Modern Philosophy

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The Modern period in Philosophy runs roughly from 1600 to 1800. It is defined by the attempt to come to terms with the intellectual implications of the Scientific Revolution. There has long been a standard canon (or accepted body of significant work) for this period that includes seven philosophers arranged into three groups: Descartes, Leibniz, and Spinoza (The Rationalists); Locke, Berkeley, and Hume (The Empiricists); and Kant (who is generally thought to have combined the best insights of the other two groups). This course is a study of the thought, mainly on metaphysical and epistemological issues, of these philosophers.

The course centers on two main problems: (1) How is knowledge of the external world possible? And (2) What is the place of humans in the new view of the universe revealed by science? The Modern period covers the first attempts to solve these problems following the scientific revolution. It moves from the massive confidence of the first scientists in our ability to solve these problems to the skepticism of Hume and Kant. The aim of the course is to give you an understanding of the intellectual foundations of the Modern world, as well as the beginnings of the Post-Modern world in the failures of the Modern project.

The course aims to be both a history of ideas and a philosophy course. Hence, you will not only have to master the ideas of these thinkers, but also evaluate them for yourselves.

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