I enjoyed meeting you all today!
Today we talked about what to expect in the class in a general sort of way. We're looking at the Empiricists, a philosophical movement that includes John Locke (1632-1704), George Berkeley (1685-1753), and David Hume (1711-1776). Empiricists think that knowledge only comes to us from experience. We saw that this philosophy combines pessimism and optimism. Empiricists were pessimistic about grand philosophical systems, and yet they were optimistic about their own ability to understand themselves and the world through their experience.
In the works that we are going to read, I suggested that you'll find a couple of themes coming up again and again: (1) nominalism, and (2) atomism & mechanism. Nominalism is the view that there are no universals, no abstract structures which could be present in many bodies at once. If two things are similar, what they have in common is not a universal but a name. For example, your shirt and my shirt are similar, but they don't embody some universal, Shirt-ness. It's just that my shirt is similar to your shirt, and we find it useful to call them both 'shirts'.
The other views I think you should look for are atomism and mechanism. Atomism is the view that bodies are made up of tiny, indivisible parts, and mechanism is the view that these parts form bodies much as the parts of a clock make up a clock. For the Empiricists, these views combine in very interesting ways.
I didn't really say too much more about how nominalism, atomism and mechanismcome together in Empiricism - we'll see how they do in the months to come.