History of Philosophy, Part II: Modern

Steven G. Smith (smithsg)
Christian Center 11–office hours posted
Home phone 354 2290

Philosophy 3020
MODERN (17th-19th centuries)
Spring 2005

In studying the history of philosophy, we confront philosophical problems as they first arise and as they get restated and reconsidered by outstanding thinkers. We are not merely learning a historical record: this is an indispensable and fruitful way of doing philosophy ourselves. In the practice of philosophical reason seeking we seek to become more mature intellectually and more skillful and responsible in communication.

Philosophy 3020 moves from the deliberate re-founding of philosophy by early modern thinkers in the 17th century through the development of Continental rationalism and British empiricism to Kant’s critical-idealist synthesis of those approaches, Hegel’s amplified idealism, and a variety of post-idealist approaches of the 19th century. The root question animating modern philosophy is, I suggest, this: How do human beings control “reality” through their active constitution of the meaning of reality? This question reflects a momentous shift from ancient and medieval thought which largely treated human beings as dependent witnesses of reality

Readings will be assigned in Philosophic Classics, Vol. 3: Modern Philosophy, ed. Forrest E. Baird and Walter Kaufmann (4th ed.), and Vol. 4: Nineteenth Century Philosophy (3rd ed.), and in handouts.

Grading will be based on a History of Philosophy Notebook (35%), a critical study (25%), a take home final exam (25%), and class participation, including an argument review (15%).


In the READ assignments, although I refer to the titles of the original works, all items and page numbers are in our readers, i.e. Philosophic Classics, Vol. 3 for the 17th and 18th century thinkers and Vol. 4 for the 19th century thinkers, unless noted otherwise. In addition, always read the editors’ introductions to the thinkers.

Jan. 10 Introduction to class.

F-M-W week starting
[W] Jan. 12 Bacon & Descartes
READ: Bacon, from Novum Organum; Descartes, Meditations 1-2; Ryle, “Descartes’ Myth,” from The Concept of Mind (handout)

Jan. 21 Descartes
READ: Descartes, Meditations 3-6; correspondence with Princess Elizabeth

Jan. 28 Spinoza
READ: Spinoza, from Ethics, Parts 1 & 2

Feb. 4 Leibniz
READ: Leibniz, Theodicy and Monadology

Feb. 11 Locke
READ: Locke, from An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

Feb. 18 Berkeley
READ: Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge

Feb. 25 Hume
READ: Hume, from An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding; from A Treatise of Human Nature (handout)

Mar. 4 Kant
READ: Kant, from Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics

Mar. 11 Kant, cont.
READ: Kant, Prolegomena, cont.; from Foundation for the Metaphysics of Morals

Mar. 18 Hegel
READ: Hegel, “Introduction,”Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences; from Reason in History; “Final Result,” Lectures on the History of Philosophy


Apr. 1 Feuerbach; Marx & Engels
READ: Feuerbach, from The Essence of Christianity; Marx & Engels, from The German Ideology; Marx, “Alienated Labor,” from The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844

Apr. 8 Kierkegaard & Nietzsche
READ: Kierkegaard, from Concluding Unscientific Postscript; Nietzsche, from
Twilight of the Idols, The Will to Power, and The Antichrist

Apr. 15 Pragmatism
READ: Peirce, “How to Make Our Ideas Clear”; James, “The Will to Believe”

Apr. 22 Conclusion.



1. The essay should be 6-7 pages in length. It should be typed or word processed, with adequate margins to receive written comments.

2. The essay will be devoted to one problem, or a set of closely related problems, as they are treated in the writings of one philosopher (or, exceptionally, more than one). Here are some sample topics:

Descartes’ evaluation of sense-perception
Spinoza’s argument for one substance
Hume’s account of sympathy
Kant’s theory of space and time
Marx’s critique of idealism
The early pragmatists’ conception of truth

The project should be defined in consultation with the instructor. A project not conforming to this model might be approved, depending on the student’s interest and the availability of appropriate materials.

3. The GOAL of the essay is to advance our understanding of a philosophical issue by improving our understanding of specific philosophers’ arguments. The essay must, therefore, carefully establish what a philosopher’s reasoning is on a given problem, and also evaluate that reasoning.

(a) In the part of the essay that is devoted to making your author’s own case, you must decide which of your author’s arguments are most relevant to the problem that interests you, and which of them you can explain to your reader. (In a short paper you can never deal with all relevant materials.) Be sure you explain the reasoning of your author; do not merely say what a philosopher believed, without showing why the belief was held.

(b) In the evaluative part of your essay, do not merely agree or disagree with your author. Offer reasons of your own for thinking that the author’s treatment of the given problem is right or wrong, adequate or inadequate. You can be a philosophical partner to the author and be creative and honest at the same time.

(c) You must make effective use of the relevant primary material, that is, your author’s own argument, but in this paper you must also make effective use of at least one significant secondary source–some other philosopher who has written on the problem you are interested in. Whether or not you agree with this philosopher’s way of expounding or critiquing your primary author, there will be something significant for your purposes in this fellow reader’s interpretation.

4. A note on secondary sources: Generally you can find useful collections of good writings about well-known philosophers and the main problems they deal with (The Cambridge Companions are good examples), plus you can shop for interesting articles using Philosopher’s Index (under Search Tools > Research Databases on the Millsaps library webpage). Inter-Library Loan items often come amazingly fast, but still, give yourself adequate lead time on this project so you’re not stuck at the last minute with whatever you can lay your hands on. One purpose of this assignment is to get you used to looking around in the philosophical scholarly literature.

