Leisinger Wins 2020 Sanders Prize in Early Modern Philosophy


Matthew Leisinger, assistant professor of philosophy at York University, is the winner of the 2020 Sanders Prize in Early Modern Philosophy.

Professor Leisinger won the prize for his article, “Cudworthian Consciousness”.

Awarded for “original research in the history of early modern philosophy, interpreted as the period that begins roughly with Descartes and his contemporaries and goes to the end of the eighteenth century” written by scholars who are within fifteen years of receiving a Ph.D. or students who are currently enrolled in a graduate program, the prize is one of several that are sponsored by the Marc Sanders Foundation. It is administered by Donald Rutherford (UC San Diego).

The prize is $5000 and publication of the winning article in Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy.

Here’s the abstract for Professor Leisinger’s article:

Ralph Cudworth’s The True Intellectual System of the Universe (1678) is credited with the first instance of the English word “consciousness” used in a distinctively philosophical sense. While Cudworth says little in the System about the nature of consciousness, he has more to say in his (largely unpublished) freewill manuscripts. I argue that, in these manuscripts, Cudworth distinguishes two kinds of consciousness, which I call “bare consciousness” and “reflective consciousness”. What both have in common is that each is a kind of reflection or reflexive perception that therefore involves a “duplication” of the soul as both subject and object. While it is less clear how Cudworth takes these two kinds of consciousness to differ, I argue that the central difference for Cudworth is that, whereas bare consciousness is always directed towards individual cogitations, reflective consciousness is the kind of consciousness that the soul achieves through reflection upon itself as a whole. As a result, reflective consciousness introduces a unity into our experience that is not present at the level of bare consciousness.

More information about the Sanders Prize in Early Modern Philosophy, including a list of previous winners, is here.

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