This intensive survey examines the development of epistemology and metaphysics in Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a critical formative period in Western philosophy. The course thus discusses the modern origins of a variety of central philosophical problems and controversies – typically ones that remain areas of debate today. Considerable attention is devoted to Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant, with emphasis on the systematic aspects of their philosophical views as well as on individual issues.
Topics to be covered include: skepticism about the existence of the material world, theories of perception and of the nature of material objects, idealism, the problem of induction, the nature and limits of a priori knowledge, innate knowledge, theories of epistemic justification, empiricist theories of meaning, analytic and synthetic truth, necessary and contingent truth, God, substance, causation, free will and determinism, the self, the relationship between mind and body, and personal identity.
The required reading is in primary philosophical sources, with optional reading in secondary sources. There will be three papers and a final examination.
Though this course is planned with the needs of philosophy concentrators and minors in mind, interested undergraduates from across the University are welcome. The sole prerequisite is one introductory philosophy course.
There are three hours of lecture and one hour of discussion per week.