This is the homepage for PHIL 971 – Kant & The Principle of Sufficient Reason (Fall 2022)
The “Principle of Sufficient Reason” (PSR) says that everything has an explanation, sufficient ground, or sufficient reason. The PSR plays a major role in the philosophical thinking of many Modern philosophers, either as a crucial guiding principle in theory construction and the pursuit of scientific knowledge, or as something to be wholly rejected. Its unrestricted application also famously leads to some rather potentially surprising conclusions, such as necessitarianism and substance monism. In this seminar we will look at formulations and utilizations of the principle from the 17th century to the present, as well as justifications for and against its application. A central aim of the course will be to understand Kant’s articulation and criticism of the PSR, as well as his attempt at justifying a more limited application of it. Another, more general, aim is that of putting figures from the (early) Modern tradition in dialogue with one another, as well as with contemporary philosophical work. Other than Kant, the primary figures discussed will be Spinoza, Leibniz, and Schopenhauer, as well as contemporary work by philosophers such as Jonathan Bennett, Alex Pruss, Shamik Dasgupta, Sam Levey, and Michael Della Rocca. Other figures discussed include Descartes, Hume, Jacobi, and Hegel. Note that though a background in Modern philosophy is encouraged, it is not a requirement for the course.