History of Modern Philosophy  --  PHIL 3010

Fall 2019       CRN: 46471



Instructor:                   Dr. Kent Baldner

Office Hours:              By appt. (typically M 12-1 and TR 11-12), Moore Hall 3013

Office Phone:              387‑4402

Class Times:               Monday/Wednesday, 2:00-3:40

Classroom:                  3204 Dunbar

Class Web Page:         http://homepages.wmich.edu/~baldner/histsyl.htm               


Catalog Course description: A survey of modern philosophy from the Renaissance through Kant, with particular attention to epistemological and metaphysical themes in the works of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. This course is approved as a writing-intensive course which fulfills the baccalaureate-level writing requirement for students majoring in Philosophy.


Readings:  Selections from: René DescartesMeditations on First Philosophy; Gottfried Leibniz’ “First Truths,” and “Principles of Nature and Grace;” John Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding; George Berkeley’s Principles of Human Knowledge, and Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous; David Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature, and Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding; and Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.


There is no text to purchase.  All the readings are available online.  I have gathered them together in a single packet which you can access by clicking on “Readings” above.  They are available in an “Adobe *.pdf” file, so you will need to download an Adobe Reader. 


Note:  This is a “writing intensive” course that satisfies the Gen Ed Baccalaureate Writing Requirement for students majoring in Philosophy.  There is a lot of writing in this course, and a substantial portion of your final grade will be based upon writing assignments.  You can find general instructions for writing Thesis Defense papers on the class web page.


Grading:  Grades will be based upon two papers (due 10/4 and 11/8) each worth 20% of your grade, in class pop quizzes, worth a total of 20%, a midterm (10/23) worth 20%, and a final exam (12/4—during our last scheduled class period) worth 20%.  Papers must be emailed to me at baldner@wmich.edu, and must be in Word, Pages, .rtf or .txt format.  Course grades will be assigned according to the following scale:


A         --         93% and above                                   BA      --         88%92%

B         --         83%87%                                         CB      --         78%82%

C         --         73%77%                                         DC      --         68%72%

D         --         60%67%                                         E         --         59% and below


The pop quizzes will be unannounced.  They will involve short essays (you will be given 10 minutes to complete them) to insure that you have read and thought about the readings.  They will cover any material covered up to and including the reading assigned for the day they are given. Any changes to the class schedule will be announced via email to your Western email accounts.  There will be no make-ups for missed quizzes, but I will drop your lowest quiz score.  (Occasionally, I may give longer quizzes as take-home assignments.)


Attendance Policy:  Class attendance is mandatory.  Whether/when/how I take attendance is at my discretion.  How attendance affects your grade is at my discretion. An absence will be excused only if the Vice President for Student Affairs Office notifies me regarding a serious illness or death in your family.  See the Vice President for Student Affairs web site for details. Bottom line: you should not expect to pass this class without regular attendance. 


Tentative Class Schedule

  Monday                                                                    Wednesday

8/26   No Classes

8/28  Introduction

Procedural Matters; Introduction to Modern Philosophy

9/2  Labor Day

        No Classes

9/4   Descartes: Meditation I

9/9  Descartes: Meditations I and II

9/11  Descartes: Meditation II

9/16  Meditations II and III (I will briefly discuss the third Meditation.  Reading it is encouraged, but it will not be covered on the test.)

9/18  Descartes: Meditation IV
Notes on Meditation VI

9/23 Descartes: Meditation V and VI  (I will briefly discuss the fifth Meditation.  Reading it is encouraged, but it will not be covered on the test.)

9/25 Descartes: Meditation VI

9/30  Leibniz: “First Truths”
            Some Key Claims

10/2  Leibniz: “Principles of Nature and Grace;” First Papers Due Fri., 10/4

10/7    Locke: Innate Ideas Essay: Bk. I, §§ i and ii (pp. 38-46)                                                                  

10/9  Locke: Ideas and Qualities;  Essay: Bk. II, §§ i and ii (pp. 46-53)

10/14 Locke: Ideas and Qualities; Primary and Secondary Qualities: Essay: Bk. II, § viii (pp. 53-58); Substratum: Essay: Bk. II, § xxiii (pp. 58-67)

10/16 Fall Recess--No Classes

10/21  Locke: Substratum: Essay: Bk. II, § xxiii (pp. 58-67) (Cont.)

