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Lectures / Disk 13


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

DISK 13.1 
Lecture 13: The Moderns – The Generation of 1680-1715
The generation of 1685-1715 that embodied a fundamental change of attitude towards knowing and nature is examined in this lecture. Scholasticism remained well-established in the universities, fideism and mysticism were vital forces in the culture of the time but new philosophers were coming to dominate the learned world by winning the debates, interests and affection of the reading public. A summary of the new philosophers and the variety of influences on religious questions and attitudes will also be discussed.

Lecture 14: Introduction to Deism
Deism is a widespread religious phenomenon among the educated classes of Europe in the 18th century. It embodies belief in a God whose existence and goodness are proven by nature and disbelieves the Judeo-Christian or any other tradition and revelation. This lecture describes the characteristics of deism and summarizes the deictic arguments against the Christian revelation.

 Lecture 15: The Conflict Between Deism and Christianity
This lecture discusses the main points of conflict between the deictic and Christian thinkers as they debated the most essential theological issues such as: the source of our knowledge of God, the manifestation of God’s love and providence, the goal of life, the relation of God and His creation.

Lecture 16: Montesquieu and the Problem of Relativism
This lecture examines how the problem of the relativity of knowledge arises from Locke’s belief that if knowledge and moral ideas were caused and enclosed by one’s experience, then one’s sense of the world would be relative to one’s time, place, personal experience and physical senses. Montesquieu then poses two central questions in his work “Persian Letters” exploring the problem of Relativism: “What is relative to time and place? What is natural and universal?”

Lecture 17: Voltaire-Bringing England To France
Voltaire’s “Philosophical Letters” published in 1734 are a celebration of English thought and political life and an assault on orthodox, absolute and aristocratic France. Though his work was seen by many historians as the first essential work of the French Enlightenment, the publication of his letters brought Voltaire’s lifetime banishment from Paris.

Lecture 18: Bishop Joseph Butler and God’s Providence
This lecture discusses and links the scientific revolution of the 17th century and the emergence of the pursuit of happiness as a natural right. It describes Bishop Butler’s view on human nature and human happiness while it further distinguishes various terms of ‘nature’ used in the 18th century.

DISK 13.2
Lecture 19: The Skeptical Challenge to Optimism-David Hume
The first half of the 18th century was marked by optimistic and natural philosophy and natural religion. This lecture discusses the basic premises of this optimistic natural philosophy and religion which were brought on from the intellectual revolution of the 17th century.

Lecture 20: The Assault upon Philosophical Optimism – Voltaire
By the mid-century, philosophical optimism discussed in the previous lecture was afforded some arguments and reconsiderations, including rethinking of issues from Voltaire and Bishop Butler.

Lecture 21: The philosophies – The Triumph of the French Enlightenment
The ‘Philosophers’ of the French Enlightenment was a diverse community of thinkers and writers who regarded themselves as ‘new philosophers’ as their mission was to critically reexamine the belief in knowledge, authority and institutions. This lecture describes the shared beliefs and values of what is termed ‘the French Enlightenment’.

Lecture 22: Beccaria and Enlightened Re
This lecture describes the main features of Beccarias’s proposals for reform of the criminal law, the criteria on institutional reform, and the exceptional importance of the role of the legislator in the 18th century.

Lecture 23: Rousseau’s Dissent
Even though Rousseau shared much of the Enlightenment thought concerning deism and religious tolerance, his belief that ‘progress’ and society have removed us from our true nature constituted a major deviation from the prevailing beliefs of the 18th century. What links and what separates Rousseau from the French Enlightenment is the concern of this lecture.

 Lecture 24: Materialism and Naturalism – The Boundaries of the Enlightenment
This lecture explores the naturalistic materialism and the atheism of the French Enlightenment which set the foundations of the 18th century thought. It describes the ways in which spiritualism strongly persisted at that time and looks at how La Mettrie’s work sought to establish materialism as the only means of scientific or philosophical explanation. Diderot’s sense of the ethical implications of materialism is also explained.

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