Descartes
Fairfield University
Spring 2010

PH 238, M & Th 2:00 to 3:15 p.m., CNS 108

 

Steven M. Bayne
Office: DMH 309, x2857
Office Hours: M & Th: 12:30-1:45 p.m.,
Alternate Tues (starting 2/2): 5:00 to 6:30 p.m.,
or by appointment.
 

Required Texts

The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Vol I, Trans. Cottingham, Stoothoff and Murdoch, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985).

The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Vol II, Trans. Cottingham, Stoothoff and Murdoch, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984).
 

Course Description

In November 1619, three years after he finished college, Descartes was on his way to fight in a war when he got stuck in a snow storm. Alone in his stove heated room, disillusioned with his education, Descartes had given up any hope of being able to find truth through the lectures and books of scholars. It was then, through a series of dreams, that Descartes had a vision of a new universal science of reason. This vision led him to leave the books and lectures of the scholars behind and instead to carry out his search for truth by relying solely on his own mind. Descartes first formulated this vision in his unpublished work Rules for the Direction of the Mind. He then worked on the development of this vision throughout his life. This semester we will investigate the development and results of Descartesí vision for a new science.
 

Course Goals and Objectives

Our main goal in this course is to develop a comprehensive understanding of Descartesí philosophical system. We will, however, largely pursue this goal through the attainment of several modest objectives: First, to be able to read, understand, discuss, and evaluate the individual Cartesian texts that are assigned. Second, to be able to identify, present, and explain Descartesí philosophical positions and arguments for those positions. Third, to be able to recognize and understand alternative interpretations of his positions or arguments and to be able to use Descartesí text to defend your interpretation. Fourth, to be able to recognize and formulate relevant objections to Descartesí positions and arguments and to be able to determine how these objections could be met. Finally, to be able to understand and explain how Descartesí positions in the individual texts we read are related to each other.
 

Course Requirements and Grading

The requirements for this course are:

Class reading, attendance, and participation:

15%

Midterm:

27%

Term Paper:

31%

Take-Home Final Exam:

27%

Please note:

  1. You are required to read the materials assigned for a particular class before you come to class. I will regularly provide you with study questions to help guide your reading. Note, however, that if I find that students need stronger encouragement to do the assigned reading before class, then I reserve the right to convert the study questions into writing assignments. In this case each writing assignment would count for 1/15 of your class reading, attendance, and participation grade.

  2. Minimum Attendance Requirement: If you have more than four unexcused absences, you will receive a zero for the class attendance and participation component of your grade.

  3. You are required to turn in a rough draft of the term paper. The last day to turn in the draft is April 8, 2010. The final version of the paper is due on May 3, 2010. I will distribute a list of suggestions for possible paper topics on or before March 4, 2010.

  4. If for some reason you cannot meet a paper deadline or take the midterm at the scheduled time, then you must inform me as soon as you know this. If you have what we both deem to be a good excuse, then we will make arrangements for you to turn in the paper at some other time or take a make-up-exam. If you miss a deadline without speaking to me before the deadline, then one third letter grade will be deducted from your score for each day your paper is late. If you miss an exam without speaking to me before the exam, you will not be allowed to make up the exam.  If there are any writing assignments (see note 1 above), then late writing assignments will not be given a grade.

  5. You must turn in the final exam at the scheduled time.


Academic Integrity

I expect you to abide by Fairfield Universityís policies on academic honesty (see p. 29 of the current catalogue). Academic dishonesty of any kind (see p. 29 of the current catalog for more information) will not be tolerated, but since many of the assignments in this class will be completed outside of the classroom, I want to include a special note concerning plagiarism. Plagiarism is committed anytime a person directly quotes, closely paraphrases, or uses some original idea from another author without citing the source of this material. It does not matter whether this other material comes from a lecture, a journal article, a book, or even a web site. If you are using material from another author, then you must cite the source. This applies to both your final version and any drafts you turn in to me. If anyone is caught plagiarizing (or committing any other act of academic dishonesty) in this class, there will be three initial consequences. First, at the very least this student will receive a 0 (zero) on the assignment in question. Second, I will send an official letter to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences explaining the academic misconduct that occurred. Finally, this letter would then be kept on file in the Deanís office where it would become a permanent part of your academic record.
 

Tentative Schedule of Readings and Writing Assignments
Click on the underlined dates to see the study questions for a specific class.

January 21:

Course Introduction.

January 25, 28, Feb. 1 & 4:

Read Early Writings, from The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Vol I, p. 1-5 and Rules for the Direction of the Mind, Rules 1-12, vol. I p. 7-51.

February 8 & 11:

Read The World, Vol I p. 79-98, Principles of Philosophy, Part 3 Art. 43-47, and Part 4 Art. 1, 204-207.

February 16 (Tues) & 18:

Read Treatise on Man, Vol I p. 99-108, Optics, Vol I p. 152-175 (Concentrate on p. 152-156 & 164-175), and Principles, Part 4 Art. 1, 188-207.

February 22, 25 & Mar. 1:

Read Discourse on the Method, Vol I, p. 109-151.

March 4:

Midterm Exam.

March 15, 18, 22 & 25:

Read Meditations on First Philosophy, First and Second Meditation, Vol II p. 12-22, Third Set of Objections with Replies, Vol II p. 122-4, Fourth set of Objections and Replies, Vol II p. 139-143 & 154-161, Fifth set of Objections and Replies, Vol II (read objections to the Second Meditation, 1 & 5-8 as well as Descartesí replies to these same objections), Principles Preface, Vol I p. 179-190, and Part I Art. 1-12, 51-56.

April 8, 12 & 15:

Read Third and Fifth Meditation, Vol II p. 24-36, 44-49, First Set of Objections and Replies, Vol II p. 66-72 & p. 74-85, Second Set of Objections and Replies, Vol II p. 89 (last line on page) & 102, 113-120, Third Set of Objections and Replies, Vol II p. 126-133, Fourth Set of Objections and Replies, Vol II p. 150 & 171, Fifth Set of Objections and Replies, Vol II (read objections to the Third Meditation, 6 & 7 as well as Descartesí replies to these same objections), and Principles, Part I Art. 13-28. Rough draft due on April 8th.

April 19 & 22:

Read Fourth and Sixth Meditation, Vol II p. 37-43, 50-62, Correspondence with Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia (Class Handout), Third Set of Objections and Replies, Vol II p. 133-137, Fourth Set of Objections and Replies, Vol II p. 152 (second to last line)-153 &173-178, and Principles, Part 1 Art. 29-76, and Part II Art. 1-3.

April 26:

Read Principles of Philosophy, Part 2 Art. 4-29, 36-40, 53-55, 64, Part 3 Art. 1, 43-47, and Part 4 Art. 1, 199-207.

April 29 & May 3:

Read The Passions of the Soul, Vol I p. 339-367. Paper due on May 3rd.

May 14:

Final Exam due at 11:00 a.m.