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The Rationalists (PH243-15)

Timing & CATS

This module will not be running in 2017-18.

Module Description

This module will concentrate on the two greatest early modern rationalists, Spinoza and Leibniz. We will devote six weeks to studying Spinoza's major work, the Ethics, and then look at some of Leibniz's shorter works and letters (principally the Discourse on Metaphysics and the Correspondence with Arnauld). Among the topics we will cover are: the nature of substance, and the relations between God and the world, between body and mind, and between necessity and freedom.

Learning Outcomes or Aims

At the end of the course students are expected to have understood some of Spinoza's and Leibniz's central philosophical contributions. The course is designed as a complement to HMP.

Contact Time

In this module students are expected to attend a two hour lecture each week during the course of one term, as well as a weekly one hour seminar.

Lectures for 2017-18


Assessment Method

This module will beassessed in the following way:

  • One 1,500 word essay (worth 15% of the module)
  • One 2,500 word essay (worth 85% of the module)

Background Reading & Textbooks

  • Benedict de Spinoza, A Spinoza Reader. The Ethics and Other Works, ed. E. Curley (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994).
  • G.W. Leibniz, Philosophical Texts, eds. R.S. Woolhouse and R. Francks (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998).
  • R.S. Woolhouse, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz: The Concept of Substance in Seventeenth-Century Metaphysics (London: Routledge, 1993).
  • S. Nadler, Spinoza’s Ethics. An Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
  • N. Jolley, Leibniz (London: Routledge, 2005).

Course materials

From October 2016 course materials will be available on Moodle. Simply sign in and select the module from your Moodle home page.