Instructor: Daniel Garber
Description of Course Goals and CurriculumThe seventeenth century is the period in which first arose our modern conception of a physical world, a world understood on analogy with the functioning of machines, governed by mathematical laws of nature. But what place is there for human beings, their thoughts and volitions, their immortal souls, and even their living bodies in such a mechanistic world? In this course, we will be studying two main themes in the history of this period: the relation between reason and the senses as sources of knowledge, and the relation between mind and matter. The central figures discussed will be Descartes, Spinoza, Malebranche and Leibniz, all of whom in one way or another attempted to establish the dominance of reason over sense and mind over matter. We will also consider a figure from the dark side of the period, Thomas Hobbes, who represents the contrary position on these questions, and was both a foil and an inspiration to the main figures we will be studying. This class meets twice a week for 50 minute lectures, and once a week for a 50 minute precept. Assignments include weekly readings, two papers and a final take home exam.
Learning From Classroom InstructionThere are no lecture slides, so the majority of the material is explained in lecture and in precept. Therefore, it is necessary to attend all class time in order to learn anything from the course.
Learning For and From AssignmentsThe class is based upon readings from philosophical texts, therefore, reading the material is essential to understand the lectures and precepts.
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course SelectionIf you are interested in metaphysical philosophy, definitely take this course! The readings are super interesting and relevant for thinking about metaphysics and philosophy of the mind.
Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz