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Ebrahim College

Modern Philosophy

Introduction to Philosophy 2 – Modern Philosophy Prerequisites Essential: RQF level 2 or higher (18+) and English [...]

    Introduction to Philosophy 2 – Modern Philosophy

    Essential: RQF level 2 or higher (18+) and English level B2 (CEFR)

    Recommended prior study

    Recommended: completion of the module ‘Introduction to Philosophy 1’

    24 x 50 min lessons (= 1 double lesson per week for 12 weeks)

    This module is the second part of the introduction to philosophy course. The module covers the historical period from the 16th century CE to the present, taking in the development of modern science and technology, colonialism and its effects, and globalisation. Underlying these historical processes is the growth of modern philosophy and its impact on Western thought, a knowledge of which is essential in understanding the way the world works today.

    Content summary
    Whereas the first module in the introduction to philosophy course covers a period of some 2,000 years, this second module spans less than 500. Modern times began to emerge beginning in the 16th century of the Common Era with the increasingly rapid rise of science and technology in Europe and an intellectual challenge to the received ideas of traditional Christianity. This cultural revolution soon spread to other parts of the world through colonialism with a devastating impact on traditional cultures that is still felt today.

    The modern period can be divided into two parts, representing growth and rapid change followed by increasing conflict and scepticism. The world, and especially modern societies have changed more in the last few hundred years than in the whole of history before that. This modules briefly examines the most important trends and figures in recent history and evaluates their impact on how the modern world has arrived at what many believe is an existential crisis in the 21st century.

    The philosophers briefly studied include many of the most famous names from the 17th to the 20th century and students will receive an overview of the most important themes in the philosophy of science, ethics, metaphysics, logic, language, politics and culture.

    The next module in the series, module 3, will begin an in-depth study of philosophy as a methodology, taking a thematic approach to problems in philosophy of religion and ethics.

    Module outline

    Module 2 – Introduction to modern philosophy

    Between science and religion: modern philosophy and the Enlightenment

    Lesson number 1
    (pages 175-186)
    Science. Religion, and the meaning of modernism
    Montaigne: the first modern philosopher?
    Descartes and the New Science
    Lesson number 2
    (pages 186-202)
    Spinoza, Leibniz, Pascal, and Newton
    The Enlightenment, colonialism, and the eclipse of the Orient
    Locke, Hume, and empiricism
    Adam Smith, the moral sentiments, and the Protestant ethic
    Lesson number 3
    (pages) 202-214
    Voltaire, Rousseau and revolution
    Immanuel Kant: saving science
    Kant’s moral philosophy and the Third Critique
    Lesson number 4
    The discovery of history: Hegel
    Philosophy and poetry: Rationalism and Romanticism
    Romantic West meets East: Schopenhauer
    Lesson number 5
    (pages 226-243)
    After Hegel: Kierkegaard, Feuerbach, and Marx
    Mill, Darwin, and Nietzsche: consumerism, energy, and evolution
    Early philosophy in America

    From Modernism to Postmodernism: the Twentieth Century

    Lesson number 6
    (pages 243-259)
    The rejection of Idealism: a century of horrors
    Frege, Russell, and Husserl: arithmetic, atomism, phenomenology
    Zarathustra in the trenches: the limits of rationality
    Lesson number 7
    (pages 259-266)
    The American experience in philosophy: pragmatism
    Changing reality: philosophies of process
    Lesson number 8
    (pages 266-279)
    Unamuno, Croce, and Heidegger: the tragic sense of life
    Hitler, the Holocaust, Positivism, and Existentialism
    Lesson number 9
    (pages 279-286)
    No exit: the Existentialism of Camus, Sartre and Beauvoir
    From Ideal to ordinary language: from Cambridge to Oxford
    Lesson number 10
    (pages 286-299)
    Women and gender: the Feminization of philosophy
    The return of the oppressed: Asia, Africa and the Americas
    Lesson number 11
    (pages 299-305)
    From Postmodernism to the New Age
    World Philosophy: promise or pretence?
    Lesson number 12
    End of module examination

    Learning Outcomes


    All students will have abroad and demonstrable grasp of an outline of the development of religious and philosophical ideas from the European Renaissance up to the present day

    Most students will know and understand how debates arose between different ‘ways of knowing’ across the world and how these influenced each other across the main Euro-Asian continental axis from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Bronze Age, through the Iron Age, Classical and Late Antiquity and the Medieval Period, up to the beginning of modern times.

    Most students will know and understand how the period of modernity grew from the Renaissance onwards and the influence of key philosophers and philosophical ideas on this process. They will understand how changes in philosophy have led to modern secular societies and the globalisation of Western culture.

    Some students will know and understand the extent to which our ideas about reality, ourselves and the world have been deeply influenced by philosophical thinking and how that is beginning to create a new period in human history in which all traditional ideas have been called into question.


    All students will be able to describe and explain the main ideas that evolved in our thinking about ourselves, the world and the unseen (ghayb) during the historical period studied. They will be able to list the main thinkers involved and their cultural contexts.

    Most students will be able to go further than this and evaluate the main trends in world thought during this period, their significance, strengths and weaknesses.

    Some students will have a full grasp of how, where and when the modern world developed its ideas about humanity, the world and religion and spirituality. They will be able to explain their own understanding of this using a range of examples and will be able to evaluate the significance of the development of philosophical discourses for our own time.

    Teaching and learning

    Staff/Student contact time: 65%
    Student private study: 35%

    This module is based around the course textbook: A Short History of Philosophy, by R. Solomon and K.M. Higgins (Oxford University Press, 1996). Students will be expected to read a section of the book (10-20 pages) before each lesson; the lesson will include a presentation of key ideas, questions and answers, and student-centred discussion exercises.

    Resources such as videos and visiting speakers are in the process of development.

    The module will be assessed by an end of term examination lasting 90 minutes

    Indicative resources
    Course textbook: A Short History of Philosophy, by R. Solomon and K.M. Higgins (Oxford University Press, 1996). Available on Amazon.

    (Optional: Philosophy in the Islamic World: a very short introduction, by Peter Adamson (Oxford University Press, 2015)

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