An investigation of the philosophical system of Descartes, based upon a careful reading of his major philosophical works and selected secondary literature.
The course will cover most of the following topics: epistemology and metaphysics before the Meditations, skepticism with regard to the senses, clear and distinct perception, the causal arguments for the existence of God, the Cartesian circle, error and the will, the ontological argument, sense-perception and the nature of body, the mind's essence and the real distinction between mind and body, the substantial union and interactionism, error in sensation, animal minds and the human intellect, laws of nature and scientific explanation, occasionalist tendencies, necessity and the eternal truths, and innateness.
Primary source readings will include the Meditations and selections from the Rules for the Direction of the Mind, The World, Treatise on Man, Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conduction the Understanding, Optics, Objections and Replies to the Meditations, Principles of Philosophy, Passions of the Soul, and Descartes' correspondence.
Undergraduates will be expected to write two 7-10 page papers, and to take one in-class exam. There will be no final examination. (These requirements are revised from earlier postings.) Requirements for graduate students are to be arranged on an individual basis.
MODIFIED ADVISORY PREREQUISITE. The standing advisory prerequisite for PHIL 463 is either PHIL 388 or 389. Background at the intermediate level in epistemology and metaphysics (e.g., PHIL 345 or 383), or in 400-level surveys in 17th or 18th century philosophy (PHIL 461 or 462) would also be helpful. If you do not satisfy at least the advisory prerequisite, you are strongly encouraged to consult with the instructor before enrolling. Because PHIL 463 this Winter is an intensive survey of a single figure, philosophy concentrators are strongly discouraged from utilizing this offering to meet a distribution unit in the history of philosophy unless they have prior experience in PHIL 388, 389, 405, 406, 458, 461, 462, or 463.