárez, Francisco', The Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Religion, edited by Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2021).

    A survey of several key contributions from Suárez to the philosophy of religion.

  • 'Making Use of the Testimonies: Suárez and Grotius on Natural Law’, Grotiana 41 (2020): 108-36.

    Thanks to Barbeyrac, Pufendorf and others, there is a long-familiar picture of Grotius as offering a groundbreaking account of natural law. By now there is also a familiar observation that there is no agreement what makes Grotius's account innovative. Sometimes this leads to skepticism about how innovative Grotius's account of natural law really is. Some scholars suggest that Grotius’s account of natural law resembles Suárez's account. But others continue to argue that Barbeyrac is right to see Grotius as breaking the ice of previous philosophy and laying the groundwork for a distinctively modern moral philosophy. I plan to contribute to the debate by arguing that, properly understood, Grotius's position is similar to Suárez's on a range of fundamental questions, and, furthermore, that seeing Grotius as making a radical break with the past violates his own self-conception.

  • 'Early Modern Scotists and Eudaimonism', American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 93.2 (2019): 227-50.

    Scotus's account of the two affections of the will (the affectio commodi and the affectio iustitiae has received a lot of recent scholarly attention, in good part because this is often seen as a place where Scotus breaks from the eudaimonist tradition. Curiously, however, the early modern followers of Scotus seem largely to ignore this part of Scotus.

  • 'Suárez on Substantial Forms: A Heroic Last Stand?', in Francisco Suárez (1548-1617): Jesuits and the Complexities of Modernity, edited by Robert Aleksander Maryks and Juan Antonio Senent de Frutos (Leiden: Brill, 2019), 46-71.

    Helen Hattab has argued in a series of papers that Suárez's account of substantial forms leaves him a tragic hero. His revision of the Aristotelian doctrine and defence of it by appeal to theological and empirical considerations is heroic, but also tragic because he thereby inadvertently sets the stage for the doctrine's early modern demise. In this paper, I suggest an alternative understanding of Suárez's account of substantial forms, one that sees him as more continuous with both those who came before and those who came after him. My proposal is grounded primarily in two shifts. First, I will argue that we should understand the dialectic in Suárez's account differently than Hattab and others do. This leads to his account looking more traditional. Second, it is important to recognize that the canonical or extrascholastic early modern philosophers such as Descartes and Locke are only one stream of early modern philosophy. As Daniel D. Novotný and others have pointed out, there is also a vibrant scholastic tradition that continues through the early modern period and often takes its inspiration from Suárez. Hattab is right to call for situating Suárez in a larger historical context, but, if one includes later scholastics such as Hurtado, Arriaga, Losada, and Harper in that context, Suárez's stand looks much less like a tragic last one.

  • 'Debates about the Will and Its Freedom', in Philosophy of Mind in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, edited by Stephan Schmid (London: Routledge, 2019), 144-64.

    A survey of the accounts of free will of Ockham, Buridan, Crescas, and Suárez.

  • Suárez distinguishes between four different ways of intending an end of action: actually, virtually, habitually, and interpretatively. This distinction comes to be repeated in scores of books and articles in subsequent centuries as a standard part of action theory, and Suárez is evidently the source for many of the later authors. This paper examines Suárez’s treatment of the distinction. Interpretative intention receives the most attention, since Suárez appears to give several inconsistent characterizations of it in different works. The paper ends with some notes about the subsequent reception of the distinction and reflects briefly on the lessons to be drawn about tracing Suárez’s influence.

  • 'Free Will', in The Routledge Companion to Sixteenth Century Philosophy, edited by Benjamin Hill and Henrik Lagerlund (New York: Routledge, 2017), 493-515.

    A survey of sixteenth-century discussions of freewill, including the debate between Erasmus and Luther, Pomponazzi, Lipsius, Bañez, Molina, and Suárez.

