University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
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 Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
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 generated fierce debates among academics and scientists, theologians and politicians. Thus this course introduces students to some central developments in European cultural life.
Course description 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.
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 Administrator to ensure that a place is available (Tel: 503780).
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesStandard VS pre-reqs for this level in this Subject Area
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate, by way of coursework and examination as required, a detailed understanding of processes of intellectual change in the early modern period;
  2. demonstrate, by way of coursework and examination as required, an ability to read, analyse and reflect critically upon relevant scholarship concerning philosophy and religion in early modern Europe;
  3. demonstrate, by way of coursework and examination as required, an ability to understand, evaluate and utilise a variety of primary source material relating to early modern philosophy;
  4. demonstrate, by way of coursework and examination as required, the ability to develop and sustain scholarly arguments in oral and written form, by formulating appropriate questions and utilising relevant evidence;
  5. demonstrate independence of mind and initiative; intellectual integrity and maturity; an ability to evaluate the work of others, including peers.
Reading List
Primary sources include

Pierre Gassendi, Syntagma Philosophicum (1658) [extracts], in The Selected Works of Pierre Gassendi, ed. Craig B. Brush (New York, 1972), 398-409, 424-34
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]
Isaac Newton, Philosophical Writings, ed. Andrew Janiak, rev. edn. (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 2014)

Introductory reading

Michael Hunter, 'Science and heterodoxy: an early modern problem reconsidered', in David C. Lindberg and Robert S. Westman (eds.), Reappraisals of the Scientific Revolution (Cambridge, 1990)
Roy Porter and Mikulás Teich (eds.), The Scientific Revolution in National Context (Cambridge, 1992), esp. chs. by Henry and Wood
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, 1998), I [E-Book]
Charles B. Schmitt, 'Towards a reassessment of Renaissance Aristotelianism', History of Science, 11 (1973), 159-93
Catherine Wilson, Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity (Oxford: Oxford U.P., 2008), esp. introd. [E-Book]
Nicholas Jolley, 'The reception of Descartes' philosophy', in John Cottingham (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Descartes (Cambridge, 1992) [E-Book]
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 3783
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information