History of modern philosophy

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Spring Semester, 2010

Tom L. Beauchamp, Professor of Philosophy

Philosophy Department and Kennedy Institute of Ethics

Office: Healy Bldg., Room 425



Course Description

Classic philosophical texts of the 16th through the 18th centuries will be examined in the context of historical developments in the philosophy of the period. The emphasis in lectures will be on textual analysis and the historical development of modern philosophy, with occasional discussion of the adequacy of the various competing philosophical theories. The figures of this period who have traditionally been regarded as major philosophers will be the most carefully examined thinkers, but the writings of several less renowned figures will also be studied.

The assigned material falls into the following general areas of philosophy:

Metaphysics and Epistemology (M&E)

Moral and Political Philosophy (MPP)

The history of modern philosophy covered in this course requires that most of the assignments are in M&E, but the student will be given ample opportunity to study assignments in MPP when writing papers. A part of the design of the course is to allow students to work in areas that interest them the most.

Assigned Texts and Electronic Texts

Daniel Kolak and Garrett Thomson (K-T), eds., The Longman Standard History of Modern Philosophy (New York: Pearson/Longman).

J. B. Schneewind, ed., Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant (Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press).

Many readings assigned in this class (from the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries) are available online and free of charge. Students with a limited book-budget can find online almost all of the classic text material assigned in this course. Students are allowed, and even encouraged to use these materials, but none is assigned. However, a caution: It can be time-consuming to locate exactly which parts of a text are assigned. The materials in the assigned textbooks are often edited and may contain translations different from those available online. We also will be citing textbook page nos. in class. In the electronic files, there are usually no page numbers, and editors may use editions with different chapter or section numbers. Some translations are inferior to others.

Listed below are several substantial resources that students may find attractive.

Earlymoderntexts.com: This site has been created and maintained by Jonathan Bennett, a prominent figure in contemporary Anglo-American philosophy and history of modern philosophy. Bennett has attempted to produce texts that are student-friendly. This means that arcane terminology has been suppressed and language substituted that is closer to usage in the 21st century. Bennett's texts are therefore more readable than the originals (the cost being what many scholars would consider dumbing-down the material). Bennett's creative substitution of wording would not be acceptable for textual interpretation in advanced seminars or graduate courses, but it is acceptable to use his texts in this course.

Bennett's site contains PDF files for Bacon, Berkeley, Descartes, Hobbes, Hume, Kant, Leibniz, Locke, Reid, Spinoza, Malebranche, Reid, and other philosophers. The files can be accessed by clicking on the name of the author on the right side of the screen. The selection of texts available for each author is somewhat sparse, given the enormous number of texts that are important in the history of modern philosophy.

However, many more texts can be accessed from Bennett's site than those he himself has edited. You can click on AOriginal texts@ on the left side of the screen and follow the link to Carl Mickelsen=s website:


On this site, a vast array of full text materials are available for many philosophers. Accuracy cannot be guaranteed, but secondary sources and miscellaneous materials are available for each author. Mickelsen=s is a very comprehensive site.
Early English Books Online (EEBO): Georgetown University holds a subscription to this online collection. In order to access the site, go to Georgetown library=s homepage (http://www.library.georgetown.edu/), and click on ADatabases@. Then click AHistory@ and find a link to the site under the alphabetical listing. Full text is available for the sources.
Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO): Georgetown has off and on held a subscription to this valuable collection. You should consult with librarians about current access. The most efficient way to find a text has been to click on AAdvanced Search@ located near the top of the page. Then, the title, author, and date information can be entered. Once a text is selected, it can be searched for specific words that appear throughout the text by clicking ASearch this Work@ on the left side of the page. Full text is available.

Regular attendance is a university requirement and will be carefully monitored. Please do not be late for class meetings, as announcements are made at the beginning of each class and lateness causes interruption and repetition.

One page (single-spaced) summary reviews of the readings must be submitted for all materials in sections 4-9 (and for those 6 sections only) of the “Topics and Readings” below. The goal is to state the distilled essence of the main argument(s) in these readings. These reviews are due at the first class meeting after the section has been completed in the lectures. These summaries are to be printed and submitted to the professor. They will be read, but neither graded nor returned. They become part of each student’s record for the semester and will be consulted in determining a final grade. Failure to submit these papers in a timely fashion will result in a penalty.

