Spring 2015 Foundations of Modern Philosophy Philo 215 Instructor

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Spring 2015
Foundations of Modern Philosophy
Philo 215
Instructor: Daniel Addison
Office: HW 1445
E-mail: [email protected]
In this course we will read classic texts by Descartes, Spinoza, Hume, and Kant. Our
central focus will be two canonical texts on metaphysics from the modern rationalist tradition.
We will end the course by examining the varying responses to this tradition by Hume and Kant.
We will spend a full 19 of our 28 lectures reading, in their entirely, Descartes’
Meditations of First Philosophy and Spinoza’s Ethics, Demonstrated in Geometric Order. We
will be especially concerned to examine the role in these works, especially Spinoza’s, of the
principle of sufficient reason. This principle expresses a central tenet of the rationalist tradition:
the equation of being and intelligibility.
We will go on from here to examine Hume’s full scale assault on the rationalist project
and the above equation (2 lectures). We will take care to arrive at a precise understanding of the
problem Hume raises for our ability to know the world, and to fully feel the force of Hume’s
powerful reasons for arriving at a general skepticism concerning our rational powers. This will
allow us to appreciate the motivation for Kant’s response to Hume, which we’ll examine by
reading selections of Kant’s Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics in our final four lectures.
Kant claims to overcome Hume’s skepticism for our knowledge of the natural world as it appears
to us, but he agrees with Hume that knowledge of reality as it is independently of our relation to
it is impossible. Thus Kant too, like Hume, rejects the rationalist equation of being and
intelligibility.
Required Texts
Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, With Selections from the Objections and Replies, ed.
J. Cottingham. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Spinoza, Ethics, ed. and trans. E. Curley, intro by S. Hampshire. Penguin Classics, 2005
Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 2nd edition, ed. E. Steinberg.
Indianapolis: Hackett, 1993.
Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, 2nd edition, ed. J. Ellington. Indianapolis:
Hackett, 2001.
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