Rationalism & Empiricism Philosophy 250
10:00 MWF Peter Suber Carpenter 322 Fall 2002-2003 Syllabus
The required reading for this course consists of the following books:
- René Descartes, Philosophical Essays, Lafleur trans., Macmillan, 1964.
- Baruch Spinoza, Ethics, Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, and Selected Letters, Shirley and Feldman trans., Hackett, 1992.
- Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Discourse on Metaphysics and Other Essays, Garber and Ariew trans., Hackett, 1991.
- John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, ed. Peter Nidditch, Oxford University Press, 1975.
- George Berkeley, Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous, ed. Colin Turbayne, Macmillan, 1954.
- David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, Oxford University Press, rev. ed., 1968.
I've created a course homepage containing a collection of hand-outs and course-related web links at http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/courses/re/rehome.htm.
Works and pages cited for a given day will be discussed or presupposed that day in class and should have been read in advance. Those in brackets are recommended but not required. Papers are due at class time on the days indicated.
Week 1. August 26-30 Mon No class Wed First class; no reading due Fri This syllabus; generic hand-out, opening questions assignment, opening propositions assignment, library report assignment; Descartes, Discourse, Sections 1-2, Today's Think-About Questions Week 2. September 2-6 Mon Descartes, Discourse, Sections 3-4, Today's Think-About Questions, Great chain of being hand-out Wed Descartes, Discourse, Sections 5-6, Today's Think-About Questions Fri Philosophy paper tutorial day; Essay assignment hand-out (short description) Week 3. September 9-13 Mon Descartes, Meditations: Dedication, Preface, Synopsis, Section 1, Today's Think-About Questions Wed Descartes, Meditations, Sections 2-3, Today's Think-About Questions Fri Descartes, Meditations, Section 4, Today's Think-About Questions Week 4. September 16-20 Mon Descartes, Meditations, Sections 5-6, Today's Think-About Questions Wed Review day Thu No class today but... "Half-graded" Descartes paper due Fri Spinoza, Emendation of the Intellect, pp. 233-250, Today's Think-About Questions Week 5. September 23-27 Mon Spinoza, Emendation of the Intellect, pp. 250-262, Today's Think-About Questions Wed Spinoza, Ethics, Part I, through Prop. 17, Today's Think-About Questions Fri Spinoza, Ethics, Part I, through Prop. 36, Today's Think-About Questions Library report #1 due Week 6. September 30 - October 4 Mon Spinoza, Ethics, Appendix to Part I; Part II, preface, definitions, axioms, postulates, propositions, and notes only, through Prop. 17; [proofs, corollaries, lemmas recommended]; Today's Think-About Questions Wed Spinoza, Ethics, through end of Part II, Today's Think-About Questions Fri Review day Week 7. October 7-11 Mon Locke, Essay, pp. 43-48, 104-109, 117-123, 126-132, 134-141, Today's Think-About Questions Tue No class today but... Descartes/Spinoza paper due Wed Locke, Essay, pp. 143-146, 149-150, 155-159, 162-167, 180-181, 288, 295-302, 305-306, 307-308, 311-312, 316-317, Today's Think-About Questions Fri No class; I'll be out of town. Week 8. October 14-18 Mon Locke, Essay, pp. 331-343, 525-527, 530-534, 536-538, Today's Think-About Questions Wed Locke, Essay, pp. 618-625, 630-639, 688-696, Today's Think-About Questions Fri No class; mid-term break Week 9. October 20-25 Mon Review day Wed Leibniz, Discourse, Sections 1-12, Today's Think-About Questions Fri Leibniz, Discourse, Sections 13-25, Today's Think-About Questions Library report #2 due Week 10. October 28 - November 1 Mon Leibniz, Discourse, Sections 26-37, Today's Think-About Questions Wed Leibniz, Monadology, Sections 1-30, Today's Think-About Questions Fri Leibniz, Monadology, Sections 31-60, Today's Think-About Questions Week 11. November 4-8 Mon Leibniz, Monadology, Sections 61-90, Today's Think-About Questions Wed Review day Thu No class but... Locke/Leibniz paper due 10:00 am Fri Berkeley, Preface and First Dialogue, Today's Think-About Questions Week 12. November 11-15 Mon Berkeley, Second Dialogue, Today's Think-About Questions Wed Berkeley, Third Dialogue, Today's Think-About Questions Fri Review day Week 13. November 18-22 Mon Hume, Treatise, pp. xiii-xix, 1-25, 66-68, Today's Think-About Questions Wed Hume, Treatise, pp. [26-65], 69-94, Today's Think-About Questions Fri Hume, Treatise, pp. 94-123, Today's Think-About Questions Library report #3 due Week 14. November 25-29 Mon No class, Thanksgiving break Wed Fri Week 15. December 2-6 Mon Hume, Treatise, pp. [124-30], [130-55], 155-87, Today's Think-About Questions Wed Hume, Treatise, pp. 187-218, Today's Think-About Questions Fri Hume, Treatise, pp. pp. [219-51], 251-63, 263-74, Today's Think-About Questions Week 16. December 9-13 Mon Review day Evaluation form due before next class Wed Last class; oral evaluation Berkeley/Hume paper due 10:00 am Fri No class
I've stuck in a review day every time we change philosophers. Here are some of my ideas on how to use these days; let me hear yours.
