Philosophy 302

Prof. Warren Schmaus

Origins of Modern Philosophy

Office:  228 Siegel Hall

TR  11:25 - 12:40

Mailbox:  218 Siegel Hall

Room:  204 Siegel Hall


Office Hrs: TR  2:00 - 4:00

Phone:  x 7-3473

Web Site:



course syllabus



Modern philosophy arose in the seventeenth century largely in response to the philosophical problems raised by the Scientific Revolution.  The Scientific Revolution saw a shift from an earth-centered to a sun-centered astronomy.  Mystical explanations were abandoned in favor of explanations grounded in mechanical principles.  The sciences that were established during this period continue to provide much of the basis of engineering education.


Philosophers in the seventeenth century were concerned with the problem of showing that the new sciences, which challenged many ancient beliefs, were nevertheless true.  Philosophers like Descartes and Leibniz sought to show that the sciences were like mathematics and could be made certain through a foundation in reason.  Others, such as Locke, recognized that the sciences, unlike mathematics, were based on experience and thus could achieve only a limited degree of certainty.


Towards the end of the eighteenth century, Hume and Kant recognized that such metaphysical questions as the existence and nature of God and the soul could not be answered with the methods of either mathematics or science.  These metaphysical questions were beyond the limits of what human beings could know.  As a result, philosophy had changed forever.  Unless one could show that Hume and Kant were wrong, one had to abandon the search for metaphysical knowledge.


In this course you will not only learn about the historical interaction between these sciences and philosophy, but also develop your ability to analyze arguments through a critical examination of the philosophical works that we are studying.   


Required Text:


Modern Philosophy:  An Anthology of Primary Sources, second edition, edited by Roger Ariew and Eric Watkins (MP)


Course Requirements:


3 500-word essays, 8 points each:  2/1, 2/24, 3/24


24 %

8 – 10 Surprise quizzes


10 %

Class Participation


10 %

Research Project:


56 %


Proposal:  Title, description, bibliography

4 %



4 - page progress report

12 %


4/19 – 4/28

Class Presentation

12 %



8 - 10  page final paper

28 %




100 %


The three 500-word essays will be based on material covered in class.  These will be due on February 1, February 24, and March 24.  Each will count 8 % of your grade.  In addition, there will be approximately 8 quizzes, which typically consist of 7 true-and-false questions and one 3-point question that requires a written answer.  Your average quiz grade will count for 10 % of your final grade.  Students may make up missed quizzes only if they have an excused absence.  Valid excuses concern things that are outside a student’s control, such as an out-of-town trip by a sports team or ROTC unit, an illness, or other medical problem.  It is the student’s responsibility to inform the professor ahead of time when the student knows he or she will be absent from class.  Class participation and attendance will count towards another 10 % of your grade. 


Every student will be responsible for a library research paper of about 8 - 10 pages and a 10 -15 minute class presentation based on that paper.  The topic may be drawn either from the history of philosophy or from the history of science during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  A list of suggested topics is linked to this syllabus.  Alternative topics in the history and philosophy of science may be worked out in consultation with the professor.  There will be a class visit to Galvin Library on February 24 to introduce you to some of the research tools available to you.  This project will proceed through a series of guided stages, each of which shall contribute towards your grade for the course. 



First each student will turn in a project proposal, including a tentative title, a one-paragraph description of the topic to be investigated, and a tentative bibliography of at least three reputable sources.  This will be returned with comments by the professor.


The next stage will be a progress report of about 1000 words.  This may be in either prose or outline form.  It should also include the current bibliography on a separate page.  You may think of this progress report as serving as the basis of the class presentation.


The third stage is a class presentation of about 10 to 15 minutes.  No particular audiovisuals are required for the class presentation; anything from chalk to power point is acceptable.  Grades will be based on the content of your presentation and not on the technology employed.


Comments on the progress report and class discussion generated by your class presentation will then provide you with feedback for writing your final paper.  The final research paper is due during exam week and serves in place of the final exam.


All written work, including these essays, the research proposal, the progress report, and the final paper, are to be double-spaced and in at least a 10-point font.  Plagiarized work receives a failing grade and cannot be made up.


