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Anton Matytsin

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Anton Matytsin

Lecturer in French and Italian
Andrew W. Mellon Fellow

Anton Matytsin received his PhD in August 2013 from the University of Pennsylvania, where he also obtained his BA and MA. As an intellectual historian of the 17th and 18th centuries, he is interested in the history of philosophy (particularly epistemology and debates about the mind-body interaction), the history of political, economic, and religious thought, the history of science, the history of early modern historiography. His dissertation “The Specter of Skepticism and the Sources of Certainty in the Eighteenth Century, 1697–1772,” explores the way in which thinkers in the French-speaking world of the early 18th century responded to the challenges posed by the revival and proliferation of philosophical and historical skepticism.

At Stanford, Anton will continue to develop his project on skepticism and anti-skepticism and investigate how, in attempting to preserve and to reconstruct the foundations of their worldviews, apologetic thinkers came to resemble their philosopher opponents and, ironically, became unintended agents of intellectual change. On the broadest level, the project explores the interactions among culture, philosophy, science, and theology in the 18th century. It attempts to explain how the transformations in the perceptions of the powers of human reason, of the natural world, and of humanity’s place in it impacted the understanding of the political and cultural realms. It thus questions and investigates the causal relationship between the philosophical ideas of the so-called Radical Enlightenment and their alleged political consequences.

COURSES

FRENCH 221 Conceiving Other Worlds: Travel Narrative and Science Fiction in Early-Modern France

This course will concentrate on the important role of science fiction and travel literature in early-modern France. Although these narratives were intended to describe distant worlds and different ways of living, they frequently revealed more about the aspirations, assumptions, hopes, and concerns of the cultures in which they originated than about their actual subject matter. Authors frequently sought to determine the identity and uniqueness of their own cultures by contrasting them against the 'otherness' of their imagined subjects. Similarly, by describing either utopian or dystopian civilizations, writers attempted to highlight the problems that plagued their own societies. Among other texts, we will read selections from Montaigne's 'Essais,' Cyrano de Bergerac's 'L'Autre monde ou les états et empires de la Lune,' Huygens's 'Nouveau traité de la pluralité des mondes,' Fontenelle's 'Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes,' Voltaire's 'Micromegas,' Bougainville's 'Voyage autor du monde,' and Diderot's 'Supplement au voyage de Bougainville.' Taught in English. Readings in French (English translations available).

FRENCH 221 Conceiving Other Worlds: Travel Narrative and Science Fiction in Early-Modern France

This course will concentrate on the important role of science fiction and travel literature in early-modern France. Although these narratives were intended to describe distant worlds and different ways of living, they frequently revealed more about the aspirations, assumptions, hopes, and concerns of the cultures in which they originated than about their actual subject matter. Authors frequently sought to determine the identity and uniqueness of their own cultures by contrasting them against the 'otherness' of their imagined subjects. Similarly, by describing either utopian or dystopian civilizations, writers attempted to highlight the problems that plagued their own societies. Among other texts, we will read selections from Montaigne's 'Essais,' Cyrano de Bergerac's 'L'Autre monde ou les états et empires de la Lune,' Huygens's 'Nouveau traité de la pluralité des mondes,' Fontenelle's 'Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes,' Voltaire's 'Micromegas,' Bougainville's 'Voyage autor du monde,' and Diderot's 'Supplement au voyage de Bougainville.' Taught in English. Readings in French (English translations available).

FRENCH 128 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.

FRENCH 218 Skepticism and Atheism in Early-Modern French Thought

Religious belief was a fundamental part of early-modern life, and the proposition that human beings could not prove God's existence had profound implications for all realms of human experience. This course will explore the complex relationship between philosophical skepticism and religious belief in early-modern Europe (particularly France) and investigate how these heterodox philosophies transformed the understanding of humanity's interaction with the surrounding world. We will begin by looking at the origins of religious unbelief and the revival of Pyrrhonian skepticism in the 16th century. By placing the atheists and the skeptics in dialogue with their deist and Christian opponents, we will see how these ideas evolved over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries and consider the influence of these subversive theories on the social and political fabric of Europe. Taught in English. Readings in French (English translations available).