PL 3362: Early Modern Philosophy

COURSE DESCRIPTION

The early modern period was a time of intellectual upheaval and revolutionary transformation. Ptolemaic astronomy was replaced by Copernican astronomy; Aristotelian natural philosophy was displaced by modern mathematical physics; teleology was supplanted by mechanism; and experimental science revealed a new world of facts demanding explanation. Yet the philosophers responsible for these transformations  did not limit themselves to scientific matters; they also sought to reform other areas of culture and society, including religion, morality, law, and the state. Because of their efforts, the eighteenth century is often called “the enlightenment.”

This class will begin by asking why early modern philosophers rejected tradition and authority as sources of knowledge; then we will explore the role they thought the senses, imagination, and reason played in the constitution of knowledge; after that, we will consider the methods they thought we could use to improve the human intellect, make progress in the sciences, and reform social institutions.

COURSE READING

– Descartes, Rene. Philosophical Essays and Correspondence. Edited by Roger Ariew. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2000. (ISBN-10: 0872205029).

– Malebranche, Nicolas. Philosophical Selections. Edited by Steven Nadler. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1992. (ISBN-10: 087220152X).

– Baruch Spinoza. Ethics, Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, Selected Letters. Edited by Seymour Feldman. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1991. (ISBN-10: 0872201309).

– Locke, John et al. The Empiricists. New York: Anchor Books, 1960. (ISBN-10: 0385096224).

SUPPLEMENTARY READING

-Selections from Galileo, Bacon, Hobbes, Newton, Leibniz, and Kant.

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