ATS2863 - Foundations of modern philosophy: Descartes and the thinking self - 2018

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit


Chief examiner(s)

Associate Professor Jacqueline Broad


Associate Professor Jacqueline Broad

Unit guides



  • First semester 2018 (On-campus)


Twelve credit points of first-year Arts units.


The unit is offered as part of the Philosophy Flexible Learning programPhilosophy Flexible Learning program (


Seventeenth-century philosopher Rene Descartes famously declared that 'I think therefore I am' or that 'I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind'. His discussion of what this insight entails has set the agenda for modern philosophical debates in epistemology and metaphysics. Some of the questions he proposed include: what is the self? Is it my mind, or my mind and my body? Can I ever have knowledge of anything outside the self? How do I know that I am not dreaming all my sensory experiences of the physical world? Or how do I know that I am not being deceived into thinking that the external world exists? This unit will examine the entire Cartesian system, with special emphasis on Descartes' views about the possibility of knowledge and what it is to be a thinking thing.


Upon successful completion of the unit students will be able to:

  1. explain the complete Cartesian system and its influences on the development of philosophical theories in epistemology and metaphysics through reading Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy (1641);
  2. critically and rigorously read a philosophical text;
  3. evaluate philosophical positions in the context of an integrated system;
  4. reflect on some contemporary work with roots in the Cartesian tradition;
  5. apply developing skills in philosophical writing and argument.


Within semester assessment: 100%

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. A unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study