PHIL 4220

PHIL 4220

Course information provided by the Courses of Study 2019-2020.

Advanced discussion of topics or authors in "modern" Western philosophy (circa the 17th and 18th centuries).

When Offered Fall.

Breadth Requirement (HB)
Distribution Category (KCM-AS)

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Enrollment Information
Syllabi: none
  •   Regular Academic Session.  Combined with: JWST 4210JWST 6210PHIL 6220

  • 4 Credits Stdnt Opt

  • Topic: Spinoza on the Mind

  • 16822PHIL 4220  SEM 101

  • This course will focus on the work of the influential early modern Jewish philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, and in particular on his unorthodox views about the nature and scope of mindedness and thinking. Spinoza was a panpsychist: someone who holds that all things in nature -- even humble slugs -- think in some way and to some degree; he also held that all creaturely ideas (including human ideas) are just parts of a single, infinite, cosmic intellect; finally, he held that being thought about is a particular way of having existence, such that whenever I think about my cat, for example, this very cat comes to exist as a purely mental object, in addition to already existing as a furry, meowing, spatio-temporal creature. In addition to looking at these puzzling theses, we will also investigate how Spinoza understood intentionality (or thought's directedness at objects) more generally; how he understood what it takes to form an idea; how ideas represent or fail to represent things; the relation between creaturely minds and the divine intellect; and the relation between being and thought on the cosmic level. We will also spend time examining Spinoza's debt to his medieval Jewish philosophers, notably Maimonides and Gersonides, as well as Spinoza's influence on late 19th century and early 20th Idealists, who were drawn to Spinoza's philosophy by the central place it assigns to thought in nature.