FILO, Module 2: Philosophical Period: The Enlightenment

Course content

The age of Enlightenment (approx. 1650-1800) is one of the most fascinating periods of Western philosophical thought. It is characterized by radical changes in various realms of society, e.g. philosophy, science, religion, and politics. It is the time of the so-called scientific revolution and the triumph of the mechanistic world view on the one hand and of the conceptions of the modern state and the French revolution on the other hand. During this period the light of reason was considered as more powerful than tradition, authority and faith. It was argued for religious and political tolerance, emancipation, and human rights, and for the first time in history women entered the philosophical scene in a considerable number.

However, the age of enlightenment had also its dark sides, which were depicted famously by Goya in his monsters of reason (El sueño de la razón produce monstrous, 1799). The ambivalent heritage of the project of enlightenment became more and more apparent and is widely discussed since Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialektik der Aufklärung (1944, 1947).

This class offers an intensive study of some of the main philosophical ideas and achievements of this era. With a critical perspective we will focus on the concept of science and scientific method as well as on the political idea of the state and religious tolerance.

The readings include amongst others texts by Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, Voltaire, Rousseau, Hume, Wollstonecraft and Kant.


Master in Philosophy, 2014-curriculum

Learning outcome

The Master’s Programme in Philosophy 2014:
Module 2, Philosophical Period: HFIK03711E
Module 5, Freely chosen topic 1: HFIK03741E
Module 5, Freely chosen topic 2: HFIK03751E

Background reading:

Cassirer, Ernst, 1932. The Philosophy of the Enlightenment, tr. Fritz C.A. Koelln and James P. Pettegrove, Boston: Beacon, 1955.

Jonathan Israel, Radical Enlightenment. Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750, Oxford: OUP 2001.

Popkin, R. H., 1979. The History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Spinoza, Berkeley: University of California Press.

Type of assessment
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 42
  • Preparation
  • 367,5
  • English
  • 409,5