Reasonable accommodations will be made for students with documented disabilities.  In order to receive accommodations, students must obtain a letter of accommodation from the Center for Disability Resources and speak with me about it as soon as possible.  The Center for Disability Resources is located in 218 Life Sciences.  You can also call them at 312-567-5744 or email them at


I have provided notes on the web for all of your readings.  Take your web browser to the web site named above (not to Blackboard) and simply click on the appropriate course title.  There you will find this syllabus with highlighted links to lecture outlines (in parentheses), paper topic assignments, and a guide to philosophy paper writing.  You may also want to consult a web site that contains versions of early modern philosophical works re-written in contemporary English:







T 1/11

Introduction to course.  Copernicus and Galileo. (astro).

H 1/13

The Mechanical Philosophy and Descartes's search for new foundations.  MP, pp. 1-3, 21-34 (Descartes).

T 1/18

Descartes's knowledge of himself.  Meditations, I, II.  MP, pp. 35-47 (cogito).

H 1/20

Descartes's new foundation.  Meditations, III.  MP, pp. 47-54 (idea_of_God).  FIRST ESSAY WILL BE ASSIGNED. DUE:  2/1.

T 1/25

Mind and Body.  Meditations VI  MP, pp. 61-68. (mind_body). 

H 1/27

Leibniz’s alternative solution to the mind-body problem.  MP, pp. 265-74 (Leibniz).

T 2/1

Introduction to Locke.  Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book I, ch. 1; ch. 2, paragraphs 1-22; MP, pp. 305-7, 316-22 (Locke).  FIRST ESSAY DUE.

H 2/3

Locke on Simple Ideas.  Essay, Book II, ch. 1-4, 8-9, 11; MP, pp. 322-40 (simple). 

T 2/8

Locke on Complex ideas.  Essay, Book II, ch. 12-14; ch. 21, paras. 1-4, 73; MP, pp. 340-49, 356-57 (complex ).  SECOND ESSAY WILL BE ASSIGNED.  DUE:  2/24

H 2/10

Substances and their names.  Essay, Book II, ch. 23, paras. 1-12; Book III, ch. 3; ch 6, paras. 1-9; MP, pp. 359-63, 377-84 (substance).


T 2/15

Locke on Knowledge. Essay, Book IV, ch. 1-4; MP, pp. 386-405 (knowledge).

H 2/17

Tuesday’s assignment, continued.  (knowledge, cont’d.)

T 2/22

Leibniz’s Critique of Locke.  MP, pp. 422-33 (NewEssays). 

H 2/24

Visit to Galvin Library.  SECOND ESSAY DUE.

T 3/1

Newton's Mechanics and Leibniz's Reaction to it.  MP, pp. 284-303 (mechanics). 

H 3/3

Newton and Leibniz, cont’d.  (mechanics, cont’d.).  THIRD ESSAY ASSIGNED:  DUE  3/24

T 3/8

Introduction to Hume.  Inquiry, sec. 1-3; MP, pp. 509-11, 533-42 (ideas).  PROPOSALS DUE.

H 3/10

Hume's Analysis of Causation.  Inquiry, sec. 4.1, 4.2, 5.1; MP, pp. 542-551 (cause).


T 3/22

Hume's Skepticism.  Inquiry, sec. 12; MP, pp. 593-600 (skepticism).

H 3/24

Introduction to Kant.  Prolegomena, Preface; Preamble; MP, pp. 655-72 (preamble).  THIRD ESSAY DUE

T 3/29

Kant on Mathematics.  Prolegomena, Part I, MP, pp. 673-79 (mathematics). 

H 3/31

Kant on Mathematics, cont’d.  (mathematics, cont'd.).

T 4/5

Kant on Natural Science.  Prolegomena, Part II, Sec. 14-26; MP, pp. 679-87 (science). 

H 4/7

Kant’s solution to Hume’s Doubts.  Prolegomena, Part II, Sec. 27-38; MP, pp. 687-92 (science, cont’d.).  PROGRESS REPORTS DUE.

T 4/12

Kant on the Limits to Human Knowledge.  Prolegomena, Part III, sec. 40-56; MP, pp. 695-706 (antinomies).

H 4/14

Tuesday’s assignment, cont’d.  (antinomies, cont’d.)