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Instructor: Karl Adam. This course meets MTWRF 9:45 – 11:15 a.m. via synchronous remote instruction.

The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were one of the most dynamic periods in the history of western philosophy.  Philosophers at this time had to grapple with the scientific revolution, which undermined the millennia old Aristotelian understanding of the world and humanities place in it.  They also had to come to grips with the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation, which both undermined confidence in the earlier consensus view of religion and led to centuries of religious wars and a rethinking of the relationship between the church and the state.

This course will be an in depth study of five influential philosophers of this period–Rene Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, Anne Conway, David Hume, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  We will examine how these philosophers tried to answer questions such as:

  • Can I know anything for certain?
  • Does all knowledge come from experience?
  • Do humans have immaterial souls?
  • Can matter think?
  • Is there an afterlife?
  • What is the role of emotions in the good life?
  • Do humans have free will?
  • Does God have free will?
  • Is God bound by the moral law, or does he create the moral law?
  • What makes someone a good person?
  • Are humans wholly selfish?
  • What kind of political freedom is valuable?
  • What relationship should there be between religion and the state?
  • When, if ever, are we morally obligated to obey the law?
  • What is justice?
  • Is private property just?