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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: God, Nature and Knowledge: The History of Philosophy, c. 1650-1750 (HIST10374)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe period between the mid seventeenth and mid eighteenth centuries saw rapid changes in the ways in which Europeans thought about, and acquired knowledge of, the world around them. New philosophical approaches were not simply of theoretical interest. On the contrary, the period┐s philosophical innovations affected contemporaries┐ experience of the natural environment, and had considerable implications for their religious beliefs. New philosophy thus generated fierce debates among academics and scientists, theologians and politicians. This course introduces students to some central developments in European cultural life. The course begins by assessing the nature of scholastic thought in early modern Europe, before surveying four overlapping processes of intellectual experimentation. First, it examines the revival of ancient atomistic thought, and the emergence of related mechanical philosophies. Second, the course discusses Descartes┐ innovative ┐first philosophy┐, and engages with the lively controversies over his works┐ religious consequences. Third, the course turns to Locke┐s philosophy of knowledge, its critics and followers. The course concludes with the debates inspired by Newton┐s natural philosophy, which had considerable impact in the Enlightenment. Students will read extracts from works by thinkers including Descartes, Locke, Spinoza and Newton, and draw on a rich secondary literature to locate these texts in context. There will be a particular focus on Scottish evidence. The course complements other options taught in the School in intellectual history, the history of science and the Scottish Enlightenment.
Course description Week 1: The early modern context: philosophy, religion and unbelief

Week 2: Renaissance Aristotelianism and protestant scholasticism

Week 3: Atomism and mechanical philosophy (1): the ancients and Gassendi

Week 4: Atomism and mechanical philosophy (2): Descartes┐ natural philosophy and its influence

Week 5: Basic knowledge (1): Descartes┐ metaphysics

Week 6: Cartesians and anti-Cartesians

Week 7: Heterodox Cartesianism: Spinoza

Week 8: Basic knowledge (2): Locke┐s Essay

Week 9: Responses to Locke

Week 10: The metaphysics of the natural world: Newton┐s thought

Week 11: Newtonians and anti-Newtonians
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass or passes in 40 credits of first level historical courses or equivalent and a pass or passes in 40 credits of second level historical courses or equivalent.
Before enrolling students on this course, Personal Tutors are asked to contact the History Honours Admissions Secretary to ensure that a place is available (Tel: 503783).
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesStandard VS pre-reqs for this level in this Subject Area
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2014/15, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  26
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 172 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 67 %, Coursework 33 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) One 3,000 word essay (1/3) and one two-hour examination paper (2/3).
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
After completing the course, students will be able to:
- demonstrate critical understanding of historical debates surrounding philosophy and religion in early modern Europe;
- exhibit a detailed understanding of processes of intellectual change in the early modern period;
- analyse and contextualise primary source material relating to early modern philosophy;
- relate general trends of intellectual change to particular case studies drawn especially from Scottish evidence;
- arrive at independent, well-argued, well-documented and properly referenced conclusions in their coursework essays;
- exhibit their skills in group discussion;
- demonstrate their written, analytical and theoretical skills in coursework;
Reading List
Primary sources

Descartes, Principles of Philosophy, and Meditations on First Philosophy, in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, ed. John Cottingham et al., 3 vols (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1984-91) [other editions available]
Benedict Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise, ed. Jonathan Israel (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 2007)
John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) [various editions]
Robert Boyle, A Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Received Notion of Nature, ed. Edward B. Davis and Michael Hunter (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1996)
Isaac Newton, Philosophical Writings, ed. Andrew Janiak (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 2004) [not currently in EUL]
David Hume, An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding (1777 edn.) [various editions]

