Thursday, February 4, 2010

Welcome to the Class + Syllabus

Welcome to Descartes to Derrida. Here you will find the Syllabus and also updates to the course as well as references and interesting posts about the philosophers in the course. There is also a "comments" feature so feel free to use it to make comments on the lectures, readings etc. You can also suggest readings, etc., that you think might interest other students. If you want to ask a question you can also use the comment feature for that purpose. I hope you enjoy the course and stick out all 12 sessions!

Thursdays, Starting Feb 4 (12 sessions) 6:20 to 8:00 PM
Instructor: Dr. Thomas Riggins (
Office hours by appointment
New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies
Arts, Humanities and Writing Programs
10 Astor Place, New York, NY 10003

Course Description: Survey European philosophy from the 17th-century scientific revolution to contemporary times. How have the discoveries of the natural and social sciences changed the way we perceive the world? Why is Descartes considered the first modern philosopher? Debate the merits of the foundations of modernity as laid out in his works and those of Spinoza, Hume, Voltaire (and other Enlightenment thinkers), Kant, Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche. Discuss such 20th-century modernists and post-modernists as Russell, Wittgenstein, Sartre, and Derrida.

Objectives: Students will be encouraged to analyze, discuss and interpret the positions of the various philosophers assigned. We will stress the reasons given for the positions held and try to determine if they are valid and logically consistent. Students taking this course should be able to acquire the skill of analyzing and evaluating technical arguments in philosophy. No prior knowledge of philosophy is required for this course.

Requirements: Students should read over and think about the assigned readings of the philosophers to be discussed in class. When reading, keep on the look out for the problem that is being addressed and the reasons given for the solution proposed. Ask yourself if the reasons are or are not sufficient to convince you of the correctness of the final position and if so why or if not, why not.

Texts (available at the NYU bookstore, 18 Washington Place)
1.  B = Monroe C. Beardsley, ed., The European Philosophers from Descartes to
Nietzsche, Modern Library
2.  R = Bertrand Russell,  A History of Western Philosophy, Simon &
3.  K = Isaac Kramnick, ed., The Portable Enlightenment Reader, Penguin
4.  CM = Karl Marx & Frederich Engels,  The Communist Manifesto,
International Pubs.
5.  E = Walter Kaufmann, ed., Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre, Meridian 

Sessions: subject to change

1. 2/4 Introduction and Background

2.   DESCARTES  Bpp. 5-79; R Chapters I, II, V, VI, XI   Chapters from Part III

3.   SPINOZA  Bpp. 138-169, 227-234; R Chapters X, XII     

4. LEIBNIZ Bpp. 242-315; R Chapter XI

5. ENLIGHTENMENT I  Kpp. 181-202, 395-416, 424-442, 466-473;
                                            R Chapters XIII, XIV,XV, XVII, XIX               

6. ENLIGHTENMENT II  Kpp. 75-180                                                    

7. KANT  Bpp. 366-486; R Chapters XVIII, XX                                

8.  HEGEL  Bpp. 534-608, 633-644; R Chapters XXI,XXII                                            

9. SCHOPENHAUER Bpp. 646-728; R Chapters XXIV 

10. MARX & ENGELS  CMpp. complete;  R Chapter XXVII                   

11.  NIETZSCHE   Bpp. 802-870; R Chapter XXV                                  

12. SARTRE & DERRIDA  Epp. 280-374, plus handout