Philosophy 205 — Modern Philosophy                                 1:00-2:00 MWF,  MI  213

D. Vessey                   363-2146 (Office)                               Office Hours:   MI  210                                                                            MW   2:00-3:30

                                                                                                            Th       1:00-3:00

                                                                                                            and by appointment  


Required Texts:          

            Ariew and Watkins , Modern Philosophy

            Atherton, Women Philosophers in the Early Modern Period

            Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence

            Additional photocopied readings from Locke, Voltaire, Rousseau, Hume,                       Kant, Woolstonecraft, Paine, and Burke.


            This course has as its main focus understanding the dominant philosophical views and issues of Modern (17th and 18th century) Western (European) philosophy.  Since reading and interpreting the texts will be the central focus of the course, the assignments will focus on facilitating an understanding of the reading.  There are only four types of assignments: Readings, Study Guides, Motivated Questions,  and Tests.  Everyone must sign up for one day and distribute in class in the class period before that day, a study guide for the reading of that day. The study guide must be typed, must have the author, title and source of the work at the top of the page, must provide the definitions (and page references) for all technical terms, and must list as concisely as possible the ten most important distinct philosophical points made by the author.  Copies must be made for everyone in class, and the typo policy (one grade lowered for every four typos—grammatical errors, spelling errors, improper use of gendered pronouns, and failure to properly reference quotations) applies. In addition the class will divide into thirds and everyone will be assigned a day (Monday, Wednesday or Friday). Each night before class by 9:00PM one third of the class must post a Motivated Question based on the reading to the phil205 listserv (phil205-l).  Either the night before or the morning of the class everyone must read everyone else’s motivated questions. These questions will be used to facilitate understanding the material in class. The motivated questions can range from questions of interpretation to criticism but either way they must be more than mere questions (e.g. “What does Descartes mean by “formal reality”?).  Instead they must show a knowledge of the context and importance of the question.  (Descartes introduces the distinction between formal and objective reality, but his only criterion for believing in the distinction is “the light of nature”(p. 28). Accepting “the light of nature” as straight-forwardly reliable would seem to undermine his foundational project, but he can’t say it’s given by God since it’s being used to prove God’s existence. How would he answer this concern?) The typo policy does not apply to the Motivated Questions. (But they should be typo free anyway.) There will be two take home, open book exams—a Mid-Term and a Final—where you will have to write a number of essays.


Study Guide: 15%                                                      Attendance/Participation: 25%

Motivated Questions: 10%                                        Tests: 50% (25% each)



Recommended sites:




1. Wed, Jan. 17                       Introductions


2. Thurs,  Jan 18         Background to the Moderns

                                                Reading: Barzun pp. 4-64


2. Fri, Jan. 19              Background to the Moderns

                                                Reading: Barzun pp. 65-143




3. Mon, Jan. 22           Background to the Moderns

                                                Reading: Barzun pp. 145-235


4. Wed, Jan. 24           Background to Descartes

                                                Required Reading: Galileo, Descartes’ Discourse, Letter of                                                   Dedication, Preface and Synopsis

                                                            Ariew and Watkins pp. 8-27

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston IV, pp. 63-90


5. Fri, Jan. 26              Descartes

                                                Required Reading:  Meditation I & II

                                                            Ariew and Watkins pp. 27-34

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston IV, pp. 90-116  




6. Mon, Jan. 29           Descartes                  

                                                Required Reading: Meditation III & IV

                                                            Ariew and Watkins  pp.  34-45

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston IV, pp. 139-153

7. Wed, Jan. 31           Descartes      

                                                Required Reading:  Meditation V & VI

                                                            Ariew and Watkins pp. 45-55

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston IV, pp. 116-139


8. Fri, Feb. 2               Princess Elizabeth

                                                Required Reading: Atherton pp. 9-21




9. Mon, Feb. 5            Spinozistic Responses to Descartes

                                                Required Reading:  Obj. 2 and Spinoza

                                                            Ariew and Watkins  pp. 56-62; pp. 81-87

                                                Recommended Reading:  Copleston IV, pp. 205-214


10. Wed, Feb. 7           Hobbesian Response to Descartes

                                                Required Reading: Obj. 3 & Hobbes

                                                            Ariew and Watkins  pp. 63-70; pp. 100-114

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston V, pp.  1-31


11. Fri, Feb. 9             Arnaudian Response to Descartes

                                                Required Reading:  Obj. 4 and Pascal

                                                            Ariew and Watkins  pp. 70-80; pp. 94-96

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston IV, pp. 153-174




12. Mon, Feb. 12        Margaret Cavendish

                                                Required Reading: Atherton pp. 22-45


13. Wed, Feb. 14         Anne Conway

                                                Required Reading: Atherton pp. 46-77


14. Fri, Feb. 16           17th C. Ethics

                                                Required Reading:  Barzun pp. 236-305




15. Mon, Feb. 19        Spinoza

                                                Required Reading:  from Ethics                                                                                                           Ariew and Watkins pp. 129-156