Introductory reading

Israel, Jonathan I., Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650-1750 (Oxford, 2001)
Hunter, Michael, ┐The problem of ┐atheism┐ in early modern England┐, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th ser., 35 (1985), 135-57
Roger Ariew and Alan Gabbey, ┐The scholastic background┐, in Daniel Garber and Michael Ayers (eds.), The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, 2 vols (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1998), I [E-Book]
Genevieve Rodis-Lewis, ┐Descartes┐ life and the development of his philosophy┐, in John Cottingham (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Descartes (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1992) [E-Book]
Theo Verbeek, ┐Descartes and the problem of atheism: the Utrecht crisis┐, Nederlands Archief voor Kerkgeschiedenis, 71 (1991), 211-23
Vere Chappell, ┐Locke┐s theory of ideas┐, in Vere Chappell (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Locke (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1994) [E-Book]

Further secondary reading (indicative)

Richard H. Popkin, The History of Scepticism: From Savonarola to Bayle (Oxford, 2003) [not currently in EUL; earlier editions available]
Charles B. Schmitt, Aristotle and the Renaissance (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U.P., 1983)
Catherine Wilson, Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity (Oxford: Oxford U.P., 2008) [E-Book]
Ann Thomson, Bodies of Thought: Science, Religion, and the Soul in the early Enlightenment (Oxford: Oxford U.P., 2008) [E-Book]
Daniel Garber, John Henry, Lynn Joy and Alan Gabbey, ┐New doctrines of body and its powers, place, and space┐, in Daniel Garber and Michael Ayers (eds.), The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, 2 vols (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1998), I [E-Book]
Margaret J. Osler, ┐Becoming an outsider: Gassendi in the history of philosophy┐, in G.A.J. Rogers, Tom Sorell and Jill Kraye (eds.), Insiders and Outsiders in Seventeenth-Century Philosophy (Abingdon: Routledge, 2010)
Antonia LoLordo, Pierre Gassendi and the Birth of Early Modern Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 2007)
Stephen Gaukroger, Descartes┐ System of Natural Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 2002)
Stephen Gaukroger, Descartes: An Intellectual Biography (Oxford: Oxford U.P., 1995) [E-Book]
John Cottingham (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Descartes (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1992) [E-Book]
Stephen Gaukroger (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to Descartes┐ Meditations (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006) [E-Book]
Theo Verbeek, Descartes and the Dutch: Early Reactions to Cartesian Philosophy, 1637-1650 (Carbondale, IL, 1992) [not currently in EUL]
Vere Chappell (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Locke (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1994) [E-Book]
M.A. Stewart, ┐Hume┐s intellectual development, 1711-1752┐, in Marina Frasca-Spada and P. J. E. Kail (eds.), Impressions of Hume (Oxford: Oxford U.P., 2005)
Anita Guerrini, ┐The tory Newtonians: Gregory, Pitcairne and their circle┐, Journal of British Studies, 25 (1986), 288-311
John L. Russell, ┐Cosmological teaching in the seventeenth-century Scottish universities┐, Journal for the History of Astronomy, 5 (1974), 122-32, 145-54
Christine M. Shepherd, ┐Newtonianism in Scottish universities in the seventeenth century┐, in R.H. Campbell and Andrew S. Skinner (eds.), The Origins and Nature of the Scottish Enlightenment (Edinburgh: John Donald, 1982)
B.W. Young, Religion and Enlightenment in Eighteenth-Century England: Theological Debate from Locke to Burke (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The study of the past gives students a unique understanding of the present that will enable them to succeed in a broad range of careers. The transferable skills gained from this course include:
┐ understanding of complex issues and how to draw valid conclusions from the past
┐ ability to analyse the origins and development of current historiographical debates
┐ a command of bibliographical and library- and/or IT-based online and offline research skills
┐ a range of skills in reading and textual analysis
┐ ability to question and problematise evidence; considering the relationship between evidence and interpretation
┐ ability to marshal arguments lucidly, coherently and concisely, both orally and in writing
┐ ability to deliver a paper or a presentation in front of peer audiences
┐ ability to design and execute pieces of written work and to present them suitably, as evidenced by the assessed essay of 3,000 words
KeywordsGod, Nature & Knowledge
Course organiserDr Alasdair Raffe
Tel: (0131 6)51 4269
Course secretaryMiss Annabel Stobie
Tel: (0131 6)50
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