PHIL 207: 18th-Century Philosophy: Hume and Kant

Instructor: Chris Latiolais

Course Goals:

As the subtitle indicates, this course is devoted to two of the most famous 18th-century philosophers: Hume and Kant. Hume is arguably the most sophisticated proponent of the English empiricist tradition he inherits and reinterprets from Shaftesbury, Locke, and Berkeley. We will study Hume as the arch skeptic of the rationalist tradition of modern philosophy (1600-1800). Rationalists modeled philosophy upon mathematical knowledge, which was, according to them, grounded in reason alone. According to the rationalists, if something is known on the basis of reason alone, it is known prior to sensory experience; it was knowledge a priori. Against the very idea of a priori knowledge, Hume launched a devastating skeptical attack. In its stead, Hume proposed to study humans just as Sir Isaac Newton had proposed to study nature: namely, through the observation and experimentation with human nature. We will study Hume, then, as a distinctively modern thinker committed to the idea humans are natural beings that should be studied by the “experimental method”: i.e. as natural beings subject to causal scientific explanation. A central goal of the course is to examine Hume’s contribution to contemporary scientific or “naturalistic” approaches in the study of human life.

Another goal of the course is to examine Kant’s remarkable inheritance and critical re-deployment of both rationalist and empiricist traditions. Like Hume, Kant has both a negative program of criticizing the traditions he inherits and a positive program of placing the study of humans and nature on a secure footing. Accordingly, we will study Kant as a critic of “metaphysics” in all of its forms, whether rationalist, empiricist, or classical. More specifically, we will study Kant’s famous first “critiques” as an orchestrated, positive response to Hume’s skepticism regarding mathematical and causal knowledge as well as human freedom. We will examine Kant’s contribution, then, to contemporary criticism of “naturalistic” approaches to the study of knowledge and morality. Although we will discuss Hume’s and Kant’s moral theories and, indeed, their systematic approach to philosophy as such, we will focus in this course upon their epistemological theories.


Students will be evaluated on the basis of class participation, quizzes, a midterm paper and a final paper:

  • Class Participation: Seminar presentations and discussion = 20%
  • Midterm Paper: 1 @ 20% each = 20%
  • Quizzes: 6 @ 5% each = 30%
  • Final Paper: 10-15 pages = 30%


Students are expected to follow the reading schedule and to come to class prepared to actively discuss the texts they have read. More specifically, students must bring their texts to class with marginal notes, highlighted or underlined passages of particular importance, and pages marked where they have encountered difficulties in understanding the material. Quizzes offer students the opportunity to identify and to clarify central terms and concepts. The midterm assignments allow student to write essays on key philosophical issues and arguments, and the final paper offers students the opportunity to respond in depth to a single topic. The final paper is due on the day scheduled for the final examination.

The Following are Basic Policies:

  • Three unexcused absences will result in a full course grade reduction (exceptions allowed only with proper documentation).
  • Late papers are marked down a half grade per day (exceptions allowed only with proper documentation)
  • No active electronic devices such as computers, mobile phones, Blackberries, Blueberries, or any other electronic fruits and vegetables are permitted in the classroom, although tape recorders are permitted.
  • All documented disabilities will happily be accommodated upon the student’s request.
  • An act of plagiarism will result in a failing grade for the specific assignment. A second act will result in an F course grade.
  • During seminar discussions, students must attend to the person holding the floor, responding to his or her contribution. In other words, no one-on-one lateral comments, which divert attention from the ongoing discussion. In short, students must participate in seminar deliberation, respecting the single speaker who holds the floor.
  • Three unexcused absences will result in a full grade reduction.
  • Late papers will be marked down a half grade for the first day, and a full grade for the second day. All work must be turned in at the end of term.


Required Texts:

  1. Kant, Emmanuel: Critique of Pure Reason. Ed. Norman Kemp Smith. New York: St Martin’s Press (1965).
  2. Allison, Henry: Kant’s Transcendental Idealism: An Interpretation and Defense. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press (1983).
  3. Heidegger, Martin: Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, Trans. Richard Taft. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press (1997).
  4. Excerpts of Texts Posted on Moodle:
    • Deleuze, Gilles: Kant’s Critical Philosophy: The Doctrine of the Faculties. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press (2003).
    • Thompson, Garrett: Bacon to Kant: An Introduction of Modern Philosophy. Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press (2002).

Recommended Secondary Readings:

  1. Allison, Henry E., Custom and Reason in Hume: A Kantian Reading of the First Book of the Treatise. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, (2008)
  2. Allison, Henry E., Idealism and Freedom: Essays on Kant’s Theoretical and Practical Philosophy. New York: Cambridge University Press (1996).
  3. Pippin, Robert, Kant’s Theory of Form: An Essay on the Critique of Pure Reason. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press (1982)
  4. Brandom, Robert B., Tales of the Mighty Dead: Historical Essays in the Metaphysics of Intentionality. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press (2000).
  5. Zizek, Slavoj, Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology. Durham: Duke University Press, (1993).
  6. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Phenomenology of Perception. London, England: Routledge (1962).

