Revolutionary Moments in French Thought (HISTORY 239K)
French intellectual and political culture has often been associated with revolutionary attempts to break free from the hold of tradition. Indeed, the concept of "revolution" has itself become a French tradition of sorts. Over the last 500 years, these revolutions have taken place in a number of arenas. In philosophy, René Descartes challenged all traditional learning and defined new principles that were central to the so-called ¿Revolution of the Mind.¿ In religion, Enlightenment thinkers not only advocated the toleration of different faiths but also questioned the veracity of Christianity and of all theistic worldviews. In politics, the French Revolution redefined the very concept of a political revolution and set the stage for modern conceptions of sovereignty. French socialist thinkers of the 19th century, in turn, reshaped the ways their contemporaries thought about socio-economic arrangements. Finally, 20th-century existentialists have attempted to rethink the very purpose of human existence. In this course, we will explore these and other seminal revolutionary moments that not only transformed French society, but that also had implications for European and, indeed, global culture. Taught in English, readings in English.