Course Outline: History of Modern Western Philosophy 1 Rationalism to German Idealism

History of Modern Western Philosophy 1

Rationalism to German Idealism

Course Description

History of Modern Western Philosophy 1: Rationalism to German Idealism is a course that emphasises modern western philosophy both in its historical development and its philosophical problems. It is designed to include two notable approaches in exploring history of modern western philosophy, namely: historical approach and thematic one. These two approaches are reflected in this course through the partitioning of history of ideas and philosophical problems. It is to be expected that these combination would in the end allow extensive exploration and intensive investigation on the interaction and interplay amongst the philosophers as well as of the philosophers and their philosophies.

The course defines ‘modern’ as from Descartes onwards and delineates what is termed as ‘western’ into three countries considered to be more productive in philosophical works in Europe, namely: Britain, Germany, and France.

This course though acknowledges, until recent times, the gulf between the so-called analytical and continental philosophies, it intends to go beyond such misleading dichotomy and in its stead it attempts to take advantage of the excellence and distinction of each strand of philosophy.

The course is designed to provide students not only with necessary extensive exploration on notable philosophers and key philosophical ideas, but it is intended to further advance their own philosophical skills for independent thinking and the capability to dare to be wise.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, a student is expected to have acquired the following:

  • Conversance with the main strands of modern western philosophers and their philosophies from Descartes to Marx.
  • Have a good understanding of the development, interaction and interplay of modern western philosophy from its philosophical, historical, political, social, and cultural contexts.
  • Have acquired knowledge and learned various philosophers and philosophical problems which later perhaps be used to develop as critical foundation for further examination and reflection on philosophical thinking.
  • Have developed an attitude of critical self-awareness about the possibilities of our intellectual tools and methods for philosophical understanding of issues in modern western philosophy.

Course Prerequisites

Prior to undertaking this course, students are advised to have completed any or some of the following courses:

  • Introduction to Philosophy

Course Requirements

The course is composed of considerable material both in the lectures and in the readings. It is assumed that students who register in the course will be obliged to fulfil minimum requirement of attendance and will be required to prepare all the readings before they arrive in class. To further motivate the preparation, there would be quizzes, class homework, group presentations, and group discussions to be conducted during the semester. The course can be expected to be highly appreciative of active participation and effective engagement demonstrated by sedulous students.


The assessment for History of Modern Western Philosophy 1: Rationalism to German Idealism is determined to be based on the following:

Attendance 10%
Presentation and participation 20%
Mid term essay 35%
Final term essay 35%

Course Policies

The course holds to the belief that excellence in learning can be achieved in an intellectual environment where academic integrity is highly valued and carefully upheld. Consequently, all assignments, projects, reports, papers and examinations submitted to this course are expected to be the student’s own work. Students should always take great care to distinguish their own ideas and knowledge from information derived from sources. Students are responsible for educating themselves about plagiarism and will be held accountable for any consequences arising from deriliction and non-observance.

Methods of Instruction

In this course the methods of instruction will be composed of: lecture presentation, group presentation, group discussions, interactive dialogues, and audiovisual presentations.


The course includes provision for consultations on academic issues pertaining to the lectures, the readings, and the course. Two hours in each week are allocated for this particular purpose. It will be made available on one hour before and one hour after the lecture. Students are welcome to contact the lecturer during working hours or through electronic means.

Required Readings

The required readings necessary for the course are composed of primary references, secondary references, audiovisual materials, and online resources. Students who enrol in this course are assumed to be internet literate and are expected to be able to take maximum advantage of online resources made available by the college. Secondary references are listed separately and be made available upon request.

Audiovisual materials during the duration of this course will be presented in the class and are consisted of the following films:

  • The Matrix (extraction)
  • Mark Steel Lectures: Descartes (extraction)
  • Consolation of Philosophy: Schopenhauer (extraction)

The primary references are methodologically prepared to provide perspectives and to allow students to work towards becoming independent readers that acquire rudimentary knowledge and understandings of the course. They are the following:

