Course Approved by Faculty Senate

University Studies Course Approval:

Revised 1-22-01

Department Program: Philosophy Department

Course Number: 301

Number of Credits: 3

Course Title: Early Modern Philosophy

Catalog Description:

301 - Early Modern Philosophy - 3 S.H.

This course examines the main themes of early modern philosophy by investigating the views of some of the principal European philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries: The rationalism of Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz; the empiricism of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume; and the constructivism of Kant. Offered each year.

This is an existing course that has previously been approved by A2C2.

 

Department Contact Person for this course: Ed Slowik

 

Email: eslowik@winona.edu

 

Arts & Sciences Core—Humanities

 

 

 

EARLY MODERN PHILOSOPHY

PHIL 301

University Studies—Humanities

 

 

 

The purpose of Humanities...to provide a framework for understanding the nature and scope of human experience. Humanities courses explore the search for meaning and value in human life....

The modern approach to philosophy has its origins in the work of philosophers from the 16th and 17th centuries, and reaches its high point in the work of 18th-century thinkers. Early Modern Philosophy examines in detail a few seminal philosophical works from this period: some from the "Continental Rationalists", particularly Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz; and some from the "British Empiricists", especially Bacon, Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. The aim of this course is not only to understand the concepts and hypotheses advanced by these philosophers, but also to understand how their views have profoundly influenced current views on a variety of issues, including the nature of reality, the nature of science and knowledge.

 

These courses must include requirements and learning activities that promote students' abilities to...

 

1. Identify and understand specific elements and assumptions of a particular Humanities discipline.

Some of the specific topics investigated in Early Modern Philosophy are listed above, but the main emphasis in the course will be on epistemology, i.e. the theory of knowledge, and metaphysics, which studies the nature of reality and existence. Some of the questions addressed are: To what extent are there objective truths about the world, ourselves, etc.? Is a relativist theory of truth coherent? What is the nature of reality? Does God exist? Are we free in our actions, or are they determined? All topics covered are in the Humanities discipline.

 

 

2. Understand how historical context, cultural values, and gender influences perceptions and interpretations.

The Early Modern period in philosophy largely discounted the role of historical context, culture and gender, in their analysis of philosophical problems. Early Modern Philosophy examines and evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of this approach, however, and thus the course is deeply involved with consideration of history, culture, and gender. In fact, a significant portion of the class is devoted to the historical and cultural developments that formed the background and basis of the philosophical achievements of the Early Modern period. History, culture, and gender are examined with respect to the theories of all philosophers covered in the course.

 

 

3. Understand the role of critical analysis in interpreting and evaluating expressions of human experience.

As is the case with all philosophy courses, Early Modern Philosophy is devoted to the critical analysis of concepts and issues pertaining to all aspects of human experience. Consequently, the interpretation and evaluation of the products of human thought form the central core of Early Modern Philosophy. Critical analysis is utilized throughout the course with respect to each philosopher studied.

 

 

EARLY MODERN PHILOSOPHY

PHIL 301

Curriculum, Outcomes, Policies, and Requirements

University Studies—Humanities

Sample Syllabus

 

 

Instructor: Ed Slowik

Office: 325 Minne Hall

Phone: 457-5663/Office hours: MWF 12-1 PM, and 3-4 PM.

 

Required Texts:

R. Ariew & E. Watkins, eds., Modern Philosophy (Hackett)

G. Thomson, Descartes to Kant: An Introduction to Modern Philosophy (Waveland)

 

Course Description:

This course will examine some of the main themes of Early Modern philosophy, a period that roughly covers the thought of the 17th and 18th century philosophers: namely the "Rationalism" of Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz; and the "Empiricism" of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Also, the class will examine the attempts to combine both of these schools of philosophy in the work of Kant, often considered the last of the early modern period. Overall, the aim of the course will be not only to understand the specific points these philosophers were trying to make, but also to see how their views have profoundly influenced ours on a variety of issues, particularly those problems concerning the nature of reality, mind and matter, and science and knowledge.

 

Requirements:

Two short papers (5-7 pages, double-spaced) on a topic provided by the instructor (25% each), a term paper (40%), and class participation and attendance (10%). The paper is 10-15 pages double-spaced, on a topic checked with the instructor. The due dates of the exams, paper, are provided below. Although not required, I strongly encourage that you give me rough drafts of your paper, since it will greatly increase the chances of getting a good grade. People who don't show up for class will fair poorly on that 10% of the overall grade.