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston IV, pp. 214-230


16. Wed, Feb. 21         Leibniz

                                                Required Reading: Discourse on Metaphysics

                                                            Ariew and Watkins  pp. 184-207

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston IV, pp. 320-333

17. Fri, Feb. 23           Leibniz

                                                Required Reading: Monadology

                                                            Ariew and Watkins pp. 235-243

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston IV, pp. 295-320



18. Mon, Feb. 26        Leibniz

                                                Required Reading: Newton and selections from Leibniz’                                                       Letters to Clarke

                                                            Ariew and Watkins pp. 244-258

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston V, pp. 143-171


19. Wed, Feb. 28         Cudworth

                                                Required Reading:  Atherton pp. 77-95


20. Fri, Mar. 2 Midterm Exam

                                                Required Reading:  Barzun pp. 305-331






21. Mon, Mar. 12       Mary Astell

                                                Required Reading:  Atherton pp. 96-125


22. Wed, Mar. 14        Locke

                                                Required Reading:  Essay  Bk 1: 1-2; Bk 2: 1-14, 21-23, 27

                                                            Ariew and Watkins, pp. 270-329

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston V, pp. 67-108


23. Fri, Mar. 16          Locke

                                                Required Reading:  Essay  Bk 3: 3-6, Bk 4: 1-4, 10-11, 15-16

                                                            Ariew and Watkins, pp. 329-373

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston V, pp. 108-123




24. Mon, Mar. 19       Locke

                                                Required Reading:  Handout from Two Treatises

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston V, pp. 123-143


25. Wed, Mar. 21        Cockburn

                                                Required Reading:  Atherton pp. 126-146


26. Fri, Mar. 23          Voltaire

                                                Required Reading: Barzun pp. 332-392 and Voltaire                                                                                     Selections (Handout)

                                                Recommended Reading:  Copleston VI, pp. 1-59

27. Mon, Mar. 26       Berkeley

                                                Required Reading:  from A Treatise

                                                            Ariew and Watkins pp. 462-477

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston V, pp. 213-258


28. Wed, Mar. 28        Shephard

                                                Required Reading:  Atherton pp. 147-159


29. Fri, Mar. 30          Hume

                                                Required Reading:  Inquiry §§ 1, 2, 4-7

                                                            Ariew and Watkins pp. 491-522

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston V, pp. 258-293




30. Mon, Apr. 2         Hume

                                                Required Reading:  Inquiry  §§ 7-9

                                                            Ariew and Watkins pp. 514-534

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston V, pp. 293-318


31. Wed, Apr. 4          Hume

                                                Required Reading:   Inquiry  §§ 10-12

                                                            Ariew and Watkins pp. 534-557


32. Fri., Apr. 6            Hume 

                                                Required Reading:   from the Treatise on Human Nature                                                      (Handout)

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston V, pp. 318-342




33.  Mon, Apr. 8        Rousseau

                                                Required Reading: Discourse on Science and the Arts                                                                                    (Handout)

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston VI, pp. 59-80


34.  Wed, Apr. 11       Rousseau

                                                Required Reading: Discourse on the Origins of Inequality                                                     (Handout)

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston VI, pp. 80-101


35.  Fri, Apr. 13          Adam Smith and the British Enlightenment

                                                Required Reading:  Barzun pp. 393-462




36. Mon, Apr. 16       Kant

                                                Required Reading:  Prolegomena Preface and Preamble

                                                            Ariew and Watkins pp. 579-590

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston VI, pp. 180-211


Wed, Apr. 18              Spring Day (No Class)


37. Fri, Apr. 20           Kant

                                                Required Reading: Prolegomena Trans. Prob Pts. I & II

                                                            Ariew and Watkins pp. 590-612

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston VI, pp. 211-276




38. Mon, Apr. 23       Kant                          

                                                Required Reading: Prolegomena Trans. Prob. Pt.  III-End

                                                            Ariew and Watkins pp. 612-633

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston VI pp. 277-308


39. Wed, Apr. 25        Kant

                                                Required Reading:  Groundwork pt. 1 (Handout)

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston VI, pp. 308-349


40. Fri, Apr. 27           Kant

                                                Required Reading: Groundwork pt. 2 (Handout)

                                                Recommended Reading: Copleston VI, pp. 308-349




41. Mon, Apr. 30       Woolstonecraft, Paine, Burke

                                                Required Reading: Handout



42. Wed, May 2                      Conclusions, and Evaluations


Presentations dates


6. Mon, Jan. 29                                                                      

7. Wed. Jan. 31                                                                      


15. Mon, Feb. 19                                                                   


16. Wed. Feb 21                                                                     

17. Fri. Feb. 23                                                                      

18. Mon. Feb 26                                                                    


22. Wed, Mar. 14                                                                   

23. Fri. Mar. 16                                                                     

24. Mon. Mar. 21                                                                  


27. Mon, Mar. 26                                                                  


29. Fri. Mar 30                                                                      

30. Mon, Apr. 2                                                                    

31. Wed. Apr. 4                                                                     

32. Wed. Apr. 6                                                                     


36. Mon, Apr. 16                                                                  

37. Wed. Apr. 18                                                                   

38. Fri. Apr 20                                                                       

39. Mon  Apr. 23                                                                  

40. Wed. Apr. 25