Haverford College
Syllabus Update

Course Information

Limited Enrollment:
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Semester/Topic Description::


The course will provide a detailed overview of some major themes in the philosophy of Aristotle (384-322 BCE). We’ll focus primarily on topics in Aristotle’s metaphysics, philosophy of science, “psychology” (theory of the soul), ethics, and politics. In studying Aristotle’s views in these areas, we’ll be particularly concerned to explore some of the central devices of Aristotelian thought – for instance, the notion of substance, the Aristotelian conception of adequate explanation, and the distinction between potentiality and actuality. We’ll also look at some of Aristotle’s criticisms of his predecessors (especially Plato), and we’ll consider how those criticisms function in the elaboration of Aristotle’s own doctrines.

Additional information/Expanded description:

Philosophy 321: Topics in Early Modern Philosophy: Spinoza

Instructor: Ravi Sharma


This course will focus on the difficult but rewarding thought of the 17th-century thinker Benedict de Spinoza, also known as Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677). We’ll devote the bulk of the semester to a close study of Spinoza’s monumental Ethics (Demonstrated in Geometric Order). Despite it’s title, the Ethics is a systematic work touching on almost every branch of philosophical inquiry known to Spinoza: it incorporates radical views on metaphysics, epistemology, natural science, psychology, and of course ethics. As the semester progresses, we’ll be particularly concerned to trace the implications of Spinoza’s attack on anthropomorphism and his insistent denial that humans have free will. We’ll supplement our reading of the Ethics with selections from Spinoza’s other philosophical works. If time permits, we’ll look briefly at Spinoza’s political theory, as presented in the Theological-Political Treatise.

Required Texts:

•Edwin Curley, A Spinoza Reader

•Jonathan Bennett, A Study of Spinoza’s Ethics

•Stuart Hampshire, Spinoza and Spinozism

•Edwin Curley, Behind the Geometrical Method

Weekly Assignments:

Weeks 1-2: selections from Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect and Theological-Political Treatise; Ethics, Appendix to Part I

Weeks 3-5: Ethics, Part I & selections from Spinoza’s letters; detailed discussion of

Bennett’s commentary.

Weeks 6-8: Ethics, Part II, detailed discussion of Bennett

Weeks 9-11: Ethics, Parts III and IV, detailed discussion of Bennett, Hampshire

Weeks 12-13: Ethics, Part V, detailed discussion of Bennett, Hampshire

Week 14: Final discussion, unfinished business

Course Requirements (tentative):

Weekly short (1 page) writing assignments; several (probably 2-3) substantial presentations, focusing on careful outlining of issues in the secondary literature; midterm and final take-home essay exams; research paper (probably 12 pp. in length).

Prerequisites: (i) One 100-level course in Philosophy or permission of instructor; (ii) A working knowledge of Descartes’ Meditations will be necessary for following class discussions – students who have not yet read the Meditations will be asked to do so during the first several weeks of the semester