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Classical Readings


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to first-year BA students in Philosophy, who are enrolled in the BA Plus-traject.


Descartes's Discourse on method, published anonymously in Leiden in 1637, is one of the key texts of modern philosophy. In it Descartes lays the ground of science, not on dogma, but on reason alone, and presents a method for rightly conducting one's reason. The fundamental certainty discovered by Descartes, "I think therefore I am", will be the touching stone of modern philosophy until our days. Descartes's text is a masterpiece of philosophy but it is also an enjoyable piece of philosophical writing, a gem of classical style. The aim of the seminar is to practice basic philosophical skills: reading a classical text, discovering and discussing its central arguments, and writing a philosophical analysis of the text.

Course objectives

This course aims to form students to a detailed, analytical close reading of a primary text of modern philosophy. Students also learn to use secondary sources and libraries and evaluate translation problems.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • The main ideas of Descartes's Discourse on method.

  • The method of reading classical texts of philosophy.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • Work on a classical philosophical text.

  • Present and discuss the arguments elaborated by the text.

  • Write a short philosophical essay developing a personal question related to a classical text.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


Graded assessment

  • Final paper

Non-graded exercises

  • Mid-term take-home exercise: research project in preparation of the final paper.

  • Each student has to present a reading of a passage of the text or of a commentary and discuss it with the group.

The non-graded exercises are required for getting admission to the final exam (paper).


The final paper counts as 100% of the course grade.


The resit covers the final paper and the grade for the resit replaces the previously earned grade. Papers that fail will need to be rewritten in line with instructor’s comments. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination cannot take the resit.
The non-graded exercises are required for getting admission to the resit (paper).

Inspection and feedback

Discussion of the paper is by appointment after publication of the final grade.

Reading list

  • René Descartes: A Discourse on the Method: Of Correctly Conducting one's Reason and Seeking Truth in the Sciences. tr. Ian McLean. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. (Online at the library.)


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the information bar at the right hand side of the page.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc., contact the Education Administration Office Huizinga


Not applicable.