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PHILOS 2X03 Early Modern Philosophy I

Academic Year: Fall 2017

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Brigitte Sassen

Email: sassenb@mcmaster.ca

Office: University Hall 306

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23475


Office Hours: Tuesdays 1:00 - 2:00 pm UH 306

Course Objectives:

In this course, we will study (some of) the philosophers of the 17th century. More specifically, we will begin with the scientific background to modern thought and then study texts by René Descartes (1596 – 1650), Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646 – 1716) and Samuel Clarke (1675 – 1729). Time permitting, other figures will be briefly considered as well.

By the end of the course, students should have
•developed familiarity with the major philosophical trends in this period
•developed the ability to read and interpret difficult philosophical texts
•developed facility in philosophical discussion
•developed facility in library research

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

•The Scientific Background to Modern Philosophy: Selected Readings, ed. Michael R. Matthews. Hackett.
•Descartes, René. Meditations on First Philosophy. Broadview.
• G. W. Leibniz and Samuel Clarke, Correspondence. Hackett.
•Material to be made available on the course web site.

Method of Assessment:

•1 paper (3 – 5 pages) (25%)
•1 bibliography assignment (5%)
•1 paper (4 - 6 pages) (30%)
•attendance and participation in tutorial (10%)
•final exam (30%)

The course meets three hours a week. Two hours are devoted to lectures (Tu, Th 2:30 – 3:20), one to a tutorial for which students should have registered during course registration. Requirements include attendance and participation in tutorials (10%), one essay (3 – 5 pages) due Oct. 6 (25%) and one essay (4 – 6 pages) due Nov. 24 (30%), a bibliography assignment due in tutorial in the week of October 31 (5%), and a final exam (30%). Except for the bibliography assignment, papers are to be submitted electronically via the dropbox on the course web site (Avenue to Learn) (in either word format, in .rtf, or .pdf). Note that the web site checks for plagiarism. Papers must be uploaded to avenue by 11:59 pm on Oct. 6 and Nov. 24.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late submissions will generally not be accepted unless there is a documented reason.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


Sept 5 Introductory Matters: Figures and Issues No tutorials this week
Sept 7 - 19 Early Modern Science  
Sept. 7 Copernicus
Matthews, 36 – 44
Sept. 12 -15 Bacon
Matthews, 47 – 52
Matthews, 111 - 123
Tutorial 1
Sept. 19 - 22 Galileo
Matthews, 56 – 61; 61 - 86
Tutorial 2
Sept. 26 – Oct 27 Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy  
Sept. 26 - 29 Sceptical Doubt and its Solution (mind and body take 1)
Meditations 1 and 2
41 – 52
Tutorial 3
Oct. 3 - 6 God
Meditations 3
53 – 64
Tutorial 4
Oct 6: essay 1 due
Oct. 9 - 13 Mid-term recess  
Oct. 17 - 20 Error and response to initial doubts
Meditations 4 and 5
65 – 77
Tutorial 5
Oct. 24 - 27 Material things (mind and body take 2)
Meditations 6
78 – 89
Tutorial 6
Oct 31 – Nov 3 Science  
Oct. 31 – Nov. 3 Cartesian Science
Matthews, 97 – 108
Matthews, 137 – 139; 146 - 158
Tutorial 7
Week of Oct. 31: bibliography assignment due (in tutorial)
Nov. 7 – Dec. 3 Leibniz, Clarke Correspondence  
Nov. 7 - 10 Leibniz and Clarke, who were?
Letter 1 and reply
Correspondence, 4 - 6
No tutorials this week
Nov. 14 - 17 Letter 2 and reply
Correspondence, 7 – 14
Tutorial 8
Nov. 21 - 24 Letter 3 and reply
Correspondence, 14 – 22
Tutorial 9
Nov 24: essay 2 due
Nov. 27 – Dec.1 Letter 4 and reply
Correspondence, 22 – 36
Tutorial 10
Dec 5 Review  


Other Course Information: