nl en

History of Modern Philosophy


Admission requirements



What, if anything, makes it appropriate to designate a certain kind of thinking “modern”? This will be our guiding question during this course, in which we will trace some of the key figures, themes and developments in the era of so-called Modern Philosophy. Our point of departure will be the trust in reason found in Enlightenment thought (Descartes); we will move from British Empiricism (Locke, Hume) to the philosophies of Kant, Schelling and Hegel. Emphasis is placed upon the complex yet profound relations of philosophy to the development of modern science, religion, and changing social and political realities.

Central issues that will be addressed are the foundations, limits and possibilities of knowledge and scientific reasoning, the problem of freedom and determinism, subjectivity and perception.

Course objectives

This course aims to: provide students with a broad understanding of the central questions, developments and transformations within the tradition known as Modern Philosophy or Enlightenment philosophy. Special attention will be given to the complex relations between different philosophical theories and the manner in which they have been inherited and transformed. Emphasis will be placed upon the reading and understanding of primary texts. In this manner, the course aims to not only offer students a basic familiarity with and a general understanding of the main theorists of this era, but also to serve as an introduction to reading philosophical literature.

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

  • the main philosophical problems from Descartes to Hegel;

  • the main texts in which these problems are developed;

  • the main philosophical problems that follow from these positions and which inform subsequent theories and positions from Hegel onwards.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • read primary texts in modern philosophy with the confidence needed to analyse, reconstruct and critically evaluate key arguments in them;

  • produce a short paper in which a philosophical question is described and analsysed in a clear manner;

  • write clear and detailed reconstructions from specific arguments from primary texts.


See Collegeroosters Wijsbegeerte 2015-2016, BA Wijsbegeerte (BA Plus-traject or Standaardtraject), eerste jaar.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

Course Load

Total course load: 5 EC x 28 hrs = 140 hours

  • Attending lectures: (14 weeks x 3 hrs): 42 hours

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature: 62 hours

  • Time for completing take-home exam: 13 hours

  • Time for completing final essay: 23 hours

Assessment method

  • Take-home exam (50%)

  • Final essay (50%)


One resit will be offered, covering the entire course content and consisting of a take-home exam. The grade for the resit will replace all formerly obtained mid-term and final grades. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination(s) cannot take the resit.


Blackboard will be used to communicate information regarding the course.

Reading list

  • Anthony Kenny, The Rise of Modern Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 2008 (paperback edition), 376 pp.

  • An additional reader will be made available through Readeronline (see instruction in Dutch or English


Please register for this course via Study administration system uSis
See also Inschrijven voor cursussen en tentamens

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the collegerooster in the column under the heading “”.

Exchange students and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Contractonderwijs
Registration Studeren à la carte


Dr. R. Uljée