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Modern Philosophy

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Modern Philosophy

Instructor: David Squires
Office and Hours: Check homepage for location, T 3:30pm-6:30pm or by appointment

Course Description

This is a modern philosophy course that I am preparing to teach in the future.  It is designed for undergraduate philosophy majors, but it could be scaled so as to make it more appropriate to non-majors.  The course begins with a brief propaedeutic to the study of modern philosophy.  The aim is to familiarize students with the elements of classical and medieval ontology that are frequently the focus of criticism or transformation by modern philosophers, viz. substance, accident, substantial form, essence, and existence.  The bulk of the course provides a survey of major figures in modern philosophy, paying special attention to modern metaphysical and epistemological frameworks and the ways in which these differ from classical and medieval pictures of world and mind.

Required Texts

Kant. Critique of Pure Reason. Trans. Norman Kemp Smith. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007.
ISBN-13: 978-0230013384

Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Edited by Mary Gregor and Jens Timmermann. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012
ISBN: 978-1107401068

Modern Philosophy: An Anthology of Primary Sources, 2nd Edition. Ed. Roger Ariew and Eric Watkins. Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 2009.
ISBN-13: 978-0872209787

Various other materials will be handed out via email—indicated below with a *

Assignments and Academic Policies

Assignments: there will be three paper assignments over the course of the semester.  The papers are weighted equally (20% each).  Papers are graded for substance (understanding the prompt, answering the prompt, producing good arguments, etc.), as well as for the quality of writing (grammar, usage, organization, style, etc.).  For the sake of fairness, do not exceed the length limit. You should not need to make use of outside sources.  Papers are due at the beginning of class, in hard copy, on the Thursday of the week that they are due.   Late papers will be penalized.

Participation: There are two independent participation assignments each worth 20% of the final grade—viz. 1) Discussion Participation and 2) Reading Participation. Participation points are not free points, so read these two sections below carefully.

Discussion Participation: This participation assignment measures your engagement in terms of philosophical discussion. The best scores will go to students who show a sustained pattern of thoughtful contribution and questioning in class, especially if that contribution demonstrates that you have read the assigned material diligently. This can take the form of asking questions to me or other students, answering questions that I ask you by offering your interpretation of a text, producing or analyzing arguments, comparing different texts, etc. You must bring to class the text we are reading each day. If the assignment is from an electronic text that I distribute, you should print it out and bring it to class.  Class attendance is an essential part of Discussion Participation.  Only university required absences will be excused.  Unexcused absences will result in Discussion Participation penalties.

Reading Participation: This participation assignment measures your engagement with the assigned readings. You are expected to read all of the assigned texts carefully and completely. As few as four times this semester or as many as each class period, I will give you a quiz question(s) that you must answer in a short period of time. Your Reading Participation score will be based on your answers to these quizzes, which will receive standard letter grades. If you’ve done the reading carefully and completely you should not have too difficult a time offering good answers to the questions you’ll be asked. These quizzes are not designed to test philosophical expertise, so much as whether you are doing the readings and understanding them at a basic level.  In general, think of the readings and class participation as an act of citizenship, through which each individual and the collective body is responsible for the class experience.

“The Chain”: The Chain is a string of emails that I’ll send you throughout the semester (chained together so as not to gum up your inbox—hence the name).  Each email in The Chain will have three parts—1) the Afterthought: a brief summary of the latest reading, which should be very handy when it comes time to review ideas before writing a paper, 2) the Forethought: a few guiding comments or questions for the next reading, and 3) a Funny Thought: a place for me to post philosophical memes, videos, articles, and, in all likelihood, pictures of my cat, Alice. If there are readings to be handed out, they will be attached to The Chain.   Reading/viewing the Chain is entirely optional, but reading the attached assignments is not optional. If you find yourself struggling with the readings, consider at least reading the Forethought. Additionally, asking questions about the readings or commenting intelligently on them by replying to the Chain will increase your discussion participation score.

Summary: Papers count for 60% of your grade (20% each), discussion participation for 20%, reading participation for 20%. Rubric: A: 93%, A-: 90%, B+: 87%, B: 83%, B-: 80%, C+: 77%, C: 73%, C-: 70%, D+: 67%, D: 63%, D-: 60%

Disabilities: The university’s policies regarding disabilities can be found at: Information concerning Sara Bea Disability Services can be found at:

Academic Integrity: Don’t Cheat! This includes plagiarism of any variety, including having others do your work for you or merely syntactically or terminologically altering the work of others (e.g. plugging in a few different words into a paragraph written by someone else).  Any instances of cheating discovered will be dealt with swiftly according to university policy.

