AIMS AND TEACHING OBJECTIVES

  • The aim of this course is to enable students to develop competence in a particular thematic area, a specific historiographical approach, and a general way of thinking. That is to say, students taking this course are expected to become gradually conversant with the general problematic as well as the particular concepts relating to the origins of modern mind as bearing on the intersections of philosophy, religion, science and moral thought. They will also be expected to become competent in the highly contextual and historically sensitive way of doing intellectual history that is proposed by this course. And they will be expected to develop argumentative and critical skills as a result of the practice of debate proposed as a way of understanding the polemical context in which the issues discussed took shape.

  • In terms of more specific objectives, we expect students to be able to:
    • define and evaluate the main historiographical theses presented in the course (e.g. Koyre, Kuhn), as well as the major models for understanding the 17th-century frame of mind presented (e.g. Weber, Merton, Harrison, Shapin, Shapiro, Popkin, Oakley, Funkenstein);
    • give examples of issues in 17th-century thought which resist disciplinary separation and to justify the use of contextual intellectual history for dealing with such issues, by comparison with other available approaches;
    • synthesize most of the ways/senses in which the 17th century can be seen as a period of ‘crisis’ and ‘reform’ and as the ‘origin of modernity’, as well as be aware of other senses of such terms in other historical periods;
    • identify the various aspects and discuss the implications, of the relationship between science, philosophy and religion as it was formed in the 17th century, and judge the possibility of recuperating for today’s reflection some common ground between them;
    • recognise and develop the details of the relationship between moral and natural philosophy in the 17th century and be able to place it in the relevant historical and philosophical traditions;
    • define and place in relevant polemical context the major concepts discussed: e.g. belief, testimony, experiment, laws of nature, freedom, toleration, and consider the career of such concepts in subsequent periods up to today (their persistence/disappearance/migration from one domain of discourse to another);
    • identify major features of the persona of the philosopher and of the intellectual community as they were formed in the 17th century, and compare it with other such images, in the past or today;
    • develop communicative and critical thinking skills: a capacity to understand the various sides of one question, as well as to perceive what is at stake in a debate, and an ability to argue and persuade, both in oral and in written form, are objectives crucial for the subject matter, the teaching strategies and the general format of this course.