German across the Curriculum Component:

Selected passages from Kant’s Kritik der reinen Vernunft may be read in the German original. GAC students will be given alternative assignments and weekly tutorials.

Bridge Reading Component:

Students interested in linking course material to their major course of study will be given special readings and assignments. Tutorial meetings are required, and the final paper must be completed in consultation with a professor in home department.

  • Psychology: Students interested in exploring the philosophical foundations of learning theory and developmental psychology will be given readings that link course material to these prominent research traditions in psychology. See Psychology Bridge-Readings (Philosophy Department Homepage).

Reading Schedule:

Hume’s Empiricism and Kant’s Transcendental Idealism:

Week One:

  • Tuesday:
    • Introductory Lecture:
    • Moodle Posting:
      • Thompson, Garrett. Bacon to Kant: An Introduction of Modern Philosophy. Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press, 2002 [pp. 208-244]
        • Hume: Ideas and Interpretation
        • Hume: Causation
        • Hume: Material Bodies and Identity
        • Part Two: Conclusions
      • Photograph Gallery: From Realism to Pointillism

The Very Idea of Transcendental Philosophy:

  • Thursday:
    • Kant:
      • Preface to First Edition
      • Preface to Second Edition
    • Gilles Deleuze: Kant’s Critical Philosophy
      • Preface
      • Introduction
      • The Relationship of the Faculties in the Critique of Pure Reason

The Truth of Geometrical and Arithmetic Knowledge:

Week Two:

  • Tuesday:
    • Kant:
      • Introduction (pp. 41-65)
    • Heidegger:
      • Introduction
      • Part One: The Starting Point for the Laying of the Ground of Metaphysics (pp. 3-12)
  • Thursday:
    • Heidegger:
      • Part Two: Carry Out the Laying of the Ground for Metaphysics (pp. 13- 88)

Week Three:

  • Tuesday:
    • Allison:
      • Part One: The Nature of Transcendental Idealism
  • Thursday:
    • Allison:
      • Part Two: Human Knowledge and Its Conditions

Week Four:

  • Tuesday:
    • Kant:
      • Transcendental Doctrine of Elements: First Part. Transcendental Aesthetic (pp. 65-92)
  • Thursday:
    • Kant:
      • Second Part: Transcendental Logic (pp. 92-102)

Week Five:

  • Tuesday:
    • Heidegger:
      • Part Three: The Laying of the Ground for Metaphysics in Its Originality (pp. 89-142)
  • Thursday:
    • Heidegger (continued)

Week Six:

  • Tuesday:
    • Kant:
      • First Division: Transcendental Analytic
        • Book 1: Analytic of Concepts
          • Chapter 1: The Clue to the Discovery of all Pure Concepts of the Understanding (pp. 102-120)
  • Thursday:
    • Kant:
      • First Division. Transcendental Analytic
        • Book 1: Analytic of Concepts
          • Chapter 2: The Deduction of the Pure Concepts of the Understanding (pp. 120-176)

Week Seven:

  • Tuesday:
    • Allison:
      • Part Three: Categories, Schemata, and Experience:
        • #7 Objective Validity and Objective Reality: the transcendental Deduction of the Categories
  • Thursday:
    • Allison (continued)

Week Eight:

  • Tuesday:
    • Kant:
      • Book 2: Analytic of Principles
        • Introduction: Transcendental Judgment in General (pp. 176-180)
        • Chapter 1: The Schematism of the pure Concepts of Understanding (pp. 180-188)
  • Thursday:
    • Allison:
      • The Transcendental Schematism

Week Nine:

  • Tuesday:
    • Allison:
      • The First Analogy
  • Thursday:
    • Allison:
      • The Second Analogy

Week Ten:

  • Tuesday:
    • TBD
  • Thursday:
    • TBD

Final’s Week:


  • Readings:
    • Moltke Gramm:
      • “The Crisis of Syntheticity: The Kant-Eberhard Controversy” (1980)
      • Gram, Moltke S: The Transcendental Turn: The Foundation of Kant’s Idealism. Florida, U.S.A: University Presses of Florida, 1984.
    • HA:
      • Allison, Henry E.: Essays on Kant. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2012.
        • “Kant and the Two Dogmas of Rationalism”
  • Contrast with Hume:
    • Use EH’s and MH’s (later) concern with Kant as offering a sort of regional ontology.
      • Iso Kern.