PHIL 220.001 – Modern Philosophy: Descartes to Hume

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Instructor: Kyle Driggers. This course meets MWF 10:00 – 10:50 a.m. in CW 105.

This course will focus on four main texts from the early modern period in philosophy:  René Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, Baruch Spinoza’s Ethics, John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding, and George Berkeley’s Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge.  We will be interested in questions like the following:

(1) What is God and what is his relation to the world?

(2) What is the relationship between the mind and the body?

(3) What is the nature and extent of human knowledge?

(4) What are the fundamental constituents of the world?

(5) Do we have free will?

If time permits, we might consider texts from other figures in the early modern period: Hobbes, Leibniz, and Hume.

The primary goals of the course are (1) to introduce students to these metaphysical and epistemological questions, their many possible answers, and the arguments in favor of and against those answers, (2) to consider how these historical texts are relevant to contemporary philosophical debates, and  (3) to develop the skills necessary for engaging with difficult, historical texts.

Enrollment in the course requires that you have taken at least one other course in Philosophy.

Grades will be determined by participation, short papers on each of the texts, and a comprehensive final examination.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at

Prerequisite: 1 PHIL course.