PHI218 - The Rationalists

image of Descartes

2017-18 Outline

Rationalism is the view that we can discover important features of the world from the armchair, simply by exercising our faculty of pure reason. This course will introduce students to the principal early-modern rationalists: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Kant, focusing primarily on their metaphysics and epistemology. Topics discussed will include scepticism and the possibility of knowledge, the nature of mind, the status of material objects, and the nature and existence of God.

Preparatory Reading

  • Descartes, Meditations
  • Spinoza, Ethics, Parts 1 and 2
  • J. Cottingham, The Rationalists.


Two coursework essays (50%) and one two-hour examination (50%)


Eric Olson

Lectures - Autumn 2017

Tuesday 2-3pm - Broad Lane Block Lecture Theatre 10
Tuesday 4-5pm - Broad Lane Block Lecture Theatre 10

Seminars (from Week 3)

Wednesday 1-2pm - 38 Mappin Street - 206
Wednesday 2-3pm - 9 Mappin Street - 124