Early Modern Philosophy


Semester 2, 2020
Tuesday 2.00pm – 5.00pm
Descartes’ Meditations is one of the most significant texts in Western thought. It marks the beginning of a focus on the natural sciences as the paradigm for knowledge and certainty. It incorporates conceptualizations of God, human nature, knowledge and reality that continue to influence contemporary thought. This unit begins with a detailed critical reading of the Meditations. It then examines excerpts from major texts by other significant philosophers of the period, who may include Hobbes, Spinoza, Cudworth, More, Locke, Newton, Clarke, Hume and Kant. The unit focuses on themes such as the relation of body and soul, the question of certain knowledge and the relationship between scientific, theological and common-sense world views. In addition, attention is given to the dispute between those philosophers engaged in sceptical or atheistic attacks on religion, and those philosophers engaged with defending religion made by other early modern philosophers.

Census Date

Tuesday 18 August 


  • second level: 36 points of philosophy at first level
  • third level: 36 points of philosophy at second level


face-to-face 3-hour weekly classes in semester


second level
  • one 2,000-word essay 50%
  • one 2-hour written examination (2,000 words) 50%
third level
  • one 3,000-word essay 50%
  • one 2 hour written examination (2,000 words) 50%


  • Biffle, Christopher. A Guided Tour of René Descartes’ “Meditations on First Philosophy.”  With a complete translation of the Meditations by Ronald Rubin. 2nd ed. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 1996.
  • Brenner, William H. Elements of Modern Philosophy: Descartes through Kant. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1989.
  • Buroker, Jill Vance. Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason”: An Introduction. Cambridge Introductions to Key Philosophical Texts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Cottingham, John, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Descartes. Cambridge Companions to Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
  • Emmanuel, Steven M., ed. The Blackwell Guide to the Modern Philosophers: From Descartes to Nietzsche. Blackwell Philosophy Guides. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000.
  • Guyer, Paul, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Kant and Modern Philosophy. Cambridge Companions to Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Nadler, Steven M., ed. A Companion to Early Modern Philosophy. Blackwell Companions to Philosophy. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2002.
  • Trusted, Jennifer. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Knowledge. 2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1997.