Skip to Gallatin Navigation Skip to Gallatin Main Content

Adventures in Skepticism: From Descartes to Deconstruction

Semester and Year SP 2019
Course Number IDSEM-UG1990
Section 001
Instructor Glenn Kurtz
Days MW
Time 2:00 PM - 3:15 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   HUM



Since Descartes’ famous decision to doubt what he could not prove, the problem of knowledge has vexed philosophy, psychology, and literature. What do we know for certain? How does this knowledge (or this uncertainty) relate to what we believe, what we desire, what we fear? And if knowledge is unstable, how do we ground the “self” or “subject”—does identity depend on a metaphysical God? Does it derive from an autonomous interior? Or is “the self” itself a misunderstanding, merely an effect of language, of history, or of the unconscious? This course surveys the Modern’s search for truth, focusing on major works of philosophy and literature and on issues that still inform our modernity: the relationship between aesthetics and politics, history and economics; the crisis of language; the fragmentation (or multiplicity) of identity; the necessity and impossibility of love. Readings may include Descartes, Shakespeare, Mary Shelley, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, and Virginia Woolf.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)