Two eight-page (double-spaced) papers are required. A third, four-page paper is also required; the grade on this third paper will be joined, for purpose of a final exam grade, with a grade achieved during a 35-40 minute oral final exam. Some choice of philosophers and questions will be provided for the first two papers, and some latitude on dates is allowed for the final oral exam.

All papers (but not the one-page summaries) are to be sent by email to the professor, attaching a single WORD file (please do not use a PDF file or any other format and send only one attachment even when you are responding to two questions and giving two answers). Late papers not approved for lateness by the professor will be penalized 1/3 of a letter grade per class session that they are late. Severely late papers do not qualify for a grade above C. Lateness of more than 10 days must be approved by a Dean.

The first paragraph of a student paper must contain the following essentials and must use the exact wording underlined below:

(1) The central problem of this paper is that . . . [statement of the problem] e.g. . . . “in his moral theory, Hume emphasizes the moral sentiments and seems to render reason merely the servant of the passions; yet it is hard to understand how his own account of rules of justice can be made to conform to this theory.”

(2) In my interpretation . . . [statement of the interpretation provided] e.g. . . . “Hume has two distinct accounts of rules of justice and of the virtue of justice. One account emphasizes sentimental approval of motives and character traits, and the other account renders rules the products of reason, not of a moral sentiment.”

(3) I will argue that . . . [statement of the overall thesis of the paper] e.g. . . . “rules of justice in Hume’s theory have no clear basis in moral sentiment, and that Hume is misleading to suggest otherwise. His rules of justice are the products of reason, not sentiment, and Hume fails in critical ways to maintain his distinctions between reason and the passions and reason and moral sentiment.”

(4) The conclusion I reach is that . . . [statement of conclusion, if different from the thesis] e.g. . . . “to maintain a consistent account of justice, Hume must expand the role of reason in his moral philosophy and decrease the importance of sentiment.”

A paper lacking in adequate documentation of the sources used (usually the texts of the philosophers) will be automatically returned and will receive the grade of F. Normally, documentation in endnotes requires page numbers, but some exceptions are allowed when parts or sections make better references. All direct quotes and all general references must be documented by page number(s). Please use endnotes, not footnotes. The space taken by endnotes does not count against your allowed page totals. The elements of proper style in notes must be observed. Do not make up a style; do not streamline the requirements of style; and do not place notes or page references in the body of the essay.

Each student is required to give one oral classroom presentation on a philosopher of choice. This presentation must be based on a written document exactly 2 1/2 pages long (5 minutes reading time). This document is to be distributed to all members of the class at the time of the student's presentation. The point of this document is not to exposit the philosopher, but rather to present a philosophical problem or evaluation of the philosopher on one or more selected issues. Papers that are exclusively interpretative are strongly discouraged.

One major philosopher, as well as Hume and Kant, must be designated by each student as an "area of concentration" for the final exam, from the following list: Hobbes, Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Spinoza, Berkeley. The student must also designate one less renowned philosopher from other figures listed on the syllabus as in the "area of concentration" (e.g., Montaigne, Bacon, Pascal, Bayle, Malebranche, Galileo, Hutcheson). Thus, the student is responsible for the assigned writings of four philosophers for the oral final (and four only). One of these philosophers may be the philosopher who was the subject of the student's classroom presentation.

This class carries 4 hours of credit for all students.

FIRST PAPER - due by 1:00am, Feb. 22 (email submission)

Part 1 - Choice from a list of questions provided on Descartes, Hobbes, and Locke (answer limited to four double-spaced pages)

Part 2 - Choice of questions that include a broad set of authors and issues covered to this point (answer limited to four, double-spaced pages)

SECOND PAPER - due by 1:00am, March 22 (email submission)

Part 1 - Choice from a list of questions provided on Spinoza, Leibniz, and Berkeley (answer limited to four double-spaced pages)

Part 2 - Choice of questions that include a broad set of authors and issues covered to this point (answer limited to four, double-spaced pages)
THIRD PAPER, WHICH IS HALF OF THE FINAL EXAM GRADE -- due 1:00am of the day after the last day of classes (email submission). Choice of questions, all of which will involve comparison and critical evaluation of Hume and Kant.
FINAL ORAL EXAMINATION, WHICH COUNTS AS HALF OF THE FINAL EXAM GRADE -- The final oral exam (35-40 minutes long) must be taken no later than three days before the last day of final exams. It may be taken as early as the student wishes to take it. It is the student’s obligation to schedule the precise date with the professor at least one week before the last day of classes.
Numbers in parentheses refer to the approximate number of class sessions devoted to the topic. Introductions in the texts are assigned below, but these introductions are largely for purposes of background.