 

Course Outline:

The primary readings will be fairly extensive, and the material difficult, but the Thomson book should help greatly. The class notes/discussion will be the main source for elucidating this material, needless to say. (Below, "A&W" refers to Ariew and Watkins.)

Week 1: Introduction, overview of Scholasticism; A&W, chap. 1: Bacon, Galileo.

Week 2: Begin Descartes; A&W, chap. 1: Descartes' Meditations; Thomson, chap. 1-3.

Week 3: Descartes continued; first short-paper assignment handed out.

Week 4: Descartes continued; A&W, chap. 1: Objections and Replies.

Week 5: A&W, chap. 2: Spinoza's Ethics; Thomson, chap. 4-6.

Week 6: A&W, chap. 3: Leibniz's Discourse...., mainly sections 8-29; Thomson, chap. 7-9; First short-paper assignment due.

Week 7: finish Leibniz.

Week 8: A&W, chap. 4: Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Bk. I, Bk. II chap. 1-2, chap. 8 �7-19, chap. 11, chap. 12 �1-2, chap. 23, Bk. IV chap. 3 and 10; Thomson, chap. 10-12.

Week 9: finish Locke; second short-paper assignment handed out.

Week 10: A&W, chap. 5: Berkeley's Three Dialogues.....; Thompson, chap. 13 & 14.

Week 11: finish Berkeley.

Week 12: A&W, chap. 6: Hume's Enquiry..., mainly sections 2-7; Thompson, chap. 16-17. Finish Hume; Second short-essay due.

Week 13: Hume continued.

Week 14: finish Hume; A&W, chap. 7: Kant's Prolegomena...., mainly Preamble, First part, Second part; Thompson, chap. 18-21.

Week 15: finish Kant.

Papers due at scheduled time of final exam.

 

Course Outline (in Brief)

I. Introduction: Bacon, Galileo

II. Descartes

III. Spinoza

IV. Leibniz

V. Locke

VI. Berkeley

VII. Hume

VIII. Kant

 

 

 

 

All course activities and assignments simultaneously address all University Studies required course outcomes in Early Modern Philosophy 301 in the following ways:

 

 

The purpose of Humanities...to provide a framework for understanding the nature and scope of human experience. Humanities courses explore the search for meaning and value in human life....

The modern approach to philosophy has its origins in the work of philosophers from the 16th and 17th centuries, and reaches its high point in the work of 18th-century thinkers. Early Modern Philosophy examines in detail a few seminal philosophical works from this period: some from the "Continental Rationalists", particularly Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz; and some from the "British Empiricists", especially Bacon, Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. The aim of this course is not only to understand the concepts and hypotheses advanced by these philosophers, but also to understand how their views have profoundly influenced current views on a variety of issues, including the nature of reality, the nature of science and knowledge.

 

These courses must include requirements and learning activities that promote students' abilities to...

 

1. Identify and understand specific elements and assumptions of a particular Humanities discipline.

Some of the specific topics investigated in Early Modern Philosophy are listed above, but the main emphasis in the course will be on epistemology, i.e. the theory of knowledge, and metaphysics, which studies the nature of reality and existence. Some of the questions addressed are: To what extent are there objective truths about the world, ourselves, etc.? Is a relativist theory of truth coherent? What is the nature of reality? Does God exist? Are we free in our actions, or are they determined? All topics covered are in the Humanities discipline.

 

 

2. Understand how historical context, cultural values, and gender influences perceptions and interpretations.

The Early Modern period in philosophy largely discounted the role of historical context, culture and gender, in their analysis of philosophical problems. Early Modern Philosophy examines and evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of this approach, however, and thus the course is deeply involved with consideration of history, culture, and gender. In fact, a significant portion of the class is devoted to the historical and cultural developments that formed the background and basis of the philosophical achievements of the Early Modern period. History, culture, and gender are examined with respect to the theories of all philosophers covered in the course.

 

 

3. Understand the role of critical analysis in interpreting and evaluating expressions of human experience.

As is the case with all philosophy courses, Early Modern Philosophy is devoted to the critical analysis of concepts and issues pertaining to all aspects of human experience. Consequently, the interpretation and evaluation of the products of human thought form the central core of Early Modern Philosophy. Critical analysis is utilized throughout the course with respect to each philosopher studied.