Thinking Like a Modern Philosopher
Sep 15 to Oct 20, Thursdays, 7:00 PM
Could it be that everything and everyone is made of nothing more than itty, bitty pieces of matter, the same stuff that pebbles and petunias are made of?
Yet how can mere matter give rise to minds and all the states they can be put into, states of bliss and boredom, episodes of thought, dreams, waking experiences, love?
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Western philosophers focused their energies on this puzzle like never before. In this course, we will read some of the most interesting things written during this fervid and influential period.
These discussions laid foundations for contemporary philosophy, and helped forge a conception of the human being that still lies at the heart of so much that is happening now (good and bad). Yet a remarkable portion of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophy has gone unnoticed. In this course we will explore both influential and underappreciated works of philosophy from this period.
In exploring the debate over whether everything is made of matter, we will encounter many other fascinating debates over closely connected questions. For example:
- Rocks rolling downhill have no free will. Do we have any?
- Is there, in the end, a God?
- Modern science says a lot about cause and effect, but since we never directly see anything causing anything else (but only see sequences of events), how could these claims be justified or even meaningful?
With the help of brilliant, provocative minds, we'll study some of the most fundamental ideas that have inspired human beings, then and today.
Cocktail hour: Wednesdays, 2pm-3pm Eastern
Since this is a new course, these are reviews from students who took previous courses with the same professor.
Raffi is an amazing teacher. He is so kind, supportive, encouraging, knowledgeable, and open to completely different perspectives.
His passion for the subject matter and clear communication is unparalleled.
Loved every moment of this course.
The first class I actually gained ‘knowledge’ rather than just information.
He was excellent at taking difficult philosophers like Kant and explaining their arguments in easy to understand ways. Probably one of my top 3 favorite professors I’ve had at Penn.
Raffi is the real deal. He genuinely cares about all his students, and he is always willing to go the extra mile to ensure that they're truly learning and enjoying the material.
I could go on and on about how wonderful it's been to have him as a professor!
Raffi was always personable and engaging, and his obvious curiosity and engagement in the material was often contagious.
Raffi is the most inclusive philosophy professor I’ve had, creating a safe & critical space for metaphysical & historical inquiry.
Raffi has thus far been the best instructor I have had in my three years of study at the University of Pennsylvania. He is very knowledgeable in his field and is eager to share his knowledge with each one of his students. Raffi uses his creativity in lesson planning to keep his students engaged, and no two class periods were perfectly alike.
All meetings last 90 minutes. Times are displayed in New York time.
- Thu Sep 15, 7 PM
Descartes tries to doubt everything, and thinks he has figured out what sort of a thing we are
Reading: Descartes's First and Second Meditations
- Thu Sep 22, 7 PM
Descartes tries to prove that there is a world outside of his mind, and a princess refutes his philosophy
Reading: Third and Fourth Meditation, and exchange with Princess Elisabeth
- Thu Sep 29, 7 PM
Spinoza tries to make philosophy like geometry
Reading: Spinoza, Ethics, parts 1-2, excerpts
- Thu Oct 6, 7 PM
Spinoza discusses the imagination, the emotions, and how we can become eternal
Reading: Spinoza, Ethics, part 3-5, excerpts
- Thu Oct 13, 7 PM
Hume raises skeptical doubts about reason and science
Reading: Hume, Enquiry
- Thu Oct 20, 7 PM
Kant reimagines the relationship between the mind and the world
Reading: Kant, Prolegomena