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Radical Enlightenment: Science, Religion and Philosophy, 1600-1700


Admission requirements

Christendom, de basics. Open to students from History and Philosophy.


The topics of human equality, religious tolance and freedom of speech are dominating
presentday discussions in the media and on the streets. Pointing at the issue of universal
human rights, regardless of race, gender or religious denomication, advocates often refer
to the legacy of the Enlightenment, the American Declaration of Indepence and the
French Revolution. The aim of this course is to study the genesis of ideas and practices
on human equality in its historical context. We will not only look at the well known
French and English philosophers of the 18th century, but also at the 17th-century Dutch
Republic. This densely populated hub of trade and ideas could be considered as one of
the sources for the Enlightenment. Politicians had to cope with religious and social
diversity; tradesmen explored the world outside of Europe; and philosphers discussed the
autonomy and dignity of men’s – and womens! – minds and bodies. In this course, we
will explore a range of topics, including the works by René Descartes and Benedictrs
Students are strongly encouraged to bring in topics of their own interest. As a
startingpoint, we will use the important – and controversial – book by Jonathan Israel,
Radical Enlightenment. Philosphy and the making of modernity 1650- 1750 (first ed.
2001). We will not only discuss this book and other relevant publciations, but intend also – pending on the círcumstances – to have a hands-on session in the University Library
and visit Spinoza’s house in Rijnsburg.

Course objectives

This course will critically reflect on current notions and discusions on ‘the Enlightenment’, toleration, human rights and freedom of speech. We will take a closer look at the historical and cultural context of the emergence and use of these concepts.
Students will be trained in critical reading and thinking; in evaluating cultural and philosophical conceps; in formulating researchquestions; and in properly presenting an argument, both in a presentation and in final paper.
Students will be encouraged to reflect on the topics and issues brought forward in the seminar. Active participation in reading, presenting and discussion is a basic requirement. Students will be trained in communicative skills, and in giving and receiving comments and feedback.
Students will be trained in basic researchskills, including heuristic skills.

-independent gathering and selecting schilaly literature, including digital tools and techniques.
-Studying and evaluating this literature.
-Formulating a researchquestion on the basis of this literature.
-Delivering a coherent argument, including a conclusion.
-Giving an oral presentation (including PowerPoint) and a final paper.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

Pending on the corona-crisis: either seminar or online

Assessment method

-Participation in the weekly seminar (including presentation and discussion): 20%
-Final paper (ca 4.000 words, ex. motes and literature): 80%

The final grade is the result of both results. Both have to be sufficient (= 5,5, or higher).
Students are obliged to read each week the prescribed chapters of Israel in advance.
If the final paper is insufficient, the student is given one opportunity to sunmit a second version.

Reading list

Jonathan Israel, Radical Enlightenment. Philosphy and the making of modernity 16501-750 (2001) plus additional literature (t.b.a.)


Via uSis is verplicht


Prof. dr. H.G.M. Jorink


The course will only be given if 10 students (or more) sign up