Philosophy | Early Modern Philosophy
P211 | 20953 | 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 primarily 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.  Since time is limited, our readings and lectures will
focus primarily on the metaphysical and epistemological topics to
which our authors devoted the most overall attention.

Texts:
R. Ariew and E. Watkins, eds., Readings in Modern Philosophy (vol. I
and II)
I. Kant (E. Watkins, ed.), Critique of Pure Reason