Spring 2019 - PHIL 356 D100

18th Century Philosophy (3)

Class Number: 3251

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 10:30 AM – 11:20 AM
    AQ 5006, Burnaby

    Th 9:30 AM – 11:20 AM
    WMC 3510, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    One of PHIL 150 or 151.



An examination of some central issues of 18th century philosophy. Themes may include the development of the theory of ideas and epistemology associated with it. The primary focus may include important figures such as Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Condillac. Students with credit for PHIL 355 prior to Fall 2006 may not take this course for further credit.


The early modern period is among the most fruitful and exciting periods in the history of philosophy, and it is characterized by philosophers’ attempt to reconcile traditional philosophical positions on the nature of substance, causality, the nature of the mind, God, and others (some of them as old as Plato and Aristotle) with the stunning advances in scientific explanation that began in the 16th century. Some 18th-century philosophers saw the way forward through the development of idealism: the position that the physical world is dependent upon the nature and actions of the mind. Only in this way, they thought, could we explain the success of natural science, and only in this way, they thought, could we secure and preserve the traditional philosophical doctrines seemingly threatened by natural science. Other 18th-century philosophers approached this apparent conflict with a deep skepticism about the meaningfulness and usefulness of the traditional metaphysical categories, arguing instead that the way forward involved abandoning our traditional philosophical methodology altogether.

We shall begin with some brief 17th-century philosophical background, including a quick overview of Leibniz’s idealism and Locke’s materialist realism. Our study of the 18th century shall begin in earnest with a look at Berkeley’s immaterialism: the view that matter does not exist. We shall turn next to Hume’s attack on traditional metaphysics. We shall close by studying Kant’s Prolegomena, in which Kant aims to establish an idealism distinct from Berkeley’s and yet one that is responsive to Hume’s skepticism about traditional metaphysics.


  • Two medium-length papers (1500 words minimum): 25% each 50%
  • One long paper (2500 words minimum) 50%



Berkeley, Principles of Human Knowledge and Three Dialogues. Robinson (ed.) Oxford UP. ISBN: 978-0199555178

Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics: 978-0521535359

Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: A Critical Edition. ISBN: 978-0199266340

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Thinking of a Philosophy Major or Minor? The Concentration in Law and Philosophy? The Certificate in Ethics? The Philosophy and Methodology of Science Certificate?
Contact the PHIL Advisor at philmgr@sfu.ca   More details on our website: SFU Philosophy

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html