PHIL 303: Modern Philosophy

Syllabus for Spring Semester, 2016

Jacksonville University


Dr. Scott Kimbrough

Office:  Council 121

Office hours: M/W 11:00-12:00, T 11:00-12:00 or by appointment

Office phone: 256-7118



Due Dates and Paper topics:


·         Presentation dates and instructions for Secondary Literature Reviews

·         2/4 Descartes system check

·         10/2 First explication paper

·         3/3 Spinoza system check

·         10/30 Second explication paper

·         10/21 Locke system check

·         3/31 Hume system check

·         11/18 Third explication paper

·         4/28 (Thursday) 12:00-3:00: Final exam


Course Description:


The modern period in western philosophy stretches from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. Philosophers of the modern era helped usher in the scientific revolution by critiquing and replacing the Aristotelian worldview that dominated the middle ages. The new mechanistic physics introduced by thinkers such as Galileo and Descartes raised pressing new philosophical problems, including notably the problems of freedom and determinism, the relationship between mind and body, the distinction between appearance and reality, and the implications of science for religion.


Required Books:


Rene Descartes, Selected Philosophical Writings, Cottingham et. al. (eds.), Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Benedict Spinoza, The Ethics and Selected Letters, Samuel Shirley (tr), Hackett Publishing Company, 1991.

David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Eric Steinberg (ed.), Hackett Publishing Company, 1993.

Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics: With Selections from the Critique of Pure Reason, Revised Edition, Gary Hatfield (ed.), Cambridge University Press, 2004 .


Course Requirements:


Preparation: This course focuses on reading, writing, and discussion.  As such, it is critical that each student read the assigned material before class.


Participation and Attendance (7 points each = 100 points): Attendance and participation in discussions are expected. A weekly attendance (4 points) and participation (3 points) grade will be given for each of the 14 weeks of class. 7 x 14 = 98, so everyone gets 2 free points.


Secondary Literature Reviews (75 points each = 225 points): Students will find a scholarly article from an academic journal, summarize its main conclusions, and evaluate those conclusions in a 2-3 page paper and class presentation. Each student will sign up for two presentation dates. Each presentation must concern a different philosopher.


System Checks (100 points each = 300 points): At the conclusion of each unit, there will be a test reviewing the major concepts of the philosopher’s system.


Explication papers (125 points each = 250 points): Two 4-6 page explication papers will explicate particular passages from the course texts.


Final Exam (125 points): The exam is comprehensive and essay format, with a focus on comparing and evaluating how different philosophers stand on particular issues. 


Academic Misconduct:


Any form of academic dishonesty, including cheating on exams, plagiarism, etc., will result in a zero on the relevant assignment. In addition to this class-level penalty, the university punishes cases of academic misconduct. These policies are described in the JU catalog section on “Academic Integrity and Misconduct.”


Plagiarism consists in copying the work of another, in whole or in part, without citing the source. 


This syllabus: It is sometimes necessary to revise the syllabus during the course of the semester. Students will be notified in advance of any pertinent changes to due dates, assignments, course requirements, grading policies, etc.




Reading assignments will be updated each class period and posted on the course web page. 


1/14 Descartes, Synopsis and First Meditation (73-79), Objections and Replies (123-6)

1/19 Descartes, Second and Third Meditations (80-98), Objections and Replies (126-133), and Principles of Philosophy I 9 (162), I 32 (171), and I 45-6 (174-5)

1/21 Class canceled (Kimbrough attending AAC&U conference)

1/26 Descartes, Fourth and Fifth Meditations (98-110), Objections and Replies (133-143)

1/28 Descartes, Sixth Meditation (110-122), Objections and Replies (143-150)

2/2 Descartes, Comments on a Certain Broadsheet (213-217) and Passions of the Soul Part I (pp.218-238)

2/4 System check on Descartes

2/9 Spinoza, Ethics I Propositions 1-29

2/11 Spinoza, Ethics I Propositions 30-36 and Appendix, Ethics II Propositions 1-7

2/16 Spinoza, Ethics II Propositions 8-31

2/18 Spinoza, Ethics II Propositions 32-49, Ethics III Propositions 1-3

2/23 Spinoza, Ethics III Propositions 4-20, 43-49, 58-59, and Ethics Part IV Propositions 1-8

2/25 Spinoza, Ethics IV Propositions 18-37 and 42-73 (Appendix may be skipped)

3/1 Spinoza, Ethics V Propositions 1-42

3/3 System check on Spinoza

3/8 Hume, Enquiry sections 1-3

3/10 Hume, Enquiry section 4-5

3/15 Hume, Enquiry sections 6-7

3/17 Hume, Enquiry section 8-9

3/29 Hume, Enquiry sections 12

3/31 Hume system check

4/5 Kant, Preface to the Prolegomena (pp.5-14) and Preface to the Second Edition of the Critique of Pure Reason (pp.139-153)

4/7 Kant, Preamble and General Question (pp.15-31) and excerpts from the Transcendental Aesthetic (pp.154-160)

4/12 Kant, The Main Transcendental Question, First Part (pp.32-45), Transcendental Logic (pp.161-162)

4/14 Kant, The Main Transcendental Question, Second Part (pp.46-78)

4/19 Kant, The Main Transcendental Question, Third Part through section 54 (pp.79-99)

4/21 Kant, finish The Main Transcendental Question, Third Part (pp.99-115)



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