The Dennes Room

Philosophy 25B

Summer 2020 2nd 6wks

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
25B Modern Philosophy Marsh TuWTh 1-3:30 200 Wheeler

In this course we will survey the works of philosophers writing during the Early Modern period of the 17th and 18th centuries. We will begin by studying the emergence of the so called “New Science” and its break from the “Old” scholastic Aristotelianism which had been the dominant philosophical school of thought throughout the Medieval period. Starting with the ‘rationalists’, we will read the pioneering works of Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz, before turning to the equally landmark ‘empiricist’ works of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. We will learn how each of these philosophers broke with tradition and answered the hotly debated philosophical questions of their day, including metaphysical questions such as: what are the fundamental building blocks or ‘substances’ that comprise our reality? How many ‘substances’ are there? What are the relations between these substances, bodies, minds, and God? And epistemological questions, such as: what sorts of truths can we know, and how is it possible for us to know them? What is the relation between knowledge derived through reason and our knowledge of the external world? To what extent, if any, can we trust our senses, or beliefs formed on the basis of experience? Finally, we will end the course with an introduction to Kant, who, responding to each of these authors, attempts to pave a new path forward for philosophy – critiquing the very possibility of metaphysics, while nevertheless aiming to salvage some of its principles, as well as empirical knowledge, from an array of skeptical worries introduced by his predecessors.