This is not a seminar about modernity, but about modern philosophy—and, specifically, about the fundamental flaws (or faults) which characterize modern philosophy’s thinking. These flaws, once recognized, show their effects everywhere today: in the endless fragmentation of world, mind, self; in the intransigence of political discourse, the widening cultural divides, the polarization of extremes, and the frail, shrill assertions of expertise, exactitude, and a scientific consensus that appears to hold naught together in truth but the adherents of a narrow ideology.
We will not, in the course of these eight weeks, undertake deconstruction of this fragile and threatening edifice. Rather, our task is to discover and analyze the underlying faults. We will accomplish this analysis through a collective effort—with lectures given and discussions led by three faculty (Kemple, Wagner, and Boyer)—that unveils the fundamental mistakes of modern philosophy’s key thinkers. Though these thinkers are diverse from one another, commonly they are “modern” in holding certain presuppositions about the nature of knowledge and the human person resulting in a discontinuous set of fundamental beliefs concerning the universe and our experience of it.
It would be easy simply to point to the precarity and chaos permeating the world built on such foundations, wave it away, and say that we must begin again. But such hand-waving not only fails to be efficacious, it is, moreover, delusional. We are the children of modernity, like it or not, and their errors are our inheritance, abusive though that may be. If we fail to understand the foundations of the moderns’ thoughts, we will not recognize their influence in ourselves.
|Study Topics &|
|Week 1: The Modern Context|
Lecture: From the Break with Scholasticism to the Incoherence of Today
» Selections from preparatory bibliography.
|Week 2: The False Ground of Modern Philosophy|
Lecture: The πρῶτον ψεῦδος [first falsehood] of Modern Philosophy: Descartes’ Method
» Descartes, Meditations (I-II).
|Week 3: Common Idealism|
Lecture: The Lonely Way of Ideas
» Descartes, Discourse on Method (selections).
» Descartes, Meditations (III).
» Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding (selections).
|Week 4: A Broken “Empiricism”|
Lecture: David Hume’s “Empirical” Method: The Tale of Naïve Cartesian
» Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (selections).
» Aristotle, Physics (selections).
|Week 5: Immanuel Kant and the Unknowable|
Lecture: Kant’s A Priori Prison
» Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics (selections).
» Gilson, Unity of Philosophical Experience (selections).
|Week 6: Pointing Games|
Lecture: Wittgenstein’s Language
» Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (selections).
|Week 7: Avoiding Reality|
Lecture: Choose Your Own Ontology
» Quine, “On What There Is”.
» Geach, “Symposium: On What There Is”
|Week 8: Jean-Paul Sartre and the Nadir of Modernity|
Lecture: Antagonism of Person and Nature
» Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism.
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