HUMA 11600              Philosophical Perspectives on the Humanities       Winter 2008  
                                                          12:00-1:20   Cobb 102          

David Vessey                                                                                          Writing Intern: Ryan Long    
Office Hours: 1:30-3:00 TTh, G-B 228                                            


Michel Montaigne The Complete Essays (Penguin: 0140446044)
William Shakespeare The Tempest (Washington Square Press: 0743482832)

Francis Bacon Selected Philosophical Work
s (Hackett: 0-87220-470-7)
Rene Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy (Hackett: 0-87220-192-9)
David Hume An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (Hackett: 0-87220-229-1)
Photocopies of writings by Aquinas, Diderot, and Rousseau.

Course Description:

In this class we will look closely at some main philosophical themes in early modern Europe, with a special emphasis on themes of primitivism. Primitivism is the general idea that to succeed we need to get (back) in touch with something immediate, something that has been lost or occluded by clutter. A central theme of the Reformation was to get into direct contact with God and return to the state of the original church free from the clutter of the Roman church (the original meaning of "primitive" referred exclusively to the early days of Christianity—ecclesia primitiva); a theme of modern philosophy was to achieve clarity of insight free from the intellectual clutter of Scholasticism; and a theme in 17th century literature was that Europeans need to get back in touch with nature, as exhibited by the peoples of the New Worlds, who had avoided being bogged down by the corruption of European culture. Accompanying all this was the belief that the new science was a return to AdamÕs state of knowledge before the fall. The class will be run predominantly as a discussion, so students are expected to come to class having finished and digested the readings and being prepared to discuss. As part of the preparation for the class discussion, students will be divided into 4 groups; each group must post 2-3 questions they would like to discuss in class to the class Chalk site by midnight the night before class. Since discussion is the focus of the class, and discussions cannot be made up if missed, attendance and participation are central parts of the final grade.

In addition there will be three five-page papers spaced throughout the term. The assignment for the papers will be handed out the Tuesday the week prior to the papers being due. The papers must be typed, double spaced in twelve point Times/Times New Roman with 1" margins. Two copies should be delivered to Prof. VesseyÕs office by the time due, typically a Wednesday at 4:00. They will not be accepted late unless prior arrangements have been made. A typo policy applies to all graded written work: the paper grade will be lowered one grade (for example from a B+ to a B) for every four typos; typos include spelling errors, grammatical errors, improper use of gendered pronouns, and failure to properly cite quotations. Failure to properly cite quotations is different from plagiarism. Plagiarism is a sign that the student has so lost track of his or her proper role as a student that thereÕs no point in him or her continuing in the class (much less in college) at this point in his or her life. Finally there will be three writing workshops run by Ryan Long. Attendance at these is required as developing writing skills is a central goal of the class. If you have disabilities that require special accommodation speak to Prof. Vessey as soon as possible at the start of the term.


Tue. Jan 6                       Thomas Aquinas Summa Contra Gentiles Book 1, Chps. 2–8 (Chalk)

Thurs Jan 8                     Montaigne       "On Repentance"


Tue Jan 13                      Montaigne        "On Experience"

Thurs Jan 165                  Montaigne       "On Cannibals"


Tue Jan 22                      Shakespeare    Tempest Acts I-IV

Wed Jan 23, 4:00        Paper 1 Due

Thurs Jan 24                  Shakespeare    Tempest Act V, Epilogue


Tue Jan 29                     Bacon                 "New Atlantis"

Thurs Jan 31                  Bacon                 Book I, Aphorisms 1-61 from The New Organon


Tue Feb. 5                      Descartes          Dedicatory Letter, Preface, Synopsis, Meditation I

Thurs Feb 7                    Descartes          Meditation II  


Tue Feb 12                     Descartes          Meditation III

Wed Feb 13, 4:00        Paper 2 Due

Thurs Feb 14                 Descartes          Meditation IV, V


Tue Feb 19                    Descartes          Meditation VI

Thurs Feb 21                 Diderot              "Supplement to Bougainville's Voyage" (Chalk)


Tue Feb 26                    David Hume   Enquiry Sections 1-4

Thurs Feb 28                 David Hume   Enquiry Sections 5-7


Mon Feb 27, 4:00        Paper 3 Due

Tue Mar 4                     David Hume   Enquiry Section 10

Thurs Mar 6                  David Hume   Enquiry Section 11


Tue Mar 11                  Wrap Up/ Rousseau from the First Discourse (Chalk)


Attendance and Participation in Discussions                             25%

Three Five Page papers (approx. 1500 words)                        25% each