  • Ameriks, Karl (ed), 2000, The Cambridge Companion to German Idealism, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge
  • Beiser, Frederick C., 1993, The Cambridge Companion to Hegel, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge
  • Blackburn, Simon, 2001, Think, Oxford University Press
  • Bowie, Andrew, 2003, Introduction to German Philosophy: from Kant to Habermas, Polity Press: Cambridge
  • Broadie, Alexander (ed), 2003, The Cambridge Companion to Scottish Enlightenment, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge
  • Brown, Stuart (ed), 2003, British Philosophy and the Age of Enlightenment, Routledge History of Philosophy volume 5, Routledge: London
  • Bunnin, Nicholas, and Tsui-James, E.P. (eds.), 2003, The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy, Blackwell: Oxford
  • Grayling, A.C. (ed), 1998, Philosophy 1: A Guide Through the Subject, Oxford University Press: Oxford
  • Grayling, A.C. (ed), 1998, Philosophy 2: A Guide Through the Subject, Oxford University Press: Oxford
  • Guyer, Paul (ed), 2007, The Cambridge Companion to Kant and Modern Philosophy, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge
  • Kenny, Anthony, 2006, A New History of Western Philosophy volume 3: The Rise of Modern Philosophy, Oxford University Press: Oxford
  • Nelson, Alan (ed), 2005, A Companion to Rationalism, Blackwell Publishing: Oxford
  • Parkinson, G.H.R. (ed), 2003, The Renaissance and 17th Century Rationalism, Routledge History of Philosophy volume 4, Routledge: London
  • Rutherford, Donald (ed), 2006, The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Philosophy, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge
  • Shand, John, 1993, Philosophy and Philosophers: An Introduction to Western Philosophy, University College London Press: London
  • Solomon, Robert C., and Higgins, Kathleen M. (eds), 2003, The Age of German Idealism, Routledge History of Philosophy volume 6, Routledge: London

Course Content

The content of the course represented various topics discussed which are arranged as follows:

Part I. History of Ideas

  • Age of Renaissance
  • Francis Bacon
  • Rene Descartes
  • Thomas Hobbes
  • Baruch Spinoza
  • GW Leibniz
  • Isaac Newton
  • John Locke
  • George Berkeley
  • David Hume
  • British Moralists: Lord Shaftesbury, Joseph Butler, Richard Price
  • French Enlightenment: Jean d’Alembert, GL Buffon, Marquis de Condorcet, Denis Diderot, Baron d’Holbach, Montesquieu
  • Scottish Enlightenment: Francis Hutcheson, Adam Smith, Thomas Reid
  • German Enlightenment: Christian Thomasius, Christian Wolff, Moses Mendelssohn, Christian Garve, JGH Feder, Christian Meiners, JN Teten
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Edmund Burke
  • Immanuel Kant
  • GWF Hegel
  • Young Hegelians and Karl Marx
  • Arthur Schopenhauer
  • Soren Kierkegaard

Part II. Philosophical Problems

  • Epistemology
  • Metaphysics
  • Mind and soul
  • Ethics
  • Political Philosophy
  • God

Course schedule

The schedule of the course is arranged as follows:




1 Introduction

Part I. History of ideas

  • Renaissance
  • Bacon
Parkinson: ch.1-4
  • Descartes
  • Hobbes
Parkinson: ch.5-6

Parkinson: ch.7

  • Spinoza
  • Leibniz
Parkinson: ch.8-9

Parkinson: ch.11

Solomon et al: ch.1

  • Newton
  • Locke
Brown: ch.2

Brown: ch.3-4

  • Berkeley
  • Hume
Brown: ch.5

Brown: ch.6-7

  • British moralists
  • French Enlightenment
Brown: ch.8

Brown: ch.9-10

  • Scottish Enligtenment
  • German Enlightenment
  • Rousseau and Burke
Brown: ch.11

Brown: ch.12

Brown: ch.14

  • Kant
Solomon et al: ch.2-4
  • Hegel
Solomon et al: ch.6-8
  • Young Hegelians, Marx
  • Schopenhauer
  • Kierkegaard
Solomon et al: ch.9

Solomon et al: ch.10

Solomon et al: ch.11

11 Part II. Philosophical problems

  • Epistemology
Kenny: ch.4
  • Metaphysics
Kenny: ch.6
  • Mind and soul
Kenny: ch.7
  • Ethics
Kenny: ch.8
  • Political Philosophy
Kenny: ch.9
  • God
  • Epilog
Kenny: ch.10

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