- Review the philosopher we just finished. Ask any questions that you didn't have a chance to ask earlier. Tie up loose ends. Put the details into a larger picture. Get comfortable evaluating, not just interpreting, philosophers and their arguments.
- Discuss how to write a paper on the philosopher we just finished and how to write philosophy papers in general. Go over some possible paper topics.
- Take stock. How have the philosophers in the course dealt with recurring themes? (What are the recurring themes so far?) Where does the conversation stand on those themes?
- Practice comparing two philosophers. Where do they agree and where do they disagree? Where they agree, what evidence is there that the earlier thinker influenced the later thinker? Where they disagree, what evidence is there that the later thinker was responding to the earlier thinker? Apart from historical influence, how would A object to B, how would B answer A's objections, and vice versa? Can we imagine and reconstruct this dialog, and start to assess the adequacy of the two positions in its light?
- Talk shop about library research in philosophy. How does one find scholarship on a particular philosophical topic, figure, or period?
- Assess the quality of our discussions. How could we improve?
Title Due date Weight Description Descartes paper September 19 10% 5-6 pp. "Half-graded". Write both an interpretation and evaluation, but I'll only grade the interpretation. Details. Library report #1 September 27 5% 2-3 pp. Details. Descartes and/or Spinoza paper October 8 20% 6-10 pp. (8-12 pp. if comparative). Details. Library report #2 October 25 5% 2-3 pp. Details. Locke and/or Leibniz paper November 7 20% 6-10 pp. (8-12 pp. if comparative). Details. Library report #3 November 22 5% 2-3 pp. Details. Berkeley and/or Hume paper December 11 20% 6-10 pp. (8-12 pp. if comparative). Details. Ask opening questions Mondays 2% You'll do this as often as our enrollment divides into the number of available Mondays. Details. List opening propositions Wednesdays 3% You'll do this as often as our enrollment divides into the number of available Wednesdays. Details. Participation Daily 10% Attendance, preparation for class, and helpful, voluntary participation in class and electronic discussion. Details. Evaluation form December 10 0% Due any time before the last day of class. Use the hardcopy form I will hand out or print yourself a copy of the online version. With the exception of library reports, you must submit all assigned work to pass the course.
Half-graded Descartes paper
The 5-6 pp. "half-graded" Descartes paper, due at the end of our Descartes unit in Week 4, is an opportunity to learn how to write about philosophy without the intimidation of a "fully-graded" paper.
The assignment in brief is to ask a question, then (in Part 1) reconstruct Descartes' answer to the question with his supporting argument, and then (in Part 2) start to evaluate the strength and weaknesses of his answer and argument. In Part 1, aim for accuracy, detail, and textual evidence for every significant claim you attribute to Descartes. In Part 2, aim for fairness to Descartes, persuasive use of argument, and focus on the position interpreted in the first half of the paper. In both parts of the paper, aim for clarity without oversimplification. For more detail, see my essay assignment hand-out.
I will only grade the interpretation half (Part 1) of this paper. I'll comment on the evaluation half (Part 2) but without giving it a grade.
To reduce intimidation even further, this paper will also be shorter than the other major papers in the course, and weigh less in the final course grade.
