All the questions we ask in other courses become philosophical questions in the end. To say anything meaningful about anything, we must at least tacitly make assumptions about the relationship between our minds in the world. Is it possible for fallible creatures like ourselves to know anything at all for certain? If we can know, what shape does this knowledge take and how far does it go? When we make claims about reality and think that some of those claims are true and others are false, what must the very structure of reality be? The deeper we go with such questions, the more esoteric they can seem, and yet they also press upon us with greater and greater urgency as we pursue a life of wisdom. This course will survey what has been said about such things by some of the great authors in the western tradition.
We will read: Plato, Republic; Aristotle, Metaphysics I, IV; Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, I–II; Aquinas, Summa Theologica I QQ. XVI–XVII; Montaigne, Essays, “Apology for Raimond de Sebonde”; Descartes, Discourse on Method I–IV; Spinoza, Ethics I; Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, IV.I–IV; Berkeley, The Principles of Human Knowledge; Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding I–VIII; Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (selections); James, Principles of Psychology Ch. 28.