PHIL 220.002 – 17th and 18th Century Western Philosophy
Instructor: Yifan Li. This course meets MTWRF 9:45 – 11:15 a.m. via synchronous remote instruction.
The period from the 16th century to the 18th century witnessed an explosion of new philosophical ideas. However, when people study this period, it is particularly common to focus only on ‘rationalists’ and ‘empiricists’ while neglecting anyone who does not fit neatly into these constructed categories. This course aims to come to a deeper understanding of early modern philosophy through a study of non-canonical, women, and nonwhite philosophers, like Émilie du Châtelet, Anton Wilhelm Amo, and Anne Conway, in addition to ‘the big six,’ i.e., Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume.
We will approach (and lose sleep over) important philosophical questions through the lens of these great philosophers: do ‘I’ exist? Can we know that there is an external world outside our minds, or are we just constantly dreaming? Does an omnipotent God exist? Are body and mind separated? How can we know mathematical truths about numbers or triangles? Are apples really red, or is redness 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? What are laws of nature? In what ways is human freedom constrained? What is the best way of living? Etc.