Laptop and Mobile Device Policy: Laptops and Mobile devices should not be used during class.  The results are in: scientific studies show that screens mean less glean.  Science giveth the iPhone X Plus and science taketh it away!


A Propaedeutic to the Study of Modern Philosophy

Week 1: The Categories of Being; Change and Hylomorphism
Class 1 m(/dd) Introduction; Aristotle: Categories Chapters 1-8*
Class 2 (m/dd) Aristotle: Physics Book 1*

Week 2: Nature: an Internal Principle of Change; Existence and Essence
Class 3 (m/dd) Aristotle: Physics Book 2*
Class 4 (m/dd) St. Thomas Aquinas: On Being and Essence Chapters 1-4*

The Modern Era

Week 3: The Inadequacy of the Senses; Idols Preventing Progress, Corpuscularianism
Class 5 (m/dd) Michel de Montaigne: An Apology for Raymond Sebond, (MP4-15)
Class 6 (m/dd) Francis Bacon: New Organon Book 1, (MP16-20); The Assayer, corpuscularianism, (MP21-24)

Week 4: Radical Doubt; The Existence of God
Class 7 (m/dd) Descartes: Meditations 1 & 2, (MP35-47)
Class 8 (m/dd) Descartes: Meditations 3 & 4, (MP47-58)

Week 5: Escape from Radical Doubt: Objections and Replies
Class 9 (m/dd) Descartes: Meditations 5 & 6, (MP58-68)
Class 10 (m/dd) Descartes: Meditations, Objections and Replies*

Week 6: The Pure Understanding, the Nature of Ideas; On Method
Class 11 (m/dd) Malebranche: The Search After Truth Book 3, Part 2, (MP200-212)
Class 12 (m/dd) Malebranche: The Search After Truth Book 4, Part 2, (MP212-223)
First Paper Due (m/dd)

Week 7: The Nature of God
Class 13 (m/dd) Spinoza: Ethics Part 1, Definitions, Axioms, Propositions 1-18, (MP144-153)
Class 14 (m/dd) Spinoza: Ethics Part 1, Propositions 19-36, Appendix, (MP153-164)

Week 8: Of the Nature and Origin of the Mind; The Perfection of God
Class 15 (m/dd) Spinoza: Ethics Part 2, Propositions 1-7, Part 4, (MP164-167)
Class 16 (m/dd) Leibniz: Discourse on Metaphyiscs: 1-17, (MP224-235)
Spring Break

Week 9: God and Souls; Monads
Class 17 (m/dd) Leibniz: Discourse on Metaphysics: 18-37, (MP235-247)
Class 18 (m/dd) Leibniz: Monadology, (MP275-283)

Week 10: Ideas, Primary and Secondary Qualities, Perception and Memory; Knowledge
Class 19 (m/dd) Locke: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Book 1, Chapters 1-10, (MP316-339)
Class 20 (m/dd) Locke: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Book 4, Chapters 1-10, (MP387-441)

Week 11: The Origin of Ideas, Skeptical Doubts; Skeptical Solution and the Idea of Necessary Connection
Class 21 (m/dd) Hume: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Sections 1-4, (MP533-548)
Class 22 (m/dd) Hume: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Sections 5-7, (MP548-564)
Second Paper Due (m/dd)

Week 12: Against Miracles; Analytic/Synthetic, A Priori/A Posteriori
Class 23 (m/dd) Hume: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section 10, (MP577-586)
Class 24 (m/dd) Kant: Critique of Pure Reason, Preface, Introduction, (CPR7-15,41-62)

Week 13: Space and Time; The Categories
Class 25(m/dd)Kant: Critique of Pure Reason: Transcendental Aesthetic, (CPR65-91)
Class 26 (m/dd) Kant: Critique of Pure Reason: Transcendental Logic, up to the B-deduction, (CPR92-128)
Spring Break

Week 14: The Transcendental Unity of Apperception; Duty
Class 27 (m/dd) Kant:B-Deduction, (CPR151-175)
Class 28 (m/dd) Kant: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Preface, Section 1, (GMM1-18)

Week 15: The Categorical Imperative, Autonomy/Heteronomy
Class 29 (m/dd) Kant: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Section 2, (GMM19-51)
Third Paper Due (12:00pm, last day of finals)