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Topics in Early Modern Philosophy (Level 5)

Overview

Module description

The Early Modern period (roughly, 1600-1750) was a time of change in Western philosophy. Challenges to the medieval synthesis of Aristotelianism and Christianity led to new conceptions of human beings and how they should live, of the natural world, of God, and of the relations between these. This module will explore these views by focusing on a selection of key themes, such as the foundations of philosophy, mind and body, causation, life and death, reason and passion, and virtue, as they were treated by philosophers including Descartes, Hobbes, Elisabeth of Bohemia, Malebranche, Margaret Cavendish, Anne Conway, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, Hume, Gassendi, Cudworth, Mary Astell and Adam Smith.

Indicative module syllabus

  • Philosophising and philosophical knowledge
  • Ontology
  • Mind and body
  • Causation
  • Life and death
  • Reason and passion
  • Virtue and the good life
  • State and individual

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate detailed knowledge of different early modern philosophical accounts of human beings and how they should live, of the natural world and of God
  • demonstrate an awareness of different ideas, contexts and frameworks deployed by early modern contributors to debates in metaphysics, ethics and political philosophy, and recognise some of their strengths and weaknesses
  • analyse and compare different early modern philosophical theories of human beings and how they should live, of the natural world and of God
  • select appropriate criteria to evaluate early modern accounts of the nature of reality, the good life and political association and their relations to earlier and later philosophical approaches.