Mary Shepherd on Space and Minds

Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy (forthcoming)
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In her last known piece of work Lady Mary Shepherd’s Metaphysics (1832), Mary Shepherd writes that “mind, may inhere in definite portions of matter […] or of infinite space” (LMSM 699). Shepherd thus suggests that a mind – a “capacity for sensation in general” (e.g., EPEU 16) – may have a spatial location. This is prima facie surprising given that she is committed to the view that the mind is unextended. In this paper, we argue that Shepherd can consistently honor both of these commitments. We argue, first, that even though finite minds, due to their unextendedness cannot, to use Shepherd’s term, ‘occupy’ space as material bodies do, such minds can nonetheless be said to have a spatial location in virtue of what we call their presence, or what Shepherd calls ‘inherence’, in a material body. Second, we argue that, in a similar way, the divine mind is present throughout the whole of space and is thus omnipresent. We then argue that, in contrast to finite minds, the divine mind does not require a body to be present in space. Rather, we contend, God’s omnipresence might be best understood in a ‘holenmerist’ sense, where the divine mind is wholly present in every part of creation.

Author Profiles

Peter West
Northeastern University London
Manuel Fasko
University of Basel


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