5. CITATIONS. The purpose of citations is to give the reader adequate information about the text you are using and, so far as possible, adequate help in finding your references in other editions. Your secondary aim is to do this unobtrusively.
When you quote from a work not originally in English, be sure to mention the name of the translator in the first note along with a full bibliographic report, e.g.:

1. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith (New York: Macmillan, 1929).

A subsequent reference would look like this:

Ibid., p. 102 (B 89).*


Kant, p. 102 (B 89).


Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, p. 102 (B 89).

depending on what needs to be said to avoid confusing different sources.
When all references are to one book, or there are many references in a row to one book, you can put page numbers in your text in parentheses at the ends of sentences, footnoting only the first. That first footnote will conclude, “Page references in the text are to this edition.”

*In citing Kant’s works, it’s customary to give the original first (A) or second (B) edition page number for the Critique of Pure Reason, and for all his other works to give the Royal Prussian Academy edition page number. These page numbers will almost always be found in the margins or embedded in the texts of English translations of Kant.


Multi volume histories of philosophy:
E. Bréhier, The History of Philosophy
F. Copleston, A History of Philosophy
R. McInerny, A History of Western Philosophy
One volume histories of philosophy:
J. Marías, History of Philosophy
B. Russell, A History of Western Philosophy
S. Stumpf, Socrates to Sartre
Online sources:
The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (www.iep.utm.edu)
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (plato.stanford.edu)

Individual Thinkers
Besides the pertinent chapters in histories of philosophy, articles in The Encylopedia of Philosophy and the online encyclopedias of philosophy will often be of help.

For fuller but still manageable treatments, the most useful books I know are:

A. Quinton, Francis Bacon
A. Sesonske & N. Fleming, eds., Metameditations: Studies in Descartes*
R. Peters, Hobbes
G. A. J. Rogers & A. Ryan, eds., Perspectives on Thomas Hobbes
R. I. Aaron, John Locke
C. D. Broad, Leibniz: An Introduction*
M. Hooker, ed., Leibniz: Critical and Interpretive Essays
S. Hampshire, Spinoza
M. Grene, ed., Spinoza: A Collection of Critical Essays*
J. O. Urmson, Berkeley
C. Turbayne, ed., Berkeley: Critical and Interpretive Essays
A. J. Ayer, Hume
V. C. Chappell, ed., Hume: A Collection of Critical Essays
A. Sesonske & N. Fleming, eds., Human Understanding: Studies in the Philosophy of David Hume
S. Ko”rner, Kant
R. P. Wolff, ed., Kant: A Collection of Critical Essays
P. Singer, Hegel
A. MacIntyre, ed., Hegel: A Collection of Critical Essays
E. Fromm, Marx’s Concept of Man
J. Gill, ed., Essays on Kierkegaard
W. Kaufmann, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist
R. Solomon, ed., Nietzsche: A Collection of Critical Essays

General Feminist Critique of Modern Philosophy
A good starting point is The Man of Reason by Genevieve Lloyd.

*Smith’s, not library’s


For your course notebook, a loose leaf binder is strongly recommended. This will make it easier to hand in and take back your entries, and also to keep handouts together.

¬Once a week (normally) you will be asked to bring to class a new entry in your History of Philosophy Notebook–about 2 or 3 pp., if typed double-space–in which you discuss the week’s work (readings and discussions) both positively and negatively.

Positively, you will attempt to draw out of the week’s work the elements that you most want to include in your own metaphysical toolkit–ideas and arguments that are, you think, valid and worth remembering and benefiting from in the future. You are encouraged to develop ideas and arguments in ways that suit your own purposes.

Negatively, you will attempt to identify the mistakes or otherwise unhelpful elements in the week’s work. (You are not committing yourself to rejecting anything! You can change your mind later about your earlier “mistake” calls! So be bold!)

The History of Philosophy Notebook is an important learning tool that will enable you to keep track of what our class comes up with in a cumulative way. The class meetings at which Notebook entries are due will generally be devoted to examination of them.

Several times in the semester you will be asked to write a response to a peer’s entry in the same positive-and-negative way.

Individual Notebook entries and responses will be graded unsatisfactory (-), satisfactory (\/), or very good (+) depending on the attentiveness and thoughtfulness they show. The Notebook as a whole will get a letter grade.


At least once in the semester you will provide guidance to class discussion by preparing a 1-page handout for us in which you address such questions as these: What basically is going on in the assigned reading? What do you think is a particularly important passage? How does the argument of the reading seem to fit into our group’s discussion so far? How does it speak to your concerns in particular? What is most obscure in it or controversial about it?


1. Class Attendance. Being in class, being engaged with the work of the class, and behaving courteously are all expected. One discourtesy to avoid is coming into class late. Better late than never, definitely; but lateness counts as half an absence.
One percent of the course grade will be lost for each absence from class for any reason, beginning with the fourth absence. (For example, someone who missed class 8 times would thereby lose 5% of the course grade, or half a letter grade.) The reason for this: our in class inquiry is a crucial and irreplaceable part of the substance of the course.

2. Late papers. Written assignments turned in late will lose a letter grade or equivalent. Homework may not be turned in more than one week after its due date. No work of any kind will be accepted after the last day of final examinations. Exceptions to this policy will only be granted to the victims of unforeseeable and uncontrollable circumstances.

3. Plagiarism. Using the words or ideas of others without acknowledgement that is, passing them off as your own is a fraudulent practice called plagiarism. Plagiarized work will receive no credit and will be referred to the college Honor Council.

4. Incompletes. An “Incomplete” grade for the course will only be given to students who, due to unforeseen and uncontrollable circumstances, find themselves unable to complete course requirements during the term and can reasonably be expected to complete them within a few weeks after the term’s end. The “Incomplete” must be requested and appropriately justified before the end of final examinations.

5. Disabilities. Students with documented disabilities should discuss their needs with the instructor at the beginning of the semester.