1. The Aristotelian and Scholastic Background of Early Modern Philosophy (1/2)

2. Religious and Skeptical Influences on Early Modern Philosophy (1/2)

Schneewind, Introductory materials, 1-34, 37-38

Montaigne, "Apology for Raymond Sebond," Schneewind, 38-45, 59-62

3. Scientific Influences on Modern Philosophy (1)

K-T, 1-7, 13-14, 17-18, 179-80

Copernicus, The Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies, K-T, 7-12

Kepler, New Astronomy, K-T, 14-17

Galileo Galilei, “Dialogue on the Great World-Systems,” K-T, 20-29

Bacon, The Great Instauration: The New Organon, K-T, 182-98 only

4. Descartes (2 1/2)

K-T, 39-42, 99-101

Descartes, Meditations on the First Philosophy, K-T, 42-71

Descartes, Meditations: Objections and Replies 2, 3, & 4, K-T, 72-85, 90-97 only

Descartes, Rules for the Direction of the Mind, K-T, 97-99

Descartes, Principles of Philosophy, Preface (in Schneewind)

5. Grotius and Hobbes (2)

Schneewind, 88-90, 111-12

K-T, 203-5

Grotius, On the Law of War and Peace (in Schneewind)

Hobbes, Leviathan, K-T, 205-20

Hobbes, Philosophical Rudiments concerning Government and Society (De cive)

(in Schneewind)

6. Newton and Locke (2 1/2)

K-T, 29-30, 36-37, 222-24, 277-78

Schneewind, 183-84

Newton, Principia (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy) (in K-T)

Locke, An Essay concerning Human Understanding (read K-T, all; then read Schneewind, all.

You will find it best to read these materials in Locke’s own arranged order of Book, Chapter, and Section.)

Locke, Treatise concerning the True Original Extent and End of Civil Government (in K-T)

7. 17th Century French Philosophy (1/2)

K-T, 101-2, 106

Schneewind, 256-58

Pascal, Pensées, K-T, 103-6

Malebranche, Dialogues on Metaphysics and on Religion, Bennett website, pp.

10-11, 37-38, 40, 70-71, 77-78, 132-33

Malebranche, Treatise of Morality, Chs. 1-2, Schneewind, 258-63 only

Bayle, Historical and Critical Dictionary, handout

8. Spinoza (2)

K-T, 106-9, 143-44

Schneewind, 237-39

Spinoza, The Ethics, K-T, 106-42; and Schneewind, 246-55

(As with Locke, it is advisable to read the passages in the order of Spinoza’s original arrangement of parts, definitions, postulates, propositions, etc. There is a slight overlap in K-T and Schneewind at the very end, 5th part, props. 41-42, and note also that they use different translations.)

Spinoza, A Treatise on Religion and Politics (Tractatus Theologico-Politicus)

Schneewind, 239-46

9. Leibniz (2)

K-T, 144-48, 176-77

Schneewind, 313-15

Leibniz, Discourse on Metaphysics (in K-T)

Leibniz, The Monadology (in K-T)

Leibniz, The Principles of Nature and of Grace, Schneewind, 315-20 only

Leibniz, “Primary Truths” (in K-T)

Leibniz, “Necessary and Contingent Truths” (in K-T)

Leibniz, Letters to Arnauld (in K-T)

Leibniz, Letters to Samuel Clarke (in K-T)

10. Systems of Moral Philosophy: Rationalism, Egoism, and Moral Sense Theory (1)

Schneewind, 24-30, 293-95, 388-90, 503-5

Clarke, A Discourse concerning the Unchangeable Obligations, Schneewind, 295-99, 308-11


Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees (in Schneewind)

Hutcheson, An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue

Schneewind, 505-18 only

11. Berkeley (2)

K-T, 278-81

Berkeley, Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (in K-T)

12. Hume (3)

K-T, 321-24 and Schneewind, 545-47

Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (in K-T)

Hume, An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding (in K-T)

Hume, An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals (in Schneewind)

13. Reid (1/2)

Schneewind, 630-32

Reid, Essays on the Active Powers of the Human Mind (in Schneewind)

14. Kant (3)

K-T, 389-92, 487-89; and Schneewind, 651-53

Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (in K-T)

Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (in K-T)

Kant, Lectures on the Metaphysics of Morals (in Schneewind)

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