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History of Modern Philosophy



A lecture course introducing some of the key figures, problems and themes in the philosophy of Enlightenment from Descartes to Kant. Attention will be given to the broader context of cultural modernity, experienced as a break with the past, and the demands for stability and orientation that emerged as the unified world-views of religion and metaphysics fell apart. Against this background, we will concentrate on the concept of reason developed in theories of knowledge and morality proposed by thinkers such as Descartes, Spinoza, Pascal, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant. Key problems and themes to be studied include: the problem of foundations, the problem of subjectivity and reflexion, perception, innate ideas, the mind-body problem and the problem of freedom and determinism. Consideration of the two main streams of Enlightenment thought, Rationalism and Empiricism, will culminate in Kant’s attempt at a synthesis that would ground natural science while saving human freedom.

Teaching method

Lectures (hoorcollege) with time left over for discussion.

Admission requirements


Course objectives

Course objectives will be made available on Blackboard at the start of the course.

Required reading

  • Reader with excerpts from primary and secondary literature.

  • Descartes, R., Meditations on first philosophy. ed. Cottingham (CUP 1996). ISBN: 0 521 55818 2.

  • Spinoza, Ethics, ed.& transl. Parkinson (OUP 2003). ISBN: 0198752148

Test method

Mid-semester take-home exam (40%)
Final take-home exam (60%).

Time table

See: Timetable BA Philosophy


Dr. H.W. Siemens ( )


Please register for this course via U-twist. See registration procedure




Lectures will be in English, although Dutch can be used for exams and contributions in class.
The course is part of trajects I and II of the BA Wijsbegeerte.
The course is also available as elective (keuzevak) and as a compulsory part of the keuzepakket Geschiedenis van de wijsbegeerte.