Modern Philosophy (PHIL*6340) | College of Arts

Modern Philosophy (PHIL*6340)

Code and section: PHIL*6340*01

Term: Fall 2020

Instructor: Patricia Sheridan


This course is cross-listed with PHIL*4420

The early modern period saw the rise of experimental science, an epistemological and methodological system that insisted upon epistemic rigour, objectivity, and empirical accountability.
While the end of this new scientific approach was obviously better science, there is a theme that runs through the literature of this period that is far more ethical and psychological in nature. For many of the central thinkers of the seventeenth century, the methods of the new science offered not only a new basis for knowledge, but a means of overcoming the imperfections of the rational mind. What we find in the writings of such foundational thinkers as Bacon, Boyle, Locke, and Descartes is a vision of how an ordered regimen of reasoning provides a key to mental health and a route to a virtuous life. This was, quite simply, a view of philosophy as a way of living.

Texts: This course will look at the primary-source writings of these thinkers (Bacon, Boyle, Locke, and Descartes) alongside the analysis of this period offered by Sorana Corneanu’s 2011 book Regimens of the Mind: Boyle, Locke, and the Early Modern Cultura Animi Tradition. Corneanu’s book will be available through the bookstore, but it also available on Amazon. It is also freely accessible as an e-book through the Guelph Library. I will specify the primary-source texts soon and will aim to find versions that are available online or in inexpensive volumes.

Delivery format of course: This course is officially designated as alternative delivery, asynchronous. This doesn’t mean we will not meet for lively discussion. I will be in touch with the class later this summer to determine a schedule that works best for the group, so that we can meet together on a regular basis (via Zoom) to have class discussions.

Course Outline

The University of Guelph resides on the land of the Between the Lakes Treaty No. 3, the territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit. This land is part of the Dish with One Spoon, a covenant between Indigenous nations to live peaceably on the territories of the Great Lakes region. We recognize that today this gathering place is home to many First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and acknowledging them reminds us of our collective responsibility to the land where we learn, live and work.