Your first regular, fully-graded paper isn't due until the end of our Spinoza unit in Week 6, and you may not get it back until mid-term. A secondary purpose of this paper, then, is to give you feedback before mid-term on your ability to interpret a philosopher's position and argument, to evaluate them, and to write clearly and precisely about them.
Apart from participation, the chief work for this course consists of three significant papers. Each should contain interpretation and evaluation as described in my essay assignment hand-out.
The first paper should be on Descartes and/or Spinoza, the second on Locke and/or Leibniz, and the third on Berkeley and/or Hume. At least one of these papers should be comparative. Within these limitations pick any topic you find interesting and important. A topic is a question; see the essay hand-out. I will occasionally suggest good topics throughout the term. I'd be happy to help you frame your own ideas in an office appointment, if you'd like.
The topic of your Descartes/Spinoza paper should not be the same as the topic you used in your first, "half-graded" Descartes paper.
Comparative papers have three parts, not just two. Start with a single sharp question, as usual. In Part 1, reconstruct the answers of both philosophers along with their supporting arguments. Describe the important similarities and differences between their answers and arguments. In Part 2, show how they would respond to one another's arguments and objections. In Part 3, offer some evaluative comments, as usual; these could be on the strengths and weaknesses of the two positions, considered separately, or on the relative superiority of one of them. (Despite these instructions, some students always assume that comparative papers need no evaluative comments. To omit them is to omit about a third of the paper!)
Non-comparative papers should be 6-10 pages long. Comparative papers should be 8-12 pages long.
You may use any of your library reports in your papers, if relevant. But please note: while you will find many scholars in the library who have interpreted and evaluated our authors, you should not let their scholarship take the place of your own interpretation and evaluation.
See my generic hand-out for details on paper mechanics, lateness, and rewrites. Here's the gist: I apply a penalty to late work that arrives during the semester. I don't accept late work or rewrites after the last day of class.
If you give me a self-addressed, stamped envelope with your final paper, then I'll mail your paper back to you during the break. If you only put your campus mail box number on the paper, then I'll mail it to your campus box. If you do neither, I'll hold it for you to pick up next semester.
If you have not taken Ancient Greek Philosophy, or Western Ways of Wisdom, then I recommend that you do some independent reading on Plato and Aristotle early in the semester. Acquaint yourselves with at least these positions: from Plato, "the divided line", the theory of recollection, and the theory of forms (or ideas), and from Aristotle, the critique of Plato, the four causes, and the unmoved mover. Beyond these topics, nothing is necessary. But if you want to do more, read up on any part of their epistemology or metaphysics. Secondary sources are good enough for this assignment, since they will give you a more complete picture in a shorter time. Your first library report may be on Plato or Aristotle, if you like, but need not be.
I would like to try a modified discussion format in which lectures respond interactively to questions. Students in the past have said that this material is too difficult to discuss without some foundation provided by lectures. But at the same time, the material is too exciting for a straight lecture format the more you understand it, the more you'll want to discuss it. Since the objective is not to write down a formula but to think, philosophy requires real-time conversation.
I will assume that you read the day's reading and understood most of it. In my lectures I will sometimes focus on the most difficult points from the reading, sometimes the most important, and sometimes fine points most likely to be overlooked. Sometimes I will omit detail in order to give the big picture; sometimes I will ignore all but one sub-topic in order to give detail. There are two important consequences for you. (1) First, the lectures will not suffice to convey everything that is important in the reading. They couldn't. (2) Second, you may have questions on parts of the reading I did not cover. If so, please ask them. I am always willing to slow down or make mid-course corrections.
I will try to strike a balance between lecture and discussion. I'll want your help in determining whether we should adjust the balance more toward lecture or more toward discussion. If you're not comfortable giving me this or other kinds of feedback in class, feel free to do it by email.
Every Monday, one of you will open class by asking the first questions. See the opening questions hand-out for details. You'll take turns at this, and go as many times as the enrollment divides into the available slots. If two or more of you go on the same day, each will do the whole assignment separately, not one assignment jointly.
Every Wednesday, one of you will open class by writing on the board (or reading aloud) the five most important propositions asserted by the author in that day's reading. See the opening propositions hand-out for details. You'll take turns at this too, and go as often as the enrollment divides into the available slots. If two or more of you go on the same day, I'll leave it to you to decide whether to write separate sets of five propositions or one set jointly.
