Summer 2024 - PHIL 352 D100

17th Century Philosophy (3)

Class Number: 3583

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    May 6 – Aug 2, 2024: Thu, 11:30 a.m.–2:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    One prior philosophy course (not including PHIL 105, PHIL 110, PHIL 310, PHIL 314, or PHIL 315).



An examination of some central issues in 17th century philosophy. Themes may include: changing theories of causation, of the mind, and of the relation between mind and world. Historical readings will be the primary focus and may include important figures such as Descartes, Elisabeth of Bohemia, Malebranche, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Locke. Students who have completed PHIL 353 or PHIL 354 prior to Fall 2006 may not take this course for further credit.


17th century philosophy is often characterized as a radical departure from its scholastic Aristotelian predecessors in the domains of science, method, and metaphysics. Less attention is given to the changing social philosophies of the period. In this course, we will examine the philosophies of three major 17th century figures, René Descartes, Nicholas, Malebranche and Mary Astell with an eye to answering the question: "how to changes in the method and metaphysics of philosophy inform the development of ethical and social ideas in the period?" Students will complete regular reading reflections, in-class assignments, and a term paper, in order to develop their skills of reconstructing and evaluating philosophical arguments, raising pointed objections, and effectively communicating their understanding. By the end of this course students should also acquire a general understanding of some of the major views in metaphysics, method, and social philosophy of the 17th century.


  • Participation 10%
  • Reading Responses 30%
  • In-class assignments (3x10%) 30%
  • Term Paper 30%


Written work for this course will be submitted via Turnitin, a third party service licensed for use by SFU. Turnitin is used for originality checking to help detect plagiarism. Students will be required to create an account with Turnitin, and to submit their work via that account, on the terms stipulated in the agreement between the student and Turnitin. This agreement includes the retention of your submitted work as part of the Turnitin database. Any student with a concern about using the Turnitin service may opt to use an anonymous identity in their interactions with Turnitin. Students who do not intend to use Turnitin in the standard manner must notify the instructor at least two weeks in advance of any submission deadline. In particular, it is the responsibility of any student using the anonymous option (i.e. false name and temporary e-mail address created for the purpose) to inform the instructor such that the instructor can match up the anonymous identity with the student.



Rene Descartes, Selected Philosophical Writings. Cottingham, Stoothoff and Murdoch, eds. Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 978-0521358125

Malebranche, The Search after Truth with Elucidations of The Search after Truth ISBN: 9780521589956

Astell, A Serious Proposal to the Ladies, ISBN: 9781551113067

Astell, Astell: Political Writings, ISBN: 978052142853

Additional readings will be made available via course website.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at:

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   More details on our website: SFU Philosophy

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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.


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the term are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.