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2024/25 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PHIL2525 Past Thinkers: History of Modern Philosophy

20 creditsClass Size: 90

Module manager: Nicholas Jones

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2024/25

Pre-requisite qualifications

PHIL1121 Introduction to the History of Western Philosophy or PHIL1555 Philosophy for PPE

Module replaces

PHIL2212 History of Modern Philosophy: Leibniz and Hume PHIL2232 History of Modern Philosophy: Locke and Berkeley

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module looks in detail at the work of two or more pre-Kantian Modern philosophers (i.e. working in 1600-1800) and their philosophical context. In other words, its purpose is to help you to decide what you think about their philosophical systems and why, and to articulate your responses to classic texts from the past.


Students taking this module will explore the work of two or more pre-Kantian Modern philosophers. Its aim is to help you to develop an understanding of their carefully worked-out positions, so as to be able to ask yourself whether your own views are defensible in the light of what they say. There will be a focus on (i) contextualizing the work of those philosophers, (ii) understanding some of their most influential positions, (iii) the potential impact of those position in our contemporary thinking and (iv) their methodology, i.e. how their way of doing philosophy differs from ours.

Lectures will guide students through the main issues in relation to (i)-(iv), and related questions and arguments, which students will then be able to explore in more detail in seminars, to develop their own view about the issues explored.

Particular attention will be paid to contextualizing, reading and critically analysing philosophical texts from the relevant authors at lectures and seminars.

Learning outcomes
On successful completion of the module students will have demonstrated the following learning outcomes relevant to the subject:

1. Accurately identify and explain points of contention or debate central to some of the texts and ideas studied.

2. Critically analyse arguments central to some of the texts studied.

3. Coherently develop your own critical views of some central positions relating to the texts studied.

Skills Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the module students will have demonstrated the following skills learning outcomes:

4. Communicate ideas and understanding clearly and concisely, using appropriate academic language (Academic and Work Ready skill)

5. Critically analyse source material and demonstrate independence of thought (Academic and Work Ready skill)

6. Search for appropriate material to support knowledge and analysis of topics (Academic, Work Ready, Digital and Sustainability skill)

7. Conform to standards of academic integrity including when and how to appropriately acknowledge someone else’s work (Academic and Work Ready skill)


This module will focus on an in-depth study of works by two or more classic authors of the pre-Kantian Modern period, such as John Locke, Gottfried Willhelm Leibniz, George Berkeley, and David Hume. The authors studied will vary each year.

Topics could include, for example, perception, the nature of knowledge, free will, the self, whether there are standards of morality and art appreciation, and the relation between religion and science.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Formative assessment in this module is designed to facilitate (i) differentiated instruction, (ii) active student reflection on skills development, and (iii) student choice. In addition to the formative feedback available to students in office hours and seminar-based activities, students are invited to complete one piece of formative work which will receive written feedback. In this module, students are given three options:

1. Essay plan
2. Literature review
3. Exposition and critique of a philosophical argument or position

By giving students a choice, this formative assessment takes account of variations in prior knowledge and skill development, and it enables the instructor to respond to students’ individual needs. It also builds students’ academic self-conception and encourages them to take ownership over their intellectual development. To do this, and to ensure that students get the formative feedback they need, each student is required to select an option after critical reflection on the skills that they judge they most need to work on. They are asked to read and reflect on (i) the feedback they received in previous summative assessments, (ii) the PRHS marking criteria for their upcoming summative assessment, and (iii) the specific guidance provided on the summative assessment in this module. These exercises encourage students to engage with previous feedback, think about current expectations, and take an active role in honing their knowledge and skill development.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3000-word essay100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2024 16:19:42


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