Knowledge and Reality
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 18 December 2020
16 May 2020
Requisites for this module
BA V500 Philosophy,
BA V501 Philosophy (Including Year Abroad),
BA V502 Philosophy (Including Foundation Year),
BA V503 Philosophy (including Placement Year),
BA V508 Philosophy (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad),
MPHIVA98 Philosophy (Including Placement Year),
MPHIVA99 Philosophy (Including Year Abroad),
BA VV53 Philosophy and Art History,
BA VV54 Philosophy and Art History (Including Foundation Year),
BA VV55 Philosophy and Art History (Including Placement Year),
BA VV5H Philosophy and Art History (Including Year Abroad),
BA VVHP Philosophy and Art History (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad)
This module will introduce students to debates that lay the foundation for modern philosophy. Starting with a close reading of Descartes' Meditations, we explore responses from key thinkers in the rationalist and empiricist traditions.
In the wake of Descartes's philosophy, the 'new philosophy' sets out to provide a foundation of the human project by stressing the power of human intellect unaided by divine revelation. The "Continental Rationalists", Spinoza and Leibniz, share Descartes conviction that the human mind could acquire substantive knowledge of the world on the basis of reason alone. Despite this shared conviction, however, there are profound differences between these individual philosophers. The "British Empiricists" thinkers, Locke and Hume, start from the shared conviction that knowledge of the world cannot be attained without recourse to sense experience. In the case of Locke, this leads to a more modest account of the scope of human knowledge; with Hume it leads to scepticism that throws the quest for knowledge into radical doubt.
We will more particularly focus on the following questions. What is the nature and limit of human knowledge? What role does human subjectivity have to play in the foundation of a new theoretical and practical world? Must a rationalist approach to the world rely on God? What must be the relations between faith and reason? Is human freedom compatible with a scientific vision of the world as governed by natural laws? What is the relation between the body and the mind? Can experience provide a foundation for knowledge?
The aims of the module are:
* to introduce students to selected texts of some of the leading philosophers of the early modern period;
* to introduce students to core issues in metaphysics and epistemology and through the study of these texts;
* to give students some impression of how the texts and authors selected contributed to the theoretical framework underlying developments in philosophy,
By the end of the module, students should be able in their essay and examination work to:
* summarise and expound in their own words theories and arguments from early modern philosophy;
* expound and criticise commentaries on the traditional authors and texts;
* expound and criticise some of the theories proposed by philosophers to cope with problems raised by selected authors.
* define the task in which they are engaged and exclude what is irrelevant;
* seek and organize the most relevant discussions and sources of information;
* process a large volume of diverse and sometimes conflicting arguments;
* compare and evaluate different arguments and assess the limitations of their own position or procedure;
* write and present verbally a succinct and precise account of positions, arguments, and their presuppositions and implications;
* be sensitive to the positions of others and communicate their own views in ways that are accessible to them;
* think 'laterally' and creatively - see interesting connections and possibilities and present these clearly rather than as vague hunches;
* maintain intellectual flexibility and revise their own position if shown wrong;
* think critically and constructively.
Incoming Study Abroad students must have already taken an introductory module in Philosophy at their home institution.
1 x two-hour lecture each week followed by a one-hour discussion seminar at which issues covered in the lecture will be discussed. All teaching events will be accessible to students on and off campus either face-to-face or remotely through online teaching. Week 8 is Reading Week.
- Descartes, René; Ariew, Roger. (c2000) Philosophical essays and correspondence, Indianapolis: Hackett.
- Descartes, René; Sutcliffe, Frank Edmund. (1968) Discourse on Method, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
- Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm; Ariew, Roger; Garber, Daniel. (c1989) Philosophical essays, Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co.
- Spinoza, Benedictus de; Shirley, Samuel; Feldman, Seymour. (c1992) The ethics: Treatise on the emendation of the intellect ; Selected letters, Indianapolis: Hackett.
- Spinoza, Benedict de; Curley, Edwin M. (c1994) A Spinoza reader: the Ethics and other works, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
- Descartes, René; Cottingham, John. (2012) Meditations on first philosophy: with selections from the objections and replies, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm. (1962 [c1902) Discourse on metaphysics: correspondence with Arnauld, and Monadology, La Salle: Open Court.
The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.
Assessment items, weightings and deadlines
|Coursework / exam
||Essay (2000) words)
||Reading Quizzes TOTAL
||Reconstruction Assignment (1000 words)
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Steven Gormley, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr Steven Gormley
Dr Thomas Joseph Stern
University College London
Available via Moodle
Of 1079 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
1077 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
2 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).
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