Paul L. Franco
Examination of metaphysical and epistemological problems from the works of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant.
In this course, we will read and interpret some of the major philosophical works of the modern period (approximately the 16th –18th centuries). The authors we will consider include some combination (but not all) of Rene Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Leibniz, John Locke, George Berkeley, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant. Our readings emphasize these authors’ views on metaphysics and epistemology. In metaphysics, we’ll look at questions concerning the fundamental stuff of the natural world, the relationship between the mind and the body, and the nature of God. An important assumption of the authors we’ll read is that our metaphysics should be constrained by our epistemological theories. That is, we must first determine the limits and scope of human knowledge and give an account of the best methods for finding truth before we form any grand metaphysical theories. Thus, we’ll spend a lot of time talking about the ways in which we can and cannot know the world around us.
The aim of this course is not necessarily to provide a sweeping survey of the entire Early Modern period. Instead, we will focus on a few seminal and representative texts especially appropriate to the metaphysical and epistemological themes noted above. This will give us an idea of the ways in which the philosophers of the modern period were interested in developing philosophical systems.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading