Philosophy 170

Spring 2009

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
170 Descartes Alanen MWF 2-3 210 Wheeler

In this course we will make a close study of Descartes’s Meditations on First Philosophy, aiming to understand his new conception of the nature of the human mind and its relation to the world. We will consider his use of skepticism and the arguments for overcoming it. We will study his account of ideas and their objects that formed the starting point for subsequent theories of mind and knowledge. Special attention will be given, on the one hand, to his argument that the nature of mind is wholly distinct from that of body, and, on the other, to his account of the human being as a real union of an autonomous thinking self and an extended mechanistically moving body. We will reflect on the tensions in Descartes’s dualism and various ways of addressing them. We will also look at the context of the Meditations, reading excerpts from other texts, e.g.,The Objections and Replies, The Principles of Philosophy, The Passions of the Soul, and selections in a Course Reader.

Required: The Philosophical Writings of Descartes. Vols. 1-2. Transl. by J. Cottingham. R. Stoothoff, D. Murdoch, Cambridge University Press.

Recommended: The Philosophical Writings of Descartes. Vol 3: The Correspondence. Transl. by J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff, D. Murdoch and A. Kenny. Cambridge University Press.

A Companion to Descartes. Ed. Janet Broughton and John Carriero. Blackwell Publishing, 2008.

Previously taught: SP08, SP06, FL04.