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European Intellectual History from Aquinas to Kant
The scholars and philosophers of early modern Europe set the agenda for much of modern thought concerning epistemology, morality, religion, and politics. Many of their debates still inform our intellectual world: How do we know what we know? Is human nature intrinsically selfish? What is the nature of God, and of His revelation? Should we prefer individual freedom or political stability? Our seminar will retrace the long and winding path from the intellectual culture of late medieval Europe to that of the Enlightenment. We will try to understand how a Christian culture of manuscript books, whose inquiries were conducted in Latin, transformed into a secular culture of public debate in new printed publications such as journals and newspapers in vernacular languages (English, French, German, etc.). In the process, we will encounter the foundational movements that structured European thought and the making of knowledge in these centuries: scholasticism, humanism, the new philosophy and the Enlightenment. Ultimately, we will recover the arguments of major thinkers and consider what they can teach us today. Authors to be read include Petrarch, Christine de Pizan, Thomas More, Descartes, Leibniz, Montesquieu and Rousseau.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
attendance and participation; two short papers; a longer final paper
juniors and senior History majors
HIST Group C Electives - Europe and Russia
HIST Group P Electives - Premodern
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