Early Modern Philosophy (used to be called History of Philosophy II)

Phil A212, section 791 Fall 2018

William Jamison

THEME: An introduction to the great thinkers of the 17th century scientific revolution, the Enlightenment, German Idealism, contemporary positivism and existentialism; a comparative examination of the cosmological, ethical, political and scientific ideas which shaped each of these periods.

Instructional Goals: 

    1. Trace historical themes and debates through discussion of relevant texts.

    2. Engage students in evaluating the questions and problems facing historical philosophers in the Modern Period.

    3. Provide opportunities for students to develop skills for critical analysis and their own responses to philosophical issues.


Student Learning Outcomes: 

1. Analyze and critically evaluate metaphysical, epistemological and ethical issues.

2. Demonstrate a broad knowledge of the western philosophical traditions in the Modern Period.

3. Demonstrate improved writing and critical thinking skills in oral and written communication.



Philosophic Classics: From Plato to Derrida, Forrest Baird and Walter Kaufmann.


Course grades are based on:

 Exams - 50% - nine essays showing an understanding of the materials covered in class and the assigned readings in response to questions, each with a minimum of 300 words,

 25% of the grade will be based on a term project. 

 Response to quiz questions posed in each lecture -25%. 

CLASS: Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 11:34 A – 12:45 P Eagle River Center Room TBA

OFFICE: Eagle River Center by appointment. Here is my Current Schedule. Phone: 786-4458 (office) or 694-1023 (home- please no calls after 8P). The best way to get a message to me is via e-mail. My web page is located at and my e-mail address is wsjamison@ALASKA.EDU.

All tests are take-home essays that can be turned in using e-mail. This syllabus on my web site has links to other sources for many of the texts for the philosophers we will discuss. Some of the links include wonderful web pages on the various philosophers.


  (Notice there are class notes posted here)

August 28: Topics covered: Introduction to the course, description of course requirements, purpose of doing philosophy, course readings as an “all you can eat buffet,” what the tests and quizzes will be like. 

Lecture on Ancient and Medieval Philosophy overview. Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola

August 30: Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo, selections, Lecture 1 notes.

September 4: Descartes, "Meditations on First Philosophy", Lecture 2 notes.

September 6: Descartes and Hobbes, Rationalism versus Empiricism Hobbes, "Leviathan", Lecture 3 notes. Lecture 4 notes.           

September 11: Blaise Pascal, "Pensees" and Spinoza, "Ethics", Lecture 5 notes.

Term paper topics due.

September 13: Locke, "Essays Concerning Human Understanding" Lecture 7 notes.
Thomas Jefferson  

    First take-home exam due next class.

September 18: Leibniz, "Theodicy", Lecture 6 notes.

    First exam due.

September 20: Berkeley, "Principles of Human Knowledge", Jonathan Edwards,

"Final" term paper topic and tentative bibliography due.

September 25: Hume, "Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding"

September 27: Rousseau and Introduction to Kant

Term paper thesis statement and outline due.

October 2: Kant, "Critique of Pure Reason"

October 4: Mary Wollstonecraft and Introduction to Hegel, "Master and Servant"

October 9: Hegel continued

Term paper first rough draft due.

October 11: Schopenhauer, "The Will as Thing in Itself", Wagner

October 16: Mill

Second exam given. Second exam due

October 18: Feuerbach, "The Essence of Religion" and Marx, "Critique of Hegel", "Alienated Labor", "Theses on Feuerbach"

Term paper second rough draft due.

October 23: Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche, "Prejudices of Philosophers", "Master-Morality-Slave Morality", "Bad Conscience", "Reason in Philosophy"

Term paper discussion groups assigned, third draft due. This draft will be shared with group.

October 25: Heidegger, Sartre, "What is Existentialism?", Camus

Term paper groups present initial concerns.

October 30: American Philosophy - Charles S. Peirce, William James

November 1: Husserl

Term paper groups readdress concerns.

November 6: John Dewey, Bertrand Russell, "The Philosophy of Logical Analysis"

Ludwig Wittgenstein

November 8: Isaiah Berlin, Charles Taylor, Frances Fukuyama, Michael Ignatieff:

November 13: Alasdair MacIntyre, John Rawls and Final given out.


November 15: Quine

November 20: Richard Rorty

November 22: No class for Thanksgiving Holiday

November 27: Modern Monotheism

November 29: Daniel Dennett and the Brights

Term papers due.

December 4: Slavoj Zizek and Alain Badiou

December 6: Being and what?

December 11: No class due to final schedule

December 13: class is a double session on Tuesday from 11:30 AM to 12:45. Final due via email.

Summary of course and end course discussions. We will probably also watch a movie chosen by those attending.

Tests:  Three take home tests will be given with the requirement of answering a choice of three out of six essay questions. 

Paper:  A Term Paper is due by email prior to the last class meeting.  The purpose of the paper is to demonstrate an understanding of the basic ideas of a philosopher studied in the course that is assigned to the student. It should be approximately 3,000 words long. 

Quizzes:  Daily quizzes will be based on the readings.

This syllabus may be adjusted at any time to meet the class or instructor’s requirements upon one week’s notice to students. 


This page is maintained by William S. Jamison. It was last updated September 22, 2018. All links on these pages are either to open source or public domain materials or they are marked with the appropriate copyright information. I frequently check the links I have made to other web sites but each source is responsible for their own content.