Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


PHIL100 Philosophy: the Big Questions or PHIL102 Theories of Human Nature or PHIL104 Introduction to Ethics or PHIL107 Philosophy of World Religions or PHCC102 Being Human or PHCC104 Ethics and the Good Life

Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials, online learning or supervision. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

Unit rationale, description and aim

The unit examines some of the major developments in European and British philosophical thought from the dawn of the enlightenment to early German idealism. In examining the work of some of the major thinkers of the period, such as Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant, it traces some central debates of the period in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophical theology, ethics and political philosophy. These are debates that have helped to profoundly shape our contemporary understanding of the world, of the possibility of knowledge of the world, of society, and of our selves. In enabling students to explore influential perspectives regarding those debates, and to develop reasoned positions of their own concerning them, the unit aims to strengthen students' philosophical acumen and enhance their critical thinking skills more generally.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - identify and accurately explain some of the central problems and major contributions of early modern philosophical thought (GA5) 

LO2 - critically analyse selected themes and debates in early modern philosophy, and develop coherent and consistent positions on the contribution of particular figures or Schools of thought to the development of the western philosophical tradition during the early modern period (GA4; GA8); 

LO3 - demonstrate appropriate skills in philosophical research, and clear use of philosophically effective English expression (GA5; GA9). 

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:

  • the philosophical significance of the scientific revolution;
  • the nature of mind and its relationship to the material world and the human body;
  • rationality, sensation, and the possibility and extent of human knowledge;
  • questions concerning the existence and nature of God in relation to the world; 
  • problems of social organisation and political power;
  • theories of ethics and the ground of moral (and aesthetic) value.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials, online learning, or supervision. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment. The unit has been designed as a blend of project learning along with direct instruction within a collaborative context. The direct instruction ensures that students develop a grounding in understanding basic problems, concepts and arguments in early modern philosophy (LO1). The project learning enables the students to apply those concepts and theories critically and reflectively to problems in the field, and this feeds into the achievement of the other aim of the unit concerning the development of philosophical skills of analysis, interpretation and argumentation (LO2-3). The collaborative context of the unit is focused especially on the weekly tutorial, during which the emphasis is on small group discussion of the weekly readings. Students engage in class discussions, provide written critiques of significant theories, and present their reasoned position on matters at issue, after being introduced to them through readings and lectures.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy for this unit has been designed to examine students’ understanding of the philosophical issues and theories under consideration and deepen their ability to analyse and critically reflect on those issues and theories. It does so through a mix of cooperative/discussion-based and individual projects. The written analysis task examines understanding of key issues, concepts and debates. The oral presentation task examines critical thinking skills applied to this field, as well as skills in both oral and written communication/ engagement. The research essay examines higher level critical analysis and written argumentation skills in the interpretation of early modern philosophy.  

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Written analysis task 

Requires students to demonstrate understanding of key concepts and debates.




Oral presentation with written component 

Requires students to demonstrate critical thinking skills in dialogue with others. 


LO1, LO2

GA2, GA4, GA5, GA8

Research Essay

Requires students to critically analyse an important debate in the field and to develop a coherent position.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA2, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Berkeley, G. (1998). Principles of Human Knowledge. Dancy, J (ed.) Oxford: Oxford University Press.  

Buckle, S. (2004). Hume's Enlightenment Tract: The Unity and Purpose of ‘An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding’. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Buroker, J.V. (2006). Kant's Critique of Pure Reason: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  

Della Rocca, M. (2008). Spinoza. London: Routledge.

Descartes, R. (2008). Meditations on First Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Francks, R. (2008). Descartes' Meditations: A Reader's Guide. London: Continuum.

Hobbes, T. (1994). Leviathan. Gaskin, J. (ed.) London: J.M. Dent & Sons 

Hume, D. (1999). An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. Beauchamp, T.L. (ed.) Oxford: Oxford University Press.  

Locke, J. (1993). An Essay concerning Human Understanding. Youlton, J.W. (abridged and ed.) London: Dent. 

Spinoza, B. (2000). Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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