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Modern Philosophy :



Ancient Philosophy and Medieval Synthesis, Logic, Human Person, Metaphysics






This seminar gives students a chance to appreciate the greatest modern philosophers (and their limitations) and understand the philosophical assumptions of the modern secular world in which they live. Likewise, it will help them to understand the ways in which modern secular philosophy and the Catholic tradition diverge or, at times, coincide.

The course covers the historical period from the 16th or 17th century (that is, from the rise of modern science) to the present. It deals with the writings of a representative group of the greatest modern philosophers, which can include some or all of the following: Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, Hume, Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche. Twentieth Century philosophy will also be considered.

The course concerns such classic philosophical topics as the existence and nature of God; the metaphysical transcendentals; the existence and nature of the physical world; human nature and morality, including human freedom. The course will also look at the peculiarly modern philosophical preoccupation: what human beings can know of the classical topics, and by what means. The seminar is not a survey course, covering a large number of philosophers and philosophical topics. Rather, it concentrates on fewer matters, for the sake of deeper critical understanding.


Possible sequence of topics:

  • Medieval background: Gilson.
  • Epistemology, natural theology, metaphysics, physics: Descartes, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche, Foucault.
  • Human person, ethics: Descartes, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche, Sartre.
Descartes Discourse on Method, Meditations
Spinoza Ethics
Locke Essay Concerning Human Understanding
Leibniz Monadology
Berkeley Principles of Human Knowledge
Hume Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Dialogue Concerning Natural Religion
Kant Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of Practical Reason
Hegel Philosophy of History
Gilson The Unity of Philosophical Experience