Marcy P. Lascano

Marcy P. Lascano

Philosophy 204: History of Modern Western Philosophy (2623)

Fall 2016

MW 2:00 – 3:15 LA1 304

Professor Marcy P. Lascano

Office: MHB 901

Office Hours: Mondays 3:30-5:30 and by appointment

E-Mail: marcy.lascano@csulb.edu



Course Description

This course is a survey of early modern philosophers covering philosophers from the 17th and 18th centuries. We will concentrate on issues in metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of religion, and moral philosophy broadly construed.


Course Learning Outcomes

Students will become familiar with the history of western philosophical thought, gain experience reading philosophical texts, learn to extract, explain, and critically evaluate arguments within the text, gain facility in writing philosophical essays and exams, and learn basic research skills.


Course Requirements

Exams, Research Project, and Participation

Examinations (60%): There will be three short take-home examinations in the course. Each exam will ask you to answer two questions and will be no more than three pages long. Each examination is worth 100 points, and all together they are worth 60% of your course grade.


Research Project (20%): The research project is a multi-part assignment which will involve each student writing a short encyclopedia entry on a “non-canonical” figure in the history of philosophy that is not covered in this course. Students will write a short biography, bibliography, an explanation of a portion of their philosophical views, and a critical analysis of the view. Information concerning the Research Project can be found below and in the “Assignments” area of Beachboard. There are several components to the project that will be graded, and the total project is worth 100 points (20% of the course grade).


Class Participation (20%) – For each day's reading, I will post two response questions. Each student should write up a paragraph, outline, or argument answering each question before the beginning of class. Before each class period I will randomly select two students to present their answers at some point during our class discussion. These two students will need to turn in their written answers as well. If you are selected and are not in class that day, your class participation grade will go down one letter grade unless you provide documentation of a University approved excused absence (see definition below).



Lecture Topics, Readings, Assignments, and Exams


Mon 8/22 - Introduction to the course, syllabus, The Early Modern Period

Wed 8/24      - Discussion of Research Project/Research Methods in Philosophy     


Mon 8/29 - God – Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, Meditation 5; Isaac Newton                                    General Scholium Principia and Query 31 to Optiks; Emilie du Châtelet, Chapter Two Foundations of Physics.

Wed 8/31 - God – G. W. Leibniz, Summary of Arguments from Theodicy     


Mon 9/5 -  No Class – Labor Day Holiday

Wed 9/7 - God – Hume “Of Miracles”

Research Project Part A Deadline


Mon 9/12 - God/Substance – Spinoza, Ethics Book I

Wed 9/14 - Substance – Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, Meditation II


Mon 9/19      - No Class – Instructor at Conference

Wed 9/21 - Substance –Anne Conway, Principles III, pp. 15-17 and V, pp. 24-25

Research Project Part B Deadline


Mon 9/26 - Human Beings – Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, Meditation 6

Wed 9/28 - Human Beings – Elisabeth/Descartes Correspondence Selections; Conway, Principles IX


Mon 10/3      - Human Beings – Conway, Principles VI

Exam 1 handed out

Wed 10/5 - No Class – Work on Exam 1


Mon 10/10 - Causation – Cavendish, “Argumental Discourse” from Observations Upon Experimental Philosophy, and Philosophical Letters, 4.VI. ; Leibniz New System

Exam 1 Due     

Wed 10/12 - Causation – Hume, Enquiry Section IV, pp. 15-25

Research Project Part C Deadline


Mon 10/17 - Personal Identity – Locke, Essay Book II, Ch. XXVII

Wed 10/19 - Personal Identity/Love – Cavendish, Selections on Personal Identity and Love


Mon 10/24 - Love – Conway, Selections on Love

Wed 10/26 - Love – Mary Astel, Letters Concerning the Love of God, Letters 8 & 9; Damaris Masham, Discourse Concerning the Love of God, selections

Exam 2 handed out     


Mon 10/31 - No Class  - Work on Exam 2     

Wed 11/2 - Death – Montaigne “To Philosophize is to Prepare for Death”

Exam 2 Due


Mon 11/7      - Death – Spinoza, Ethics Book 5

Wed 11/9 - “Perspective”  - Voltaire, Micromegas


Mon 11/14 - Free will – Locke, Essay, Book II, Ch. XXI

Wed 11/16 - Free Will – Emilie du Châtelet on “On Liberty”


