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Author Of The Month: Lawrence Nolan

Published: April 18, 2016

The Cambridge Descartes Lexicon

Lawrence Nolan, professor, Philosophy

The 808-page Cambridge Descartes Lexicon was published in January 2016 by the Cambridge University Press. Examining the full range of Descartes’ achievements and legacy, it includes 256 in-depth entries from 91 contributors representing 11 countries. Nolan personally authored a 15,000-word biography of the 17th-century French philosopher while also writing entries on metaphysics and the cosmological arguments for God’s existence, among others. There are entries on topics such as certainty, doubt, dualism, free will, God, geometry, happiness and human beings. Nolan is the author of numerous articles on the two leading Cartesians—Descartes and Malebranche—and the editor of the acclaimed Primary and Secondary Qualities: The Historical and Ongoing Debate in 2011 from Oxford University Press. René Descartes (1596–1650) is among most important French philosophers who ever lived and, arguably, among the top five philosophers of all time. He is known as “the father of modern philosophy” in part because of the influence he continues to exert over the way the discipline is practiced. But he was much more than a philosopher; he was a universal genius whose writings range over anatomy and physiology, astronomy, biology, epistemology, ethics, mathematics, medicine, metaphysics, meteorology, music, optics, psychology and physics. One of the primary aims of this volume is to help the reader digest this vast literature while also introducing him or her to the breadth of Descartes’ thought. “The Cambridge Descartes Lexicon is more like an encyclopedia or a compendium than a traditional dictionary, both in its scope and in its content,” Nolan said. “Most of the subject entries introduce readers to

debates in the secondary literature. The result is that by reading just a few pages, readers can familiarize themselves with almost any given scholarly dispute and get a sense of the arguments and textual evidence for various interpretations.” Nolan completed his Ph.D. at UC Irvine in 1997 and joined CSULB the same year.