If you find the opening questions and opening propositions especially helpful, we can add one (or perhaps both) to Friday's classes as well.
I hope to make use of electronic discussion to continue and deepen our in-class discussions. I've set up an email list for this course. If you send an email to the list, then everyone in class receives a copy automatically. To use the list, simply send email to ratemp or email@example.com. For answers to common questions about using such a list, see my electronic discussion hand-out.
Electronic discussion might include the following:
- follow-ups to the Monday opening questions, trying to answer them
- follow-ups to the Wednesday opening propositions, refining their accuracy and discussing their centrality
- nominating and refining the central propositions from non-Wednesday readings, in order to build a "consensus outline" of the course texts
- identifying the arguments for the central propositions
- discussing the "think-about" questions
- posting URLs to helpful readings discovered elsewhere on the net
- continuing discussions that start in class
- asking the questions that are really on your mind
The chief elements of your participation grade are attendance, preparation for class, and performance in class and electronic discussion. See my generic hand-out for details on participation and discussion.
I have written a hand-out of questions correlated with each day's reading. Use it to help you focus on important issues as you read. The questions will also point to likely topics of future class discussion on which you ought to be prepared, at least with page numbers. The questions will be worth your cogitation even if we don't reach them in class. Many would also make good paper topics.
Our objectives, while many, implicate one another tightly and cannot be separated. We will try to understand our authors. We will read sympathetically and yet critically. We will look for presuppositions. We will not focus on positions alone but will try always to see them with their supporting arguments. We will not focus on isolated positions and arguments, but will try always to see them in relation to other thinkers and events (historically) and in relation to other ideas (systematically). We will ask questions and look for answers. We will go to the library for illumination of our texts and our questions. We will practice using discussion to answer our questions when no participant had an answer before the discussion began. We will compare different positions and arguments. We will compose our own arguments. We will be creative in thinking through the meaning and merits of positions and arguments. We will learn a bit more about what philosophy is. We will make some progress thinking through some very basic questions for ourselves.
Any student with a documented disability who wishes to arrange reasonable accommodation should talk to me and the Director of the Center for Academic Enrichment (Runyan basement, phone x.1341) as soon as possible and at least within the first two weeks of the semester.
Here are the dates of our authors and some of their notable contemporaries, chronological by birth year. Our authors' names are links to searches in Hippias, the philosophy-specific search engine.
Copernicus (Mikolaj Kopernick) 1473 - 1543 Polish Luther, Martin 1483 - 1546 German Calvin, John 1509 - 1564 French Montaigne, Michel Eyquem de 1533 - 1592 French Bruno, Giordano 1548 - 1600 Italian Bacon, Francis 1561 - 1626 English Galileo, Galilei 1564 - 1642 Italian Shakespeare, William 1564 - 1616 English Kepler, Johannes 1571 - 1630 German Hobbes, Thomas 1588 - 1679 English Gassendi, Pierre 1592 - 1655 French Descartes, René 1596 - 1650 French Milton, John 1608 - 1674 English La Rochefoucauld, Duc Francois de 1613 - 1680 French Cavendish, Margaret (Duchess) 1623 - 1673 English Pascal, Blaise 1623 - 1662 French Fox, George 1624 - 1691 English Conway, Anne Finch (Viscountess) 1631 - 1679 English Locke, John 1632 - 1704 English Spinoza, Baruch (Benedict) 1632 - 1677 Dutch Newton, Isaac 1642 - 1727 English Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm 1646 - 1716 German Bayle, Pierre 1647 - 1706 French Masham, Damaris Cudworth 1659 - 1708 English Astell, Mary 1666 - 1731 English Swift, Jonathan 1667 - 1745 Irish Cockburn, Catharine Trotter 1679 - 1749 English Berkeley, George (Bishop) 1685 - 1753 Irish Voltaire, Francois-Marie Arouet de 1694 - 1778 French Johnson, Samuel 1696 - 1772 English Hume, David 1711 - 1776 Scottish Rousseau, Jean-Jacques 1712 - 1778 French Smith, Adam 1723 - 1790 Scottish Kant, Immanuel 1724 - 1804 German
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Peter Suber, Department of Philosophy, Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana, 47374.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright © 1997-2002, Peter Suber.