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Enlightenment Theories of Mind, Soul, Spirit

Professor Mary Helen McMurran
Winter Half Course.

The Enlightenment is re-emerging in such projects as the international “Re-Enlightenment” initiative which engages the history and present conditions of knowledge-making, and with a growing body of scholarship contesting long-held assumptions about the Enlightenment’s commitment to such core values as secularism and rationalism. This course takes up Enlightenment theories of mind and consciousness in relation to the soul and spirit in the period from Descartes to Kant. We will focus our inquiry on the Enlightenment’s investment in a new model of mental consciousness and ask whether or how it secularizes human nature and nature itself. Does the Enlightenment account of the senses, imagination, and cognition effectively replace the soul and enspirited worlds? Or is spirit uncomfortably present and lodged in these theories, ready to be reclaimed? Analyses of the concepts of mind and spirit in works by Locke, Addison, Vico, Hume, Kant and others will also enable us to trace the early history of aesthetics, as well as examine Cartesian dualism, empiricism, materialism and the Enlightenment’s historical psychology in which these theories arose.

View the syllabus here: English 9080B.

Department of English - The University of Western Ontario
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