Skip to main content

Instructor: Markus Kohl. This course meets TR 11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. in CW 103.

This course is an introduction to major themes and figures in early modern (17th and 18th century) Western philosophy. At the same time, it is an introduction to topics and debates that have proved to be of lasting interests, which still pose central challenges for our attempts to understand who we are, what the external (corporeal) world is, and what connection there is between the human mind and the outside world.

We will study the doctrines of five or (time permitting) six philosophers whose thought has had a great lasting impact on subsequent philosophy and on subsequent intellectual developments more generally: Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, and (time permitting) Spinoza. We will focus our attention mostly on the answers that these philosophers gave to crucial questions in theoretical philosophy (metaphysics and epistemology) such as the following: Can we prove that there is a real world outside the mind, or could we always be dreaming (or be living in the Matrix) for all that we can tell? Is the mind identical to the brain, or are mind and body two different substances? Can we prove that God exists? How can we know mathematical truths about numbers or triangles? Are apples really green, or is greenness nothing but a subjective sensation in our mind? Are we rationally justified in thinking that the sun will rise tomorrow, or that a stone must fall to the ground if dropped in mid-air? Does the existence or the character of material objects like trees or rocks depend on the human mind?

We will consider the answers that modern philosophers gave to these questions, both in light of early modern scientific developments and in their own right.

This course has no prerequisites; no previous courses in philosophy are required.

Enrollment for this course is administered by the Honors College, not by the philosophy department. Please contact Jennifer Marshburn ( if you have any questions about course enrollment.


Honors course enrollment and wait list procedures are located here. Please direct all registration questions to Jenn Marshburn (, Enrolled Student Services Coordinator for Honors Carolina.