Sacramento City College
Philosophy 331 & 481 (Honors)
History of Modern Philosophy


Spring 2005
Dr. Robert T. Carroll

Prerequisite: None for Phil 331; Admission to the Honors Program for Phil 481

The difference between 331 and 481 is that the 481 students will be required to do a classroom presentation and a term paper. All other work will be identical for 331 and 481 students.

Required texts (the links take you to where you may find some used copies available at reasonable prices)

Modern Philosophy an anthology of primary sources, edited by Roger Ariew and Eric Watkins (Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company, 1998) (ISBN 0-87220-440-5)  AND

Bacon to Kant : An Introduction to Modern Philosophy 2nd. ed
by Garrett Thomson (Waveland Press, 1997). ISBN: 1-57766-201-6

Online bookstores you might try:,, Textbookhound, Ecampus,

Course Description and Outline

Philosophy 331 and 481 is a course in the history of modern philosophy (roughly the 17th and 18th centuries). The course features readings and discussions mostly of the major philosophers during this period: Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant.  There will be some discussion of "minor" philosophers such as Bacon, Galileo, Gassendi, Boyle, and Newton. (Obviously, Galileo, Boyle, and Newton were not minor scientists!)

My Philosophy Links Web site has a long list of philosophical texts and articles that are available on the Internet.

Course Requirements 331

There are several components. They are not equally weighted (1) classroom discussions (20%); (2) a journal of study questions and answers (50%); and (3) a comprehensive final examination (30%).

Course Requirements 481

There are several components. They are not equally weighted (1) class discussions (10%); (2) a class presentation on a section of a philosophical text (10%); (3) a term paper comparing at least two philosophers on at least one philosophical concept (20%); (4) a journal of study questions and answers (50%); and (5) a comprehensive final examination (10%).


I will give you study questions for each reading. You will write your responses to the questions in a loose-leaf journal and will turn in your work at the beginning of each class. The journal will help you focus your reading, come to class prepared for discussion, and be a study guide as you prepare for the comprehensive final exam.

Class discussions

We meet twice a week, mainly to discuss a section of a philosophical text and its connection to the work of the author and to the work of other philosophers. Journal questions will form the basis for most discussions.

Class presentations for Phil 481 students

Each 481 student will give a presentation to the class on a section of a philosophical text. The presentations will be followed by a question and discussion period and should last about 30 minutes.

Term paper for 481 students

The term paper topic will be selected by the student from a list of suggested topics to be provided by the instructor. The topics will involve comparing at least once philosophical concept (such as 'causality', ‘free will,’ ‘final causes,’ 'God,' or 'substance') as treated by at least two of the philosophers we will be reading. 

The student may develop his or her own topic in consultation with me.

The paper will be 2,000-3,000 words in length (8-12 pages, typed and double-spaced).


Final examination

There will be a comprehensive final examination. At least one week prior to the exam, students will be provided with the questions that will be on the exam. This will give the student the experience of a comprehensive exam without the anxiety that comes from inexperience in preparing for such exams and should provide the student with valuable experience for upper division college courses. The exam will be taken in class during the final exam period, however, without books or notes.

A note on plagiarism for those doing a term paper

Plagiarism is the attempt to pass off work done by others as if it were your own. Original work done by others may be cited in your work, but it must be appropriately credited. If you are in doubt as to how to give proper credit to a source, consult a standard term paper style manual such as How to write a term paper by Cynthia Keyworth (New York : Arco Pub., 1982) or How to Write a Term Paper (A Speak Out, Write On! Book) by Nancy Everhart (Franklin Watts, 1995).


History of Modern Philosophy – Overview

The history of modern philosophy traces the development of philosophy in Europe from
René Descartes (1596-1650) to Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). In addition to Descartes and Kant, we will be reading parts of the works of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), Benedict (Baruch) Spinoza (1632-1677), Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), John Locke (1632-1704), George Berkeley (1685-1753), and David Hume (1711-1776).

The 17th and 18th centuries in Europe brought major changes in the direction of philosophy, pushed primarily by developments in politics and science. In politics the direction was towards less dependence on and concern for what the churches might think. In science, the direction was towards materialism, mechanism, and quantitative reasoning. Political and religious leaders still tried to use their authority to intimidate philosophers, but the movement was definitely away from authoritarianism towards observation, experiment, and logical argument. Philosophy and science were both growing independent of church authority, but not necessarily independent of religious ideas. One common feature of the philosophers we will study, with the exception of Leibniz, is the rejection of scholasticism, the philosophy of the schools that emerged in Europe during the Renaissance.

I will provide you with a handout on key scholastic concepts but here I will point out that our modern philosophers attempted to replace scholastic concepts, especially in the areas of epistemology and metaphysics. We will thus focus on their notions regarding the origin, nature, and limits of knowledge (epistemology) and their notions about the nature of reality.

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