Kairos Seminar on Modern Philosophy and Christian Thought. Part 1

Modern Philosophy Part 1: From Descartes to Hegel
Lecturer: Dr. Ng Kam Weng

The scientific revolution in the 16th -18th century created a radically new conception of the world which challenged the traditional worldview based on Aristotelian philosophy and medieval Christian thought. This seminar examines how European philosophers represented by Rene Descartes, David Hume, Kant and Hegel reformulated philosophy in response to the increasingly dominant scientific worldview of their times.

Class Schedule – 27/05; 24/06; 29/07; 26/08; 30/09; 28/10 (bonus week, to be confirmed).
The seminar will be conducted every last Saturday of the month from 10.00 am to 12.00 noon. Class begins from 27 May 2023, if the minimum number of registered students is satisfied.

Kairos Research Centre, 19B, Jalan SS 22/19, Petaling Jaya 47300. [Revised on 27 Jan 2023].

Fees: RM 20. To be paid on first day of the Seminar.
Registration: To confirm your participation, please send a personal message to kairosmalaysia@gmail.com. Indicate your phone number and church affiliation.

Closing date for registration is Saturday, 6 May 2023

Note: Texts marked by an asterisk (*) will be given close reading and analysis.

Surveys and General Introductions to Early Modern Philosophy
Roger Scruton, A Short History of Modern Philosophy. 2nd ed. (Routledge, 1995). A lucid and engaging account.
Garrett Thomson, Bacon to Kant: An Introduction Modern Philosophy 3 ed. (Waveland Press, 2012).

I.  Descartes
Method of Doubt and the Cogito.
The Existence of God and Body-Soul Dualism.

*Meditations on First Philosophy.
Rene Descartes, Discourse on Method & Meditations on First Philosophy. 4ed. Tr. Donald Cress (Hackett, 1998).
You may use the Penguin edition.

II. Immanuel Kant
Hume’ interruption of Kant’s Dogmatic Slumber – Hume on origin of ideas and skepticism about causation.
Quest for Foundations for Newtonian Science.
Possibility of Metaphysics and Synthetic A Priori Propositions.
Transcendental Aesthetic, Sensible Conditions on Experience. Intuition on space and time.
Transcendental Logic, Conceptual Conditions on Experience.
Transcendental Dialectic. Paralogisms and Antinomies of Pure Reason.
Kant’s Phenomenon and Noumenon (Thing-in-Itself).

Selections from David Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Oxford World Classics Series (Oxford, 2008).
*Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics (Hackett, 2001).
Reading: selections from Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (Cambridge, 1999).

III. Hegel
Sense certainty and perception, Self-Consciousness and Desire.
Lord-Bondsman Dialectic and the Unhappy Consciousness.
Reason and Actualization of Self-Collective-Consciousness (Spirit)
Revealed Religion (picture-thinking) and Absolute Knowledge (unity of particular-universal).

Frederick Beiser. Hegel. Arguments from Philosophers (Routledge, 2005).
Craig B. Matarrese, Starting with Hegel (Continuum, 2010).Selections from Reading: Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit. Tr. A.V. Miller (Oxford, 1977).

IV. Bonus week (tbc) –Leibniz
Substance, Pre-existent Harmony.
Determinism and the Best of all Possible Worlds.

Franklin Perkins, Leibniz: A Guide for the Perplexed (Continuum, 2007).
*“Monadology” in Leibniz, Philosophical Essays. Ed. Roger Ariew (Hackett, 1989).
Reading: Selections from Leibniz, Theodicy (Open Court 1985).


Modern Philosophy Part 2 (Forthcoming)

Existentialism: Kierkegaard & Nietzsche.

20th century Thomism: Etienne Gilson & Jacques Maritain.

Reformed Philosophy: Herman Dooyeweerd…

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Kairos Seminar on Greek Philosophy and Christian Thought

3 thoughts on “Kairos Seminar on Modern Philosophy and Christian Thought. Part 1”

    1. Hi David,

      I agree that Part 2 should be more interesting to Christians. However, it is necessary to acquaint my students with modern philosophy so that they will appreciate better the critique against modern philosophy provided by latter Christian philosophers like Herman Dooyeweerd and Cornelius Van Til who wrote against philosophical idealism found from Descartes to Kant.

      Van Til writes in the preface to his book, “Christianity and Idealism (Presb & Ref, 1955), p. 3.

      “From time to time I have written on the relation of idealist philosophy to Christianity. It is obvious that such philosophies as materialism and pragmatism are foes of Christianity. It is less obvious but no less true that Idealism and Christianity are mutually exclusive. Christianity teaches man to worship and serve God the Creator. Idealism, no
      less than materialism or pragmatism, teaches man to serve and worship the creature. Idealism has a language which resembles that of Christianity but its thought content leads inevitably toward pragmatism. That is the idea expressed in the articles that are herewith reproduced. The relation between Idealism and Christianity has recently become a
      controversial issue among Reformed Christians. This accounts for the republishing of these articles.”

      Actually,Van Til critically appropriated Hegalian concepts (but redefined them within the biblical framework) for his apologetics. I debated whether to include Van Til in Part 2, but the course will end up longer. Will have to deal with Van Til on another occasion.

      Likewise, Gilson’s & Maritain’s critical realism (there was an in-house debate between Gilson & Maritain on the usage of the term “critical realism”) targeted Idealism.

      Hence, Part 1 gives more emphasis on the Continental rationalism-idealism tradition than on the British empiricist tradition.

  1. We are in the post modern time, whether we like it or not. One of the deadliest stings of post modern thought is that, no truth is the absolute truth, that is very much opposite to the modern philosophy. Even though we are no longer in the 18th century, I strongly believe despite we are in the post modern time, we still owe the modern philosophy an answer concerning our Christian belief.

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