PHIL 294 Early Modern Philosophy, Spring 2015

PHIL 294 Early Modern Philosophy, Spring 2015

PHIL 294 Early Modern Philosophy
Siena College, Spring 2015

MWF 1:30-2:30 p.m.
Siena Hall 106
Instructor: Dr. Catherine Homan
Office Hours: MWF 11:30-12:30, T 2-3, and by appointment

Course Description
The Enlightenment philosopher, Immanuel Kant, suggests that there are four main questions in philosophy: What can I know?, What should I do?, What may I hope for?, and What is the human being? In many ways these questions and their answers are very much prefigured by other philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries. During this period of great scientific, religious, and political revolutions, philosophers transformed ideas regarding knowledge, experience, and morality in ways that are still at stake today. Our course will trace responses to this period of upheaval by exploring the works of thinkers such as Descartes, Elisabeth of Bohemia, Locke, Hume, Spinoza, and Kant. In addition to Kant’s four questions, we will also address questions such as What is the relation of mind and body? What is free will? Can we have knowledge of God? What is the nature of experience? Are human beings fully rational? Students should expect to develop their abilities and reasoning skills to analyze texts critically, engage in thoughtful discussions, and to evaluate the application of these positions in everyday situations as we examine both what defined the modern period and what implications these texts and thinkers have for today. Course requirements include weekly reading responses, class presentations, two essays, and a final paper.

Course Goals & Objectives
At the end of the course, students will be able to

  • understand key questions and themes in modern philosophy,
  • identify and explain philosophical positions regarding knowledge, certainty, and identity,
  • identify,  explain, and pose thoughtful questions of several philosophical theories,
  • place different theories in conversation with one another and synthesize particular themes, such as the limits of reason,  across text, sand
  • articulate and argue well for a position in class and in written assignments..

Course Texts
Ariew, Roger and Eric Watkins, eds. Modern Philosophy: An Anthology of Primary Sources. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2009.
Atherton, Margaret, ed. Women Philosophers of the Modern Period. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 19994.
All other texts will be placed on Blackboard.