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17th&18th c. Philosophy

Philosophy 312, Spring 2013 M W F 11:30–12:25 in ED 123

Professor: P.D. Magnus

E-mail: pmagnus<at>

Office: HU-258B Office hours: M 2:40–3:30, Tu 11:00–noon, and by appointment

TA: Chris Andreski E-mail: andrcr11<at>

Office: HU-255 Office hours: W 12:45–1:45, F 10:15–11:15, and by appointment

Overview: 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.


20%first midterm exam
20% second midterm exam
25% final exam
10% paper draft
25% paper final

The paper will be 6–8 pages on an assigned topic. A rough draft will be due during Week 10 (April 5). The paper will be returned to you with comments and the final draft will be due at the last class meeting (May 8). 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–.

Course texts: The following books are available at the campus bookstore:

* Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy, translated by John Cottingham et al. ISBN 9780521558181

* Kant Critique of Pure Reason abridged, translated by Werner Pluhar ISBN 9780872204485

In addition, readings from Locke, Berkeley, and Hume will available on the course e-res page.

I strongly encourage you to bring texts to class. For printing, you might consider using Rapid Copy. They will print readings double-sided for just 4 1/2 cents per page.

in Business Administration B26, (518) 442-3245,

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.


We are studying five philosophers this term, each for about two or three. The following is a provisional schedule.

Week 1 jan 23, 35

Introduction [what to read]

René Descartes

Meditation 1 pages 3–15, recommended: 63–67

Week 2 jan 28, 30, feb 1

Meditation 2 pages 16–23, rec’d: 68–77

Meditation 3 pages 24–36, rec’d: 78–89

Week 3 feb 4, 6, 8

Meditations 4–5 pages 37–49, rec’d: 90–106

Meditation 6 pages 50–62, rec’d: 107–115

John Locke

Week 4 feb 11, 13, 15

Innate ideas pages 1–10

Personal identity pages 10–21

Week 5 feb 18, 20 ,22

General terms pages 21–25


George Berkeley

Week 6 feb 25, 27, mar 1

Preface and Introduction pages 1–10

Idealism Part I 1–33, pages 11–18

Week 7 mar 4, 6

Objections answered 34–66, pages 18–27

Advantages 85–122, pages 31–41

— no class mar 8 —

Week 8 mar 11, 13, 15

Writing the paper - assignment and discussion

Of spirits 133–156, pages 44–50

— spring break mar 11–15 —
David Hume

Week 9 mar 25, 27, 29

Hume on ideas §§II–III, pages 7–10

Sceptical worries §IV, §V pt 1, pages 10–20

Week 10 apr 1, 3, 5

Causal power §VII, pages 25–34

Freedom §VIII, pages 34–45


Week 11 apr 8, 10, 12

Types of scepticism §XII, pages 66–73


Immanuel Kant

Week 12 apr 15, 17, 19

Preface and Introduction pages 1–24

The Transcendental Aesthetic read pages 25–38

Week 13 apr 2, 24, 26

The Deduction pages 39–65

Week 14 apr 29, may 1, 3

To be announced?

Week 15 may 6, 8



Final Exam May 10, 3:30–5:30