This course surveys the history of philosophy in the Early Modern period, starting with René Descartes and the rise of mechanist philosophy. We will examine criticisms of Descartes’s natural philosophy and theory of mind by Prince Elisabeth of Bohemia and reactions by Margaret Cavendish and Anne Conway and proceed to study Gottfried Leibniz’s philosophical system and developments by Emilie Du Châtelet. Then we will venture into the empiricist tradition with a close reading of George Berkeley and David Hume, finishing with Immanuel Kant’s major contributions to the larger debate of the period. We will focus mostly on metaphysical and epistemological themes but with a sensitivity to the scientific considerations that helped motivate these thinkers to offer original and ground-breaking systems of nature. Along the way we will cultivate an appreciation for the importance of the history of philosophy and the value in investigating what thinkers of previous eras argued for and advocated and how it relates to philosophy today.
TEXTS: Descartes, René. 1998. Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy, 4th edition. Trans. Donald A. Cress. Hackett Publishing; Berkeley, George. 1982. A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge. Ed. Kenneth Winkler. Hackett Publishing; David Hume. 1993. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 2nd edition. Ed. Eric Steinberg. Hackett Publishing; Immanuel Kant. 2002. Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, 2nd edition. Trans. James W. Ellington. Hackett Publishing. Additional course materials will be available on Canvas.