PHIL: 416 17th-18th Cent Philosophy
PHIL 416: 17th-18th Cent Philosophy: 17th Century Conceptions of Reason & Belief
The division between rationalism and empiricism is often considered to be the most important epistemological distinction in the seventeenth century. This course, however, will proceed from the assumption that there is a more basic epistemological distinction: the distinction between reason as a purely methodological tool, and reason as a source of substantive truths about the material and immaterial world. We will examine how these two conceptions of reason are developed, defended, and applied, as well as the implications of each conception for the rationality of various kinds of belief – specifically, the rationality of moral beliefs and the rationality of religious beliefs. Figures to be studied will include (but are not limited to) Descartes, Arnauld, Locke, Bayle, and Leibniz.
PHIL 416: 17th-18th Cent Philosophy: 17th Arguments on Toleration
The 17th century was a time of tremendous religious and political conflict, and this motivated many philosophers to construct arguments against religious intolerance, and in favor of toleration. The differences in the grounds of these arguments, and of the scope and nature of the toleration in question, however, are not entirely clear. Our goal in the seminar will be to examine these arguments carefully in order to work out these distinctions, with an eye towards how different types of arguments – yielding support for very different types of toleration – might be useful in our contemporary context. Authors to be studied include (at least) Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, and Bayle.
PHIL 416: 17th-18th Cent Philosophy: Religious & Moral Belief in Bayle
The nature and value of skepticism, the nature and grounds of faith, and the relationship between religious and moral beliefs were three of the hottest topics in 17th century French philosophy. Pierre Bayle sits at the intersection of these three debates, and is thus an excellent figure to guide our inquiry into early modern conceptions of the relationships between reason, religious beliefs, and moral beliefs.
This seminar will use Dr. Irwin’s manuscript-in-progress both as a guide through the relevant primary sources, and as a jumping-off point for discussion and interpretation of the primary texts. Seminarians will also gain practical disciplinary skills, such as composing and revising a conference paper for submission to the APA; writing book-review style pieces; writing a referee report; and adapting one’s teaching style to different audiences.
Reading knowledge of French will be helpful, but not at all necessary.