History of Modern Philosophy
The explosion of scientific knowledge in early modern Europe cast doubt not only on the medieval worldview but also on its assumption of a theological guarantee for the possibility of human knowledge. Thus modern philosophers had to begin the project of establishing standards and foundations for human knowledge without a divine guarantee. The Reformation and the growth of secular states in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries presented a similar challenge for modern moral and political philosophy, which thus faced the challenge of establishing norms for human conduct and their foundation without divine commands. We shall examine how the leading philosophers of modern times confronted these challenges, focusing primarily on the challenge for modern theories of knowledge but also considering at least some of the parallel developments in modern moral philosophy. Readings will include selections from Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, and in the nineteenth century, the great American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce.
Written work will include several short papers and a final examination. Attendance at both lectures and discussion sections will be required, and participation in both can also count towards final grades.