The Catholic University of America

Dr. Richard F. Hassing

"I think a website takes on the personality of the one who built it."
- Dave, Webmaster, AllState Insurance Co.

Well, I agree with Dave. So my website is like my personality: stable and anachronistic. 

Preliminary reading for students in PHIL 753 F17

Research Interests

History of physics and philosophy of nature; philosophical implications of the history of mathematics; natural philosophy in the constitution of modernity, thus concentration on early modern philosophy in relation to the preceding tradition.

Selected Publications

"The Use and Non-Use of Physics in Spinoza's Ethics." The Southwestern Journal of Philosophy 11 (1980): 41-70.

"Wholes, Parts, and Laws of Motion." Nature and System 6 (1984): 195-215.

"Thomas Aquinas on Physics VII.1 and the Aristotelian Science of the Physical Continuum." In
Dahlstrom, D. O., ed., Nature and Scientific Method. Washington, DC: Catholic University Press, 1991, pp. 127-57.

"Animals versus the Laws of Inertia." Review of Metaphysics 46 (1992): 29-61.

The Federalist Post-1989, Ashbrook Essay No. 8 (Ashland, OH: Ashbrook Press, 1995); an English version of R. F. Hassing and A. M. Hassing, Problemele Republicanismului Democratic (Cluj, Romania: Biblioteca Apostrof, 1994).

"Introduction," and "Modern Natural Science and the Intelligibility of Human Experience." In Hassing, R. F., ed., Final Causality in Nature and Human Affairs. Washington, DC: Catholic University Press, 1997, pp. 1-51 and 211-56.

"The Exemplary Career of Newton's Mathematics." The St. John's Review 44, no. 1 (1997): 73-93.

"Darwinian Natural Right?" Interpretation 27, no. 2 (2000): 129-60.

Response by Larry Arnhart: "Defending Darwinian Natural Right." Interpretation 27, no. 3 (2000): 263-77.

"Reply to Arnhart." Interpretation 28, no. 1 (2000), 35-43.

"Leibniz without Physics." Review of Metaphysics 56, no. 4 (June 2003): 721-61.

"The Meaning and Force of Liberalism," in Enrique Banus and Alejandro Llano, eds., Present y futuro del liberalismo Present and future of liberalism (Pamplona, Spain: EUNSA, 2004), 345-355.

"Difficulties for Natural Law Based on Modern Conceptions of Nature," in Ana Marta Gonzalez, ed., Contemporary Perspectives on Natural Law (Hampshire, UK: Ashgate Publishing, 2008), 229-40.

"Thumos and Psychophysics in Descartes's Passions of the Soul." Interpretation Vol. 38, no. 1 (Fall 2010): 27-72.

"Descartes on God, Creation, and Conservation," Rev. Meta. 64 (March 2011): 603-620.

"History of Physics and the Thought of Jacob Klein," The New Yearbook for Phenomenology and Phenomelogical Philosophy XI (2012): 214-248.

"Laws versus Teleology," Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Social Sciences, Byron Kaldis, General Editor (Sage Publications, 2013), Vol. II, pp. 549-555.

"Modern Turns in Mathematics and Physics," in The Modern Turn, ed. Michael Rohlf (CUA Press, 2017), 131-182.


Graduate Courses Taught Since 1990

  • Phil. 827: Quantum Physics and Philosophy of Nature
  • Phil. 753: Philosophy of Nature: Aristotle's Physics
  • Phil. 781: Descartes's Science: Regulae, Le Monde, Discourse, Principles.
    Mathematization of nature: what is gained, what is lost? Traditional cosmology of natural goodness vs Descartes's cosmogony of natural indifference (eidetic vs genetic accounts). Method and mastery vs theoria and wonder. The problem of judgment and causality. Divine creation of the eternal truths and the foundations of physics.
  • Phil. 715: Descartes's Passions of the Soul
    A study of natural-philosophic notions at work in the origins of modern psychology, and an attempt to make sense of a book that is as subtle and obscure as it is seminal and radical.
  • Phil. 757: Newton's Principia
    A study of natural-philosophic and historical-mathematical issues in the Principia: the relation between sensible and intelligible; causality, reductionism, determinism; the species-neutrality of Newton's law of gravitation and of the resulting particles-and-forces model of nature ("the mechanical view"); Newton's distinctive geometry and its supersession by analytical technique.
  • Phil. 810: Wholes, Parts, and Laws of Motion
    A comparison of Descartes's laws of nature and Newton's laws of motion with regard to their differing implications concerning body, motion, and causality.
  • Phil. 796: Leibniz: Physics and Metaphysics
    A study of Leibniz's attempt to harmonize mechanism and teleology. Special attention is given to the concept of natural form in Aristotle, against which background Leibniz's true position on mastery of nature comes into focus: this is the best of all possible worlds in part because it is amenable to limitless transformation by human agency.
  • Phil. 825: Modern Political Thought: Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau
    A reading of The Prince, Leviathan, and Second Discourse in order to discern the development of the non-teleological understanding of the human that links the three thinkers.
  • Phil. 790: Mathematical Thought Ancient and Modern
    A comparison of Euclidean and Cartesian geometry, using David Lachterman, The Ethics of Geometry.
  • Phil. 792: The Concept of Number
    A comparison of Diophantus' Arithmetic and Vieta's Analytic Art; based on Jacob Klein, Greek Mathematical Thought and the Origin of Algebra
  • Phil. 601: Philosophy of Science for graduate students in the School of Nursing
    A study of what it means to be scientific according to the current consensus, and of the difficulties in attempting to be scientific in dealing with human beings.