Modern European Philosophy

UPDATE: Classes for Spring 2020 are now online.  Please read the readings and lectures online at your own pace, and turn in your three papers by email to, with all three essays due May 25th.  Please email me with any questions, and I can set up individual Zoom appointments if you email me and request them.  Stay safe, healthy and happy!

Syllabus & Schedule

PHIL 20B – SPRING 2020 – 20271- THURS 6:30 pm, BCC 424, to the left leaving the elevators

Instructor: Eric Gerlach –

Office Hours: Mondays & Wednesdays 12:15 -1:15 pm @ K’s Coffee, nextdoor to BCC

Course Description: In this class we will study the history of Modern European philosophy, as well as its place in the larger history of human thought and our world.

Texts: Links to the online readings are posted at the top of each set of lecture notes.

Jan 23 – The Eastern, Middle-Eastern & Western Golden Ages

Jan 30 – Descartes & Spinoza

Feb 6 – Leibniz & Locke

Feb 13 – Hume & Berkeley

Feb 20 – Kant

Feb 27 – Hegel 1st PAPER DUE

Mar 5 – Schopenhauer & Kierkegaard



Mar 26 – Nietzsche & Bataille

Apr 2 – Heidegger

Apr 9 – Sartre & Existentialism

Apr 16 – Russell & Positivism – SPRING BREAK MOVED

Apr 23 – Pragmatism

Apr 30 – Wittgenstein

May 7 – Foucault & Poststructuralism

May 14 – Baudrillard & Postmodernism


Assignments: Two 4 page essays (2 x 25%) & a final 8 page paper (50%), typed, double-spaced and emailed to  Focus on an idea we cover, clearly state and argue for your position with evidence, empathy, and examples from your life, history or fiction.  All work for the course is due by MIDNIGHT, SUNDAY May 25th.

1st Essay: For the first 4 page essay for the class, I want you to consider the philosophical debates from early modern Europe that pitted Rationalism against Empiricism and others.  What do you find yourself agreeing with more, and why?  Are the two exclusive or complementary, and how?

2nd Essay: For the second 4 page essay, I want you to select a philosopher who you think displays a particular insight or idea, and then reflect on what it means when applied to your own life and/or the current state of the world.

3rd Essay: For the final 8 page paper for the class, I want you to take an idea from the final three lectures and apply it to your life and/or the world, as you did for the second assignment.  What appeals to you or not about the idea, and how or why is it useful?

Grading Rubric: 10 – This is outstanding work, 9 – This is good work that shows you put thought and time in, but more, 8 – This is on the right path, but clearly needs a bit more, 7 – This is somewhat wrong and off, and 0 – 6 – You are clearly phoning it in before the telegraph.

Student Learning Outcomes:  Upon completion of this class, students will be able to do the following:

1. Describe anatta,anicca,dukkha,and Dependent Origination as foundational principles of Buddhist ethics.

2.Demonstrate an understanding of the principles of three Buddhist schools, to discriminate between three Buddhist traditions, and to understand foundation of Buddhist metaphysics and ethics.

3. Assess foundational Buddhist principles critically.

4. Describe role of Buddhism in the development of national and religious culture.

5. Apply Buddhist existential principles to the understanding of the nature of life and self.

General Student Requirements:  Students are expected to come to class prepared to ask questions and participate in discussions. All readings and assignments should be completed by the beginning of class on the day they are listed here. This class is run as a lecture/discussion course.  Students are responsible for all class material (even if they miss class). If you miss class, it is strongly advised that you ask a classmate for notes. It is your responsibility to ask if you missed something; it is not the instructor’s responsibility to remind you. Please read through the syllabus and plan ahead.

Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Plagiarists, intentional or inadvertent, will receive a zero on the assignment in question; repeat offenders will get an F for the course and will be subject to college disciplinary action. Students are encouraged to review plagiarism policies in the current Vista College catalog.  Attendance is mandatory. If you miss more than five classes, you will receive an F in the course. (Note: I do not distinguish between “excused” and “unexcused” absences; if you miss more than five classes, for any reason, you cannot pass the class.)

Disabled Student Program and Services (DSPS) are provided for any enrolled student who has a verified disability that creates an educational limitation that prevents the student from fully benefiting from classes without additional support services or instruction. Please let the instructor know if you require any support services or would like more information about DSPS.

This syllabus is subject to change at the discretion of the instructor. Any changes will be announced in class. Additional handouts of required readings may also be added.

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