An in depth investigation of Descartes' epistemology and metaphysics 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, the cogito, 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, animals as machines, the human intellect, laws of nature and scientific explanation, moral certainty and probability, occasionalist tendencies, immutable natures and necessity, 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.
An important component of the course for undergraduates will be philosophical writing, exposition, and revision in light of extensive comments on written work. Owing to the extensive writing requirements, there will be no in-class or final examinations. The quality and quantity of class participation, however, will count 15-20% of the final grade. Undergraduates are required to write complete three sets of writing exercises: three short, 3-4 page, papers; 5-7 page revisions of two short papers; and an 8-12 page revision of one revised paper.
Graduate students will be required to write either three 7-10 page papers, or two 7-10 page papers and one 10-15 page revised paper, or a single 15-20 page paper. On either of the first two options, graduate students may substitute a final examination for a third paper.
The advisory prerequisite is either PHIL 388 or 389. PHIL 383 or 345 would also be helpful background. If you do not satisfy the advisory prerequisite, you are strongly encouraged to consult the instructor before enrolling.
Because this course is an intensive survey of a single figure, philosophy concentrators are strongly discouraged from utilizing this offering to satisfy a requirement in the history of philosophy unless they have prior experience in PHIL 388, 389, 405, 406, or 463.
The course will be lecture based, but with time also allotted for discussion.