Paul L. Franco
Study of one or more of the major continental Rationalists: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz.
In this course, we will closely read and interpret some combination of the writings of Rene Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, and Gottfried Leibniz. We may read all these authors closely to get a sense of their respective systems, or focus more squarely on just one author with the others serving as useful contrasts. Our readings will emphasize these authorsí metaphysical theories, their epistemologies, and their views about the relationship between metaphysics and epistemology. In relation to these areas, possible topics of interest include their views about the nature of substance, i.e., the fundamental stuff the world is made out of. Related to this topic are questions about the relationship between the mind and the body and the nature of material bodies. Other metaphysical topics we might consider include the relationship between Godís will, Godís understanding, and his role in establishing eternal truths or the problem of free will and the nature of necessity.
Like other figures in the Early Modern period, we canít tackle these metaphysical topics without also looking at epistemology. One important epistemological topic we might cover is the role of the principle of sufficient reason in rationalist philosophy. This may seem like a disparate, grab-bag of topics, but rest assured itís not: our investigations will uncover just how interrelated all these topics are within the different Rationalist systems.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading