Descartes’ Meditations is one of the most significant texts in Western thought. It marks the beginning of a focus on the natural sciences as the paradigm for knowledge and certainty. It incorporates conceptualizations of God, human nature, knowledge and reality that continue to influence contemporary thought. This unit begins with a detailed critical reading of the Meditations. It then examines excerpts from major texts by other significant philosophers of the period, who may include Hobbes, Spinoza, Cudworth, More, Locke, Newton, Clarke, Hume and Kant. The unit focuses on themes such as the relation of body and soul, the question of certain knowledge and the relationship between scientific, theological and common-sense world views. In addition, attention is given to the dispute between those philosophers engaged in sceptical or atheistic attacks on religion, and those philosophers engaged with defending religion made by other early modern philosophers.

Unit Code: AP9140C

Points: 24.0

Unit Level: Postgraduate Elective

Unit Discipline: Philosophy

Delivery Mode: Face to Face

Proposing College: Catholic Theological College

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Learning Outcomes


Explain the progression of the argument in Descartes’ Meditations


Explain the primary/secondary qualities distinction as it appears through the thinkers studied in the unit and criticisms of it


Narrate a critical account of the relationship between the defences of a theistic worldview made by the Cambridge Platonists, Locke and Clarke, and the critiques of those defences made by ‘atheistic’ thinkers presented in the unit: Hobbes, Spinoza, Hume, and situate that account amid rival narratives


Elaborate various interpretations of Kant’s transcendental idealism, and appraise Kant’s motivations for offering it and, and explain its structure;


Demonstrate the capacity to develop a topic of research in a critically rigorous, sustained and self-directed manner

Unit sequence

One philosophy unit


Lectures, Tutorials


Type Description Wordcount Weight (%)

Option 1: 6000 word essay 90% End of semester 1000 word skeleton argument 10% Week 13

Or Option 2:

7000 100.0

4,000-word essay 50% End of semester 2,000-word essay 40% End of week 12 1,000 word skeleton aurgument 10% Week 13

7000 100.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 20 Jul, 2015

Unit Record last updated: 2019-10-03 13:28:20 +1000