Foundations of Modern Philosophy
247 West 37th St, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10018
The late 16th and early 17th centuries were a period of immense upheaval within philosophy. Both inspired by and inspiring the scientific revolution, what we now refer to as “modern philosophy,” exemplified firstly by Renee Descartes, ushered in fundamentally new ideas about the role of humanity in the natural world. In this class, we’ll survey the development of early modern philosophy, focusing on the metaphysical and epistemological views of the emerging rationalist and empiricist traditions. Questions we’ll address include the nature of the human mind and ideas, the possibility of free will, the nature of matter and causality, and the nature of God and his involvement in the world.
A main concern will be early modern philosophy’s fundamental reconception of the very concept of nature. Rather than understanding “nature” as a system of interlinked functions and purposes, as ancient and medieval philosophers hitherto had done, the early modern philosophers proposed a conception of nature as a thing not merely to be understood, but also mastered for the sake of human progress. Was the philosophical revolution essential to the scientific revolution and the development of capitalism? What role, consequently, did philosophy play in the development of what sociologist Max Weber called the “disenchantment of the world,” fating us to live in “godless and prophetless times”? In addressing these questions, we’ll read selections from figures like Descartes, Leibniz, Hobbes, Bacon, and Hume.
Course ScheduleThursday, 6:30-9:30pm
April 05 — April 26, 2018