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Lectures / Disk 12


The Birth of the Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 17th and 18th Century (Part I)
Prof. Alan Kors (University of Pennsylvania)

DISK 12.1 
Lecture 1: Introduction – Intellectual History and Conceptual Change
The scope in this introductory lecture is to explain why human beings cannot understand history without understanding the history of their thought and conception. It will further distinguish analytic or judgmental history of philosophy from intellectual history. A description and what is meant by intellectual ‘revolution’ will also be given.

Lecture 2: The Dawn of the 17th Century – Aristotelian Scholasticism
This lecture begins with an overview of the intellectual inheritance of the 17th century. The Aristotelian Scholasticism was the dominant philosophical system which liked Aristotelian philosophy to the Christian doctrine. In the educated world, intellectual inheritance was a fusion of Aristotelian philosophy and of Christian theology. The disputatio(disputation, a means of teaching and persuasion in Aristotelian Scholasticism) will be explained

Lecture 3: The New Vision of Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon was a politician and a philosopher who undertook to question and to criticize the Aristotelian system and the European philosophical inheritance. His theory of error ‘Idols of the Mind’ and the many causes of error which keep us from understanding the world as created by God will be explained. His most essential work “The New Organ” a method for acquiring useful knowledge will also be summarized in this lecture.

Lecture 4: The New Astronomy and Cosmology
Astronomy an eminent science in the 17th century is discussed in this lecture, describing the astronomy adapted by the Aristotelian scholastics, that of Claudius Ptolemy (2nd century A.D.). The essential features of the neo-Pythagorean challenges to the Aristotelian thought are summarized as well as Kepler’s and Galileo’s works and views on astronomy.

Lecture 5: Descartes’s Dream of Perfect Knowledge
This lecture discusses Descartes’s Dream of Perfect Knowledge. He created a coherent philosophical system that appealed to both physicists and theologians. He sought to establish a criterion of truth and with this criterion to know the real nature and the real causes of things. His work freed philosophy from authority and from the Aristotelians as it explained the nature of ideas, knowledge and the source of error.

Lecture 6: The Specter of Thomas Hobbes
This lecture discusses Thomas Hobbes and his philosophical arguments which created much debate in the century that followed him. Rejecting Descartes’ dualism of mind and body, he argued that we can only conceive and know of material things while immateriality is nonsense and insignificant. The lecture also explains what Hobbes means by ‘good and evil’ and summarizes his views on the goal of philosophy and human nature.

DISK 12.2 
Lecture 7: Skepticism and Jansenism – Blaise Pascal
Philosophical skepticism is the belief that we may know nothing with certainty. When skepticism is used to humble human reason and to demonstrate our dependence on religious faith then it is termed ‘fideism’. During the 17th century, fideism was an assault on the dominant Aristotelian scholasticism. This lecture explains the concept of ‘fideism’ and summarizes the essential views of Jansenism, a movement that argued for salvation by faith alone.

Lecture 8: Newton’s Discovery
This lecture presents Isaac Newton and his emergence in the intellectual and scientific revolutions of the 17th century. The lecture focuses on the growth of scientific academies and societies outside of the universities and the appearance of the Royal Society.

Lecture 9: The Newtonian Revolution
This lecture presents the enthusiastic reception of Newton’s work by the learned world and explains why Kepler’s laws of planetary motion were not proven until Newton’s ‘Principia’; a work arguing that the world was ordered and coherent and that the human mind was capable of understanding the architecture and the design of God in the creation.

Lecture 10: John Locke – The Revolution in Knowledge
John Locke’s explanation of the origin of ideas (sensation and reflection) is summarized in this lecture along with the distinction between real and nominal essence. What is more Locke and Descartes are compared on the criterion on truth.

Lecture 11: The Lockean Moment
In Locke’s view the mind begins as a blank slate on which experience prints ideas via the senses and via reflection. Propositions about the world depend upon those acquired ideas, which in turn depend upon their relationship to experience. This lecture also describes the implications of Locke’s system for our understanding of the development of character, beliefs and morals.

Lecture 12: Skepticism and Calvinism – Pierre Bayle|
This lecture describes the fate of Bayle’s reputation in the 18th century. It explains the difficulty of maintaining fideism in an age of increasing confidence in reason. Bayle’s theological and political problems as addressed in his article on King David, including the problem of justification and dedication are also discussed.

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