Philosophy (PHIL) 342

Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Philosophy (Revision 5)

PHIL 342 Course Cover

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Delivery Mode: Individualized study online (with eTextbook)

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Humanities

Prerequisite: 1 junior level philosophy course.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

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Philosophy 342: Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Philosophy, a senior-level, three-credit course that provides an in-depth and comprehensive overview of the major figures in the Western tradition of early modern thought, focusing primarily on questions about reality and knowledge. This overview is developed from an historical perspective—as a sort of ongoing conversation among thinkers, some of whom are separated in time by more than a century. The thoughts, arguments and counter-arguments in the work of each create the cumulative impression of a “symposium”—literally, an after-dinner conversation—in the realm of the intellect. As the dialogue advances, there are more participants, more voices, more answers to the deceptively simple questions troubling all of them. What is existence? What is the difference between reality and illusion? What is everything we experience based on? What is God? These are questions of metaphysics.


The course consists of the following:

  • Unit 1: Introduction to Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Philosophy: Metaphysics and Epistemology in the Modern Era
  • Unit 2: René Descartes and Thomas Hobbes: The Geometrical Method
  • Unit 3: John Locke and Baruch Spinoza on `The Mind'
  • Unit 4: George Berkeley and Gottfried Leibniz: Idealists
  • Unit 5: David Hume and the Skeptical Challenge to Metaphysics
  • Unit 6: Immanuel Kant and the Rescue of Metaphysics


To receive credit for PHIL 342, you must complete all assignments, write a final examination, and obtain a composite course grade of at least D (50 percent). The weighting of the composite grade is as follows:

Activity Weighting
Tutor-marked Assignment: Summaries 20%
Tutor-marked Assignment: Short Essay 40%
Final Exam 40%
Total 100%

The final examination for this course must be taken online with an AU-approved exam invigilator at an approved invigilation centre. It is your responsibility to ensure your chosen invigilation centre can accommodate online exams. For a list of invigilators who can accommodate online exams, visit the Exam Invigilation Network.

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Registration in this course includes an electronic textbook. For more information on electronic textbooks, please refer to our eText Initiative site.

Philosophical Classics Volume III: Modern Philosophy, 6th ed., Forrest E. Baird, ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2011.

Other Materials

All other course materials are available online.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 5, September 9, 2013.

View previous syllabus