Religious thought depends on a transcendent account of human nature, which has been challenged repeatedly by materialists and naturalists, in the context of successive theories of physics. This unit examines key debates between transcendent and reductionist accounts of the human person in the 17th–19th centuries, highlighting the resilience of transcendent accounts. It includes Descartes’ arguments for an immaterial soul, Locke and ‘thinking matter’, Ralph Cudworth's coinage of ‘consciousness’ (1678), the Newtonian theologian Samuel Clarke's correspondence with the materialist Anthony Collins (1706–17), the anti-materialist philosophies of mind of the Jesuit physicist Roger Boscovich (1757) and the Evangelical Christians Maxwell and Faraday, the dispute between philosophical idealist T. H. Green and the positivist and naturalist G. H. Lewes (1878–85), and the philosophy of mind in C. D. Broad's The mind and its place in nature (1925). Students will also be introduced to the primary working tools of contemporary research in early modern and 19th century philosophy.

Unit code: AP9163C (Approved)

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


Analyse the selected primary texts carefully in relation to their purpose and historical context, and identify their basic positions on human nature;


Critically expound and evaluate the theories, terminology and arguments studied in the unit


Situate and critically interpret the material studied in relation to the wider framework of the Christian philosophical tradition (e.g. faith and reason, voluntarism and rationalism


Narrate critically and contextually the sequence of major encounters between philosophical naturalists and theologians and other defenders of human transcendence throughout the early modern period


Develop a topic of research in a critical, rigorous, sustained and self-directed manner, in accord with the methodologies and conventions of research in early modern, 18th- and 19th century history of philosophy

Unit sequence

One unit of philosophy e.g.: AP8000C or AP8002C


Lectures, seminars, tutorials


Type Description Word count Weight (%)

Option 1: 6000-word essay 90% week 16 1000-word skeleton argument 10% week 13

OR Option 2

7000 100.0

Option2: 4,000-word essay 50% For each essay: week 14, 15 or 16, as set at start of semester by lecturer & published in unit outline. 1,000-word skeleton argument 10% 2,000-word essay 40%

OR Option 1

7000 100.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 20 Jul, 2017

Unit record last updated: 2019-10-03 14:42:25 +1000