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PHL2110 - Res Cogitans: Descartes on Mind and Knowledge

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: Aubrey Townsend, Steven Gardner


Clayton First semester 2007 (Day)
Clayton First semester 2007 (Off-campus)
Clayton Second semester 2007 (Off-campus)
Clayton Summer semester A 2007 (Off-campus)
Gippsland Second semester 2007 (Day)


'I think therefore I am'. In the Meditations Descartes gave central place to the idea that to be human is to be a thinking thing (or res cogitans). His discussion of what this involves set the agenda for modern philosophical debates in epistemology, metaphysics and cognitive theory. This unit will examine the entire Cartesian system, but with special emphasis on Descartes' views about the possibility of knowledge and what it is to be a thinking thing. We will follow these themes into contemporary philosophical discussions.


On completion of the subject students will have read the Meditations of Descartes and in reading them will have gained an understanding of the complete Cartesian system and its influences on the development of philosophical theories in epistemology and metaphysics. They will have an enhanced capacity for critical and rigorous reading of a philosophical text, and skills in the evaluation of philosophical positions in the context of an integrated system. They will have reflected on some contemporary work with roots in the Cartesian tradition. Students completing the subject will develop skills in writing and argument in ways that are responsive to a developing discussion in seminars either face-to-face or via the Portals interface.


Two exercises (750 words each): 20%
Essay (2000 words): 40%
Seminar participation 10%
Test (1 hour): 30%
Distance Education: The expository exercises and seminar participation will be replaced by contributions to the electronic discussion group. On-campus students have the option of proceeding in the same way as DE students

Contact hours

One 2-hour seminar per week.


A first-year unit in Philosophy or Psychology