When it comes to epistemological
questions, the two primary schools of thought are the empiricist school
and the rationalist schools.
The empiricists are well
- John Locke (British, 1632-1704)
- George Berkeley (Irish,
- David Hume (Scotch, 1711-1776))
The rationalists are represented
- René Descartes
- Benedictus de Spinoza
- Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
In this course we are going
to focus primarily on the philosophers in the empiricist
tradition, though someone in class may choose to do
their research project on René Descartes or
one of the other rationalists.
We will be looking first
at some of the main themes in John Locke's philosophy,
then more briefly at the work of George Berkeley and
David Hume. Understanding what some of the questions
were that these three thinkers addressed is a necessary
prerequisite to understanding the work of one of the
greatest and most influential thinkers of the past
two millennia, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804).
Kant's work, as we will see,
flows directly out of the turbulent confluence of these
two opposing (rationalist and empiricist) philosophical
And out of Kant's thought
flows that of Arthur Schopenhauer (and others).