Philosophy | Early Modern Philosophy
P211 | 3387 | O'Connor
This course selectively surveys some of the important European
philosophical writing of the early modern period (roughly 1600-1800).
It will not proceed in the manner of a course in the "history of
ideas," wherein one aims to situate target authors in broader
intellectual or social currents of their immediate past and present.
No, our aim, bold as it may sound to ears awash in the bog of lazy
skepticism and relativism, is to discover the truth about the world.
So we shall examine our chosen philosophers in order to find out
whether they have some important truths to tell us. In doing so, we
shall be imitating our authors, who spent most of their energies
making claims about how the world is. One hesitates to say the
boringly obvious, but since obvious truths are routinely denied
nowadays, here goes: OUR AUTHORS' CLAIMS ARE EITHER TRUE OR FALSE -
TRUE IF THE WORLD IS THE WAY THEY CLAIMED IT IS, FALSE IF THE WORLD
ISN'T THE WAY THEY CLAIMED IT IS. If this statement is anything other
than boringly obvious to you, then you are in desperate need of a
course such as this. And if it IS obvious, you needn't worry that
you'll be engaged in a trivial pursuit. While there is a way the
world is, it is far from obvious what that way is. We shall consider
problems, puzzles, and paradoxes constituting a feast for the
heartiest of appetites.
Our philosophical guides will be Descartes, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume,
and Kant. Readings and lectures will focus primarily on metaphysical
and epistemological topics, since those are the philosophical topics
of central concern to these figures.