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History of Modern Philosophy

Philosophy 312

Spring 2007, TTH 10:15-11:35, PAC-355 Humanities 0123


Professor:   P.D. Magnus

Campus phone: 2-4251

Office: HU-249

Office hours: T 2:45-3:45, W 1:00-2:00, and by appt.

TA:   David Krueger


The period in philosophy from Descartes to Kant- from the mid-17th to the late 18th century- was dominated by the system of ideas, the assumption that the only objects of direct perception are ideas occurring in our own minds. We'll chart the rise and fall of the system of ideas through the philosophies of René Descartes, John Locke, George Berkeley, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant.


three in-class Exams   @ 25%

one Paper   25%

5-8 pages on an assigned topic. A rough draft will be due during Week 10 (Tuesday, March 27). The paper will be returned to you with comments and the final draft will be due during Week 13 (Tuesday, April 24). You should turn in the rough draft along with the final.

The draft will be marked with the grade it would have received if it were a final draft. If the paper is not improved, however, the final draft will not receive this grade! If you turn in the paper unmodified, you will get one letter grade less than the grade marked on the draft.

Class participation   Participation in class discussion is required. Exemplary participation will add to your grade, up to two-thirds of a letter grade. For example, a B could become an A-.


Academic honesty:   Students are encouraged to discuss issues from the course with each other and with others outside of class. However, they are responsible for their own ideas. Papers should include citations to any works cited or consulted, as well as acknowledgments of helpful interactions.

Cheating will not be tolerated.

Late papers:   The paper will be considered late if it is not ready to hand in at the beginning of class on the day it is due. Each day late will result in a loss of one letter grade.

Absences:   Students who will need to miss class for religious observance, away games, or for other scheduled reasons should discuss these issues with the professor at the beginning of the term. If an emergency results in absence, the student should contact the professor as soon as possible. Make-up exams will be given only for documented, excused absences.


We are studying five philosophers this term, each for about two and half weeks. The following is a provisional schedule.

Th 1/18

René Descartes

Tu 1/23
Meditation 1
(read: 3-15, recommended: 63-67)
Th 1/25
Meditation 2
(read: 16-23, recommended: 68-77)

Tu 1/30
Meditation 3
(read: 24-36, recommended: 78-89)
Th 2/1
Meditations 4-5
(read: 37-49, recommended: 90-106)

Tu 2/6
Meditation 6
(read: 50-62, recommended: 107-115)
Th 2/8

John Locke

Tu 2/13
Innate ideas
Th 2/15
Personal identity


Tu 2/27
General terms

George Berkeley

Th 3/1
Preface and Introduction
(read pages 87-102)

Tu 3/6
(read pages 103-114)
Th 3/8
(read pages 114-127)

Tu 3/13
(read pages 133-149)
Th 3/15
(read pages 149-162)

Tu 3/20

David Hume

Th 3/22
Hume on ideas
(read §§2-3, pages 96-107)

Tu 3/27
Sceptical worries
(read §4, pages 108-118)
Th 3/29
The sceptical solution
(read §5 pt 1 & §12, pages 119-123, 199-211)


Tu 4/10
Causal power
(read §7, pages 134-147)
Th 4/12
(read §8, pages 148-164)

Tu 4/17
Consequences for religion
(read §11, pages 187-198)

Immanuel Kant

Th 4/19
Preface and Introduction
(read pages 1-24)

Tu 4/24
The Transcendental Aesthetic
(read pages 25-38)
Th 4/26
The Deduction
(read pages 39-65)

Tu 5/1
The Deduction
Th 5/3
The Ontological Argument
(read pages 196-200)

Tu 5/8
Concluding thoughts