10/23  Midterm (Midterm Study Questions)

10/28 Berkeley: Tentative Topics and Readings 

10/30 Berkeley (Continued)

11/4  Berkeley (Continued)

11/6  Hume: Treatise, Bk. 1, Part I, 1 (pp. 161-164); Enquiry: §§ 2, 4, and 12 (pp. 164-177).  Hume on Perceptions and Knowledge; Second Papers Due, Fri., 11/8

11/11 Hume: Enquiry: §§ 4 and 12 (pp. 164-177) (Cont.); Hume: Treatise, Bk. 1, Part iii, §14 (pp. 177-187)

11/13 Hume: Hume: Treatise, Bk. 1, Part iii, §14 (pp. 177-187) (Cont.)           

11/18 Treatise, Bk. 1, Part iv, §§ 2 and 6 (pp. 187-195)

11/20 Kant: Kant’s Transcendental Idealism  (pp. 196-206)  Kant and Hume Diagram  


11/25   Kant: Introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason (pp. 206-218)

11/27   Thanksgiving

             No Classes

12/2  Kant: Space and Time, “Transcendental Aesthetic” (pp. 218-223)

12/4  Final Exam (Final Study Questions)


Final Exam: Wednesday, 12/4, 2:00—3:40 pm—in our last scheduled class period




Course Learning Outcomes:  (Note:  This course satisfies the Gen Ed Baccalaureate Writing Requirement for students majoring in Philosophy.) 1) Exposure to major figures in modern philosophy from Descartes through Kant, their role in shaping our contemporary understanding of the nature of scientific reasoning, and the interconnection between questions regarding the nature and extent of human knowledge and questions about the ultimate nature of reality.  2) A greater understanding of the role of philosophy in the “scientific revolution” of 17th and 18th centuries.  3) A greater understanding of questions about the relationship of mind and body, and how this impacts our beliefs about knowledge and reality.  4) Develop writing skills to meet the baccalaureate-level writing requirement, including the ability to sustain the development of reasoning over multiple-page long essays through the use of an organized paragraph structure, following the grammar, syntax, and spelling of standard English. This will be achieved through multiple, substantial writing assignments, incorporating revision and resubmission and/or demonstration of improvement in successive papers.


Academic Honesty:  You are responsible for making yourself aware of and understanding the policies and procedures in the Undergraduate Catalog that pertain to Academic Honesty. These policies include cheating, fabrication, falsification and forgery, multiple submission, plagiarism, complicity and computer misuse. If there is reason to believe you have been involved in academic dishonesty, you will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct. You will be given the opportunity to review the charge(s). If you believe you are not responsible, you will have the opportunity for a hearing.


Religious Observance:  (The following is from the University’s Policy on Religious Observance)  The University is a diverse, multicultural enterprise and, as a community, we jointly embrace both individual responsibility and dignified respect for our differences. It is our general policy to permit students to fulfill obligations set aside by their faith.

It is our intent that students who must be absent from scheduled classes to fulfill religious obligations or observe practices associated with their faith not be disadvantaged. However, it is the student’s responsibility to make arrangements with his/her instructors in advance.

Instructors should assume that a claim of religious observance has veracity, especially when advance notice is provided by the student. Students likewise must recognize that it is their responsibility to meet all their course obligations. Instructors are not obligated to provide materials to students unless these materials would have normally been distributed to the entire class.


Accommodation for disabilities:  Any student with a documented disability (e.g., physical, learning, psychiatric, vision, hearing, etc.) who needs to arrange reasonable accommodations must contact Disability Services for Students at (269) 387-2116 at the beginning of the semester.  A disability determination must be made by this office before any accommodations are provided by the instructor.  For more information, go to http://www.wmich.edu/disabilityservices.