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CLASSES: M 17:30-20:20   UH 316                                           OFFICE HOURS: M 2:00-3:00 

INSTRUCTOR: Richard T. W. Arthur  rarthur at mcmaster dot ca        OFFICE: UH 305; ext. 23470.

About the Course

In this course we will be approaching modern philosophy from an unusual angle by exploring late Renaissance natural philosophy and its influence on the philosophy of Leibniz. The exploration of 16th and 17th century Scholastic natural philosophy is an emerging field of study that is rapidly changing our understanding of the origins of modern philosophy. For, largely under the influence of the anti-metaphysical ideology of the enlightenment (whether as a result of Baconian scientific pragmatism, brash Humean empiricism or self-congratulatory Kantianism), historians have tended to dismiss the philosophy of the Schools as refuted by the scientific revolution. In this respect, Leibniz is regarded as something of a reactionary, with his insistence on the profundity of some Scholastic thought, and his reintroduction of substantial forms. This has also been deeply puzzling, given the forward-looking nature of so much of his thinking.

We’ll begin with an overview of the latter, using my Leibniz (Polity Press, 2014). Then we’ll proceed to explore some of the exciting new research on late scholasticism , beginning with Kuni Sakamoto’s new book on J. C. Scaliger (2016), then Hiro Hirai’s masterful Medical Humanism and Natural Philosophy (2011), before proceeding to my forthcoming study of Leibniz’s theory of substance, Ariadnean Threads (recently submitted to Oxford University Press), which situates Leibniz’s metaphysics in relation to the theory of the plurality of forms he learned from Scaliger and Sennert.

© Richard T. W. Arthur 2016