Philosophy 306

PHIL 306: History of Late Modern Philosophy

Prerequisite: Three credit hours of philosophy

Credit Hours: (3)

This course traces the development of European philosophy from Kant to Nietzsche. Philosophical movements including German Idealism, Positivism and 19th Century Materialism, and Existentialism will be examined.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

(1) Kant

The course begins with a detailed examination of the philosophy of Kant. Kant's Critical Philosophy provides the transition between the philosophical systems of the Enlightenment and the so called 'Absolute' Idealists of the early 19th century. With his revolutionary treatment of space, time, and the categories of objectivity, Kant shifts the focus of metaphysics and epistemology from the nature of the objects to the necessary structures of the understanding through which things can be present to us in the first place. Parallel developments in Kant's ethics reorient moral philosophy away from discussion of the human good towards the rational structure of duty and the will.


(2) Post-Kantian Idealism

Kant's immediate German successors, notably, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, accept Kant's account of phil-osophical methodology in metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. At the same time they reject Kant's criticisms of philosophical theories which purport to give substantive accounts of what lies beyond the limits of possible experience. The result is a striving for a complete, comprehensive account of ultimate reality, an absolute philosophical 'system'. Attempts to 'map' this system onto concrete reality result in the discovery of isomorphism between the development of abstract philosophical ideas and the progression of spiritual embodiments of human presence in history.


(3) Materialism, Positivism, Naturalism

This section of the course examines the doctrines of Germans, such as Feuerbach, Ruge, Marx, Stirner, and Buechner as well as English and French philosophers, such as, J.S. Mill and Comte. Although these philosophers develop in very different directions they share the common theme of rejecting the ambitions of 'abstract' speculative theory, the prime example of which is Hegel's system, and attempting to ground philosophical theorizing in empirical reality and 'scientific' method. This section of the course shall also consider the significant influence of Darwin on 19th century philosophical developments.


(4) Existentialism

The 19th century Existentialists, most notably Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, also reject the claims to systematic completeness and closure of the German Idealists. Their motivation, however, is not that of seeking an objective or scientific basis for philosophical reflection. Rather, they seek to explore the individual person's concern for the meaning of existence, a concern they consider to be fundamental to the formation of all philosophical conceptions. The exploration of the modes of existence of the human subject, which should be the central concern of philosophy, is, they contend, closed off by the 'objective' approaches to philosophy favored by both German Idealists and scientific naturalists.


(5) The Legacy of the Nineteenth Century

The final section of the course will be devoted to discussion some of the ways in which major trends in 19th century philosophy have influenced 20th century philosophy. The roots of such philosophical schools as logical positivism, pragmatism, analytic philosophy, 20th century existentialism and phenomenology, and ordinary language analysis will be discussed.


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The class will meet three hours each week. Students will study primary texts of major philosophers from Kant to Nietzsche. Course format will be both lecture and discussion, with students occasionally responsible for focusing class discussion. Students will be responsible for mastering some relevant secondary literature in an area of research associated with an essay required for the course.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

(1) demonstrate understanding of major philosophers of the 19th century.
(2) identify central ideas of major schools and movements in 19th century philosophy.
(3) explain both the continuity and discontinuity of ideas as they develop in the 19th century.
(4) describe the developments in the 19th century as part of the broader context of modern philosophy.
(5) utilize primary source material and demonstrate an ability to interpret that material both orally and in written form.
(6) write an analytical paper on a particular theme from the period.
(7) relate developments in 20th century philosophical movements to their predecessors.


Assessment Measures

Students will be assessed on the basis of the following:

(1) essay exams
(2) an analytic paper on a particular theme
(3) a series of short (1-1.5 page) essays on assigned topics
(4) participation in class discussion


Other Course Information

This course completes the History of Philosophy series required of all majors with a philosophy concentration. Together with Early Modern Philosophy it provides a comprehensive study of developments in Western philosophy since the Renaissance.


Approval and Review

January 27, 1997 New Course Approved by VPAA
April 17, 1998 Reviewed Kim Kipling
September 18, 2001 Reviewed Kim Kipling
July, 2010
April 13, 2016