History of Modern Philosophy from Kant (PHIL*3080) | College of Arts

History of Modern Philosophy from Kant (PHIL*3080)

Term: Fall 2014


The goal of this course is to give students an overview of the major developments in European philosophy from the late 18th century to the late 19th century. Because this was an especially fertile period for Western thought, the focus of the course will necessarily be selective and many important figures will be neglected. Nevertheless, students should expect to come away with an understanding of late modern philosophy that will be essential for understanding later intellectual developments, especially those in the tradition that is now called continental philosophy. Although the influence of some of these thinkers (particularly Marx and Nietzsche) would extend beyond philosophy into literature, psychoanalysis, sociology, and politics, we will focus on the conceptual foundations of their theories rather than their diverse applications.

The course will be divided roughly into two halves. In the first half, we will focus on the movement called German Idealism from its inception in Kant's revolutionary Critique of Pure Reason to its culmination in Hegel. Priority will be given to Kant as the thinker who, more than any other in the modern era, would determine the subsequent evolution of western philosophy. In the second half of the course, we will look at how Marx, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche each responded to the Idealists and made their own unique contributions to European thought. Reading these philosophers can be difficult at times, but patient students will find they are also among the most rewarding in all of western philosophy.


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