  • 'Why Do Medieval Philosophers Reject Polyadic Accidents?', in The Metaphysics of Relations, edited by Anna Marmodoro and David Yates (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 55-79. (descended from 'Leibniz and Some Predecessors on the Possibility of Two-Subject Accidents')

    Leibniz famously refuses to countenance accidents that have one leg in one subject and another leg in another subject. Hence, he insists that paternity in David is one relation, filiation in Solomon another, and both only have one subject. In all this, Leibniz is simply following what is more or less a consensus among medieval philosophers. But why deny the possibility of two-subject accidents? Most medieval philosophers (and Leibniz) say very little about why two-subject accidents are impossible, but in this paper I explore what their reasons might have been. At least one of the reasons seems to me to have some force even if perhaps not entirely decisive force.

  • 'Francisco Suárez (1548-1617)', Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by James Fieser and Bradley Dowden (2015).

    A survey of Suárez's life, philosophy, and influence.

  • 'Final Causality: Suárez on the Priority of Final Causation', in Suárez on Aristotelian Causality, edited by Jakob Leth Fink (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 121-48.

    A number of recent commentators have suggested that Suárez gives priority to efficient causation or even that he reduces final causation to efficient causation. In this paper I push against such interpretations and show that on Suárez's picture of causation, efficient causes depend on final causes for their causality. This is not quite enough to get the priority of final causation since Suárez also thinks that final causes depend on efficient causes for their causality. There are texts, however, that indicate that Suárez remains committed to the priority of final causation. It is more difficult, however, to see just what that priority claim amounts to on his picture. It is clear, however, that attributing a priority of efficient causation thesis to Suárez is misleading.

  • '"The Pope and Prince of All the Metaphysicians'': Some Recent Works on Suárez', British Journal for the History of Philosophy 21, no. 2 (2013): 393-403.

    Essay review of four recent books on Suárez: Benjamin Hill and Henrik Lagerlund, eds., The Philosophy of Francisco Suárez (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012); Daniel Schwartz, ed., Interpreting Suárez: Critical Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012); Marco Sgarbi, ed., Francisco Suárez and His Legacy: The Impact of Suárezian Metaphysics and Epistemology on Modern Philosophy (Milan: Vita e Pensiero, 2010); and John P. Doyle, Collected Studies on Francisco Suárez, S.J. (1548-1617), ed. by Victor M. Salas (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2011).

  • 'Free and Rational: Suárez on the Will', Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 95, no. 1 (2013): 1-35.

    A look at Suárez's account of the human will. His position can be understood as a balancing act between desiring to attribute libertarian freedom to agents and desiring to maintain the will’s status as a rational appetite. Hence, he rejects an intellectualism that says that choices are necessitated by the intellect's judgements (since he does not think that the judgements themselves can be directly free), but affirms that only what is judged good can be chosen.

  • 'Suárez on the Reduction of Categorical Relations', Philosophers' Imprint 13, no. 2 (2013): 1-24.

    Suárez distinguishes between categorical, transcendental, and conceptual relations. In this paper, I look at his account of the first kind. Suárez thinks that categorical relations are real and that they form a distinct category of being, but he is also a reductionist about them. One white thing's similarity to another white thing, for example, can be reduced to the two things and their whitenesses.

  • 'Rodrigo de Arriaga on Relations', The Modern Schoolman 89, no. 1-2 (2012): 25-46.

    I offer a survey of Arriaga's account of both categorial and transcendental relations. In addition to being an astute philosopher in his own right, Arriaga is significant for his critical engagement with Suárez's philosophy and as a source for such early modern philosophers as Leibniz.

  • 'Swiss Anabaptists and the Miraculous', Mennonite Quarterly Review 80 (2006): 207–28.

    A paper based on historical research that I did as an undergraduate. I argue that the early Swiss Anabaptists made remarkably few appeals to miracles and suggest some reasons why. Will I ever be able to write about laughing decapitated heads in a philosophy paper?