Mon 11/21 - No Class – "Fall" Break     

Wed 11/23 - No Class – "Fall" Break     


Mon 11/28 - No Class – Instructor at Conference

Wed 11/30 - Happiness – Descartes/Elisabeth Correspondence Selections on Happiness                                                                 

Research Project Part D Deadline


Mon 12/5      - Happiness – Mary Astell, The Christian Religion, Sections 11-16; Leibniz, “Felicity”

Mon 12/7      - Happiness – Emilie du Châtelet, Discourse on Happiness

Exam 3 handed out


Monday, December 12tth at 12:30 PM:  TAKE HOME EXAM 3 & RESEARCH PROJECT DUE




Philosophy 204 – Research Project


This research project is an encyclopedia style paper that will provide information about figures in the early modern period. The project has several components, each worth a certain number of points. Ultimately, each student will produce an entry on a figure that includes biographical information, bibliographical information, and philosophical content.


Assignment & Timeline:


(A) 10 Points: Pick your philosophical figure (due by Wednesday, September 7th at 2:00PM). There are numerous philosophical figures in our time period that are not covered in our class. You must submit the name of a philosopher to me – philosophers are given on a first come/first serve basis. I will keep a master list of the people already assigned. There are several criteria for selection:


1. The person cannot be a person we are covering in the course.

2. The person in question must fall into our time period. They must have been born between 1400 and 1800.

3. The person must have some published (accessible) philosophical works (monographs, articles, letters, etc.)


* Make certain to do a little bit of preliminary research on the person's philosophical views. You want to pick someone that you find interesting since you will have to read some of their work!


Ways to go about it: You can do Google searches for early modern philosophers, of course. In addition, you might check the footnotes and indexes of websites, encyclopedia entries, or textbooks. There you will find people who corresponded with or are mentioned by other philosophers.


When you have the name of a philosopher which you are interested in, send me an email with (A) your full name and student number, (B) the philosopher's name, and (C) the philosopher's dates (birth and death). I will reply with an email letting you know if you can continue with this person or not. If not, you must find another person before the due date!


(B) 20 Points: Biographical Information (due by Wednesday, September 21st at 2:00PM). You are now ready to start your research. You will need to provide a brief overview of your philosopher's life (no more than 500 words). In order to do this, you will need to gather information about them. Here's what you need to do for this portion.


1. Find biographical information about this person. You may use the web, books, or articles. However, you must cite all your sources. This means that even if you do not use quotes from a web source or book, you must still list it in your bibliography. You must use at least 2 source materials.

2. Write up your biography on your wiki page. Be certain to cite your sources- you can do this in a “secondary source” list (see the Elisabeth example on Beachboard).

3. Turn in a copy of your bibliography to the Dropbox on Beachboard before the due date.  


(C) 20 Points: Bibliographical Information (due by Wednesday, October 12th at 2:00PM). Provide a primary and secondary source list for your philosopher. Here you will need to provide a list of the primary sources (that is, any books, articles, etc. written by the philosopher in question) and a list of secondary source materials (books, articles, webpages, etc. written about your philosopher).


1. Find bibliographical information. You may use the web, books, or articles. However, you must indicate where you are getting your information. You must include all the primary materials written by your philosopher and must include at least ten secondary source.

2. Turn in your Bibliography to the appropriate Dropbox on Beachboard before the due date.


(D) 25 Points: Philosophical Views (Due Wednesday, November 30th at 2:00PM). Now you will write 500 words about the philosophical views of the person that you have chosen.


1. You will now need to read about your figure's philosophical views and decide which of their views you can summarize.

2. Pick one topic that your figure addresses, such as free will, personal identity, the mind-body relationship, ontology, arguments for the existence of God, the nature of God, the nature of time or space, idealism, materialism, causation, accounts of knowledge, skepticism, love, happiness, death etc.

3. Write up a clear and concise summary of the view. Include quotations from their work in order to back up your claims. Be certain to cite the works from which your quotations and claims are taken with footnotes or endnotes.

4. Turn in a copy to the Dropbox on Beachboard before the assignment is due.


(E) 25 Points: Criticism and Evaluation (Due December 12th, 12:30 PM)

Next, you will provide an evaluation and criticism of the philosophical views of the philosopher. Here, you will need to:

(1) Clearly state what part of the view you are criticizing.

(2) Present your criticism in a way that makes it clear why the view is flawed.

(3) Present your reasons or evidence for the criticism.

(4) Finalize your draft: Put all the parts of your work together (see the Elisabeth example on Beachboard). Your final draft is due at the beginning of our final examination period. You will turn in a hardcopy to me at this time.