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Level 4

4AANB005 Modern Philosophy I


Credit value: 15
Module Tutor: Dr Jasper Reid 


  • Summative assessment: 1 x 2-hour examination (100%)
  • Formative assessment: 1 x 1,500 word essay


  • Summative assessment: 1 x 2-hour examination (100%)
  • Formative assessment: 1 x 1,500 word essay

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Teaching pattern: One two-hour weekly lecture and one one-hour weekly seminar over ten weeks

This course is an introduction to Modern Philosophy through an examination of the thought of Descartes and Hume. The students will gain a familiarity with the central epistemological and metaphysical claims of each philosopher, through a reading of central primary texts. Students will develop an appreciation of the historical context within which the rationalist and empiricist traditions developed. The relevance of the core philosophical arguments and positions to contemporary philosophy will also be highlighted where relevant.

Further information

Module Aims
Learning Outcomes
Past Syllabi
Core Reading

Module aims

  • Through attention to the primary texts to communicate an understanding of the thought and core arguments of Descartes and Hume.

  • To convey how the problems under discussion were motivated for these thinkers, and to consider the question of which of these problems remain alive in contemporary philosophical discussion

  • To teach students to read texts in the history of philosophy with care and subject them to philosophical analysis.

  • To gain an appreciation of the problems of interpretation that can arise in regard to figures in the history of philosophy as well as specifically philosophical challenges.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, the students will be able to demonstrate intellectual, transferable and practicable skills appropriate to a Level 4 module and in particular will be able to demonstrate:

  • A critical understanding of the metaphysical and epistemological views of Descartes and Hume.

  • An ability to relate the questions discussed to other philosophers studied.

  • An understanding of the need for interpreting a philosopher’s claims in their historical context.

  • A careful reading of and reflection upon some core texts, as well as introductory and secondary material, and attention to questions of interpretation.

Past syllabi

Please note that module syllabus and topics covered may vary from year to year.

Core reading

  • Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy
  • Hume, An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding
  • Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature and Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (selections)

These works are readily available in a wide variety of editions, both in print and online.


The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

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