2018-2019 Academic Catalog 
    Dec 05, 2021  
2018-2019 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

PHIL 109 - Life and Times of David Hume

Can science give us certainty? Is suicide moral? Do we have a right to political rebellion? Can religion be rational? Can we argue about beauty? The questions we will discuss in PHIL 109 have in common that they were unsettling in the 17th- and 18th centuries. And maybe they still are today? What seemed like obvious answers to these questions prior to the Early Modern period had become unsatisfactory. We will discuss what makes ways of asking questions and finding answers particularly modern. Our focus will be on one particular contemporary of the Early Modern period: David Hume, who was perhaps the least shaken by the unsettling nature of the questions and by the lack of answers. His proposals earned him labels like “rebel,” “sceptic,” “infidel,” and “heretic.” But at the same time his successors showed great interest in his views. The class stresses hands-on historical and philosophical work. This means two things. (1) We will gain a skill set for interacting directly with Hume’s texts and with other historical sources. (2) We will learn effective methods for arguing about difficult and unsettling questions. Hume’s arguments about the role of science, the basis of morality, the rationality of religion, and other topics are still endorsed today and we will work on evaluating them.

Course Designation/Attribute: VE

Anticipated Terms Offered: Offered every other year