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Descartes Course Material 2014/15

Core Reading

You should buy a copy of Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy in the edition put together by John Cottingham for the Series 'Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy' (Cambridge University Press).

Introductory books on Descartes:

Hatfield, G. 2003. Descartes and the Meditations. London. Routledge.

Williams, B. 1978. Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry. Harvester Press.


The following two books are also available on, a repository of electronic books available through the library. You might have to use a computer on campus or use your Athens login for access to these:

  • M. Wilson: Descartes
  • J. Cottingham (ed.): The Cambridge Companion to Descartes


The Course Handbook contains further reading, as well as a plan of lectures and a schedule of seminar topics.


Unassessed Essays

General instructions on submitting unassessed essays can be found here.

The unassessed essay is due in week 5, and should be submitted before 12 noon on Thursday of week 5.

For your unassessed essay you should write an essay of approximately 1500 words on one of the following:

1. What is Descartes’ aim in using the Method of Doubt? Is this aim well-conceived, and does he achieve it?

2. Why does Descartes think that his belief in his own existence is immune to skeptical challenges?

3. Critically assess Descartes’ attempt to prove the existence of God in Meditation III.

Make use of the reading lists in the Course Handbook.