The Image of God ID-1, Fall 2007

Course Description

What is your philosophy, that is, what you believe about the place of humanity in the universe? Most of us don’t think we have such a thing. Perhaps this is because philosophies are often unstated and assumed. They are what underlie our beliefs rather than being the sorts of things we deliberately think about. The philosophy that dominated intellectual life in the early modern period, roughly from 1600 to 1900, was that human beings were made in the image of God. Being made in the image of God meant having the ability to understand the universe as God does even though this ability was lost or obscured in Adam’s fall from Eden. In this seminar, we will trace the rise and decline of this idea. How did it shape expectations for the natural sciences as well as for philosophical reasoning? How was it reflected in the arts and literary works? Finally, how was the idea that we are made in the image of god ultimately displaced by David Hume and Charles Darwin? By understanding the philosophy of the early modern period, we will try to gain insight into the philosophy of our own time.

Class notes

  1. Thursday, September 6. Introduction; handout one, handout two.
  2. Tuesday, September 11. Genesis.
  3. Thursday, September 13. Descartes on knowledge in general.
  4. Tuesday, September 18. Descartes on knowledge of the mind, updated September 19; handout.
  5. Thursday, September 20. Descartes on knowledge of bodies; handout.
  6. Tuesday, September 25. Descartes on knowledge of God; handout.
  7. Thursday, September 27. Hobbes’s materialism; handout.
  8. Tuesday, October 2. Hobbes, ghosts, and Hamlet and updated handout.
  9. Thursday, October 4. Hume on induction.
  10. Thursday, October 11. Hume’s skeptical solution; handout.
  11. Tuesday, October 16. Hume on miracles, part 1; handout.
  12. Thursday, October 18. Hume on miracles, part 2.
  13. Thursday, October 25. Lewis on Hume on miracles; handout.
  14. Tuesday, October 30. Hume on arguments from design; handout.
  15. Thursday, November 1. Darwin on the origin of species.
  16. Tuesday, November 6. Darwin on human beings.
  17. Thursday, November 8. Pinker’s science of human nature; handout.
  18. Tuesday, November 13. Menand on Pinker; handout.
  19. Tuesdays, November 20–27. Collins on science and religion.
  20. Thursday, November 29. Hume on moral relativism; handout.
  21. Tuesday December 4. Anthropologists on moral relativism; handout.
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The Image of God