PL 3362: Early Modern Philosophy


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.


– 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).


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


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: