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 Rene Descartesí Meditations, Baruch Spinozaís Ethics, and representative writings from Gottfried Leibniz. Our readings emphasize these authorsí metaphysical theories, their epistemologies, and their views about the relationship between metaphysics and epistemology. In particular, weíll focus on each authorís metaphysical views about the notion of substance. Weíll examine how their respective views commit them to differing views about the possibility of a causal relationship between the mind and the body and the nature of material bodies. Another metaphysical topic weíll consider deals with the relationship between Godís will, Godís understanding, and his role in establishing eternal truths. Like other figures in the Early Modern period, we canít tackle these metaphysical topics without also examining each authorís epistemologies. Epistemological topics weíll cover include the role of the principle of sufficient reason in rationalist philosophy, the nature and extent of empirical knowledge, and the attempt to import the geometrical method into 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. TEXTS: Required: Descartes Selected Philosophical Writings, Rene Descartes (translated by Cottingham, Stoothoff Murdoch); A Spinoza Reader: The Ethics and Other Works, Benedict de Spinoza (translated by Edwin Curley); Leibniz: Philosophical Essays, G.W. Leibniz (translated by Ariew and Garber); Optional: Descartes and the Meditations, Gary Hatfield; Spinoza, Michael Della Rocca; Leibniz, Nicholas Jolley.
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