Modern European Intellectual History:  Rationalism and its Discontents


This course examines how the rationalism of the enlightenment affected European social thought through the nineteenth century, specifically through Nationalism, Socialism and Liberalism. We also examine the impact of Darwinism and technological progress on the European imagination, ending with an examination of the backlash against rationalism in the early twentieth century. The course begins and ends with a discussion of the position assigned to women in these various social theories.

Required Readings:

Where possible, required readings have been sought on the internet (I). However, students may wish to buy paper copies of texts available online since paperbacks can be obtained very cheaply through

Darwin Origin of Species (I)                                              In the reader
John Stuart Mill On
Liberty  (I)                                          Herder Ideas toward a Philosophy of History
Karl Marx Communist Manifesto (I)                                 Nietzsche On the Genealogy of Morals
Thomas Paine The Rights of Man (I)                                 Borges “Kafka and his Precursors”
Mary Baker Eddy Science and Health (I)                         Sartre Essays in Existentialism, Part II.
Freud On the Interpretation of Dreams (I)                     
Milan Kundera Testaments Betrayed (ch. 7)
Friedrich Nietzsche Genealogy of Morals (I)                 
Friedrich Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil (I)
Friedrich Engles The Principles of Communism (I)
Ernest Hemingway “A Clean Well-lighted Place” (I)
Thomas Kuhn The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (I)
Wollstonecraft Vindication of Rights of Man
Carl Jung Memories, Dreams, Reflections
Viginia Woolf A Room of One’s Own              
Jules Verne The Mysterious
Mary Shelley Frankenstein
Franz Kafka The Trial
Goethe Faust                                        -      -       -      -       note! Be sure to get Walter Kaufman’s
Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil     -      -       -      -       translations for Goethe and Nietzsche!

Grading System:

Three take home exams, five pages each: 20% each. The final exam is no different from the mid-terms, though the questions in the final will return to authors discussed in the beginning of the course. Fifteen-page research paper: 40%. Students must submit electronic copies of all work, since work will be spot-checked for academic dishonesty. Papers are considered “on time” if the electronic copy arrives in my inbox before noon on the due date. Late papers are marked down 10% for the first day late, 4% for each subsequent day.

Attendance is mandatory. Students get one free absence. The second absence costs you 3% off the final grade. All subsequent absences cost you 6% off your final grade. Students who miss more than 8 sessions cannot pass the course.


Week 1   Introduction to class.

W            Intro to class
Europe as the birthplace of modern civilization. Christendom vs. Post-Christendom. 

Week 2   Enlightenment and Revolution:  Replacing the monarchical principle with “national brotherhood.”

M            Thomas Paine The Rights of Man (Only read part 1)
W            Discussion: Mary Wollstonecraft Vindication of the Rights of
                Declaration of the Rights of Man
                Declaration … Rights of Woman
F              Nations and States


Week 3   Herder: The cultural content of nationalism (or lack thereof).

M            Johann Herder Ideas toward a Philosophy of History (from Adler, Menze, eds .,128-149,
W            Herder, cont. 178-184, 187-208.  Also read the texts from the following patriotic songs:
F              Patriotic texts: Students bring two patriotic songs to class (should predate 1850).
Arndt: “Where is the German fatherland?”   
The Marseillaise                                          
Petõfi “Rise up, O Magyar!”                        


Week 4  Marxism: social classes as historical actor in competition to the nation

M            The Background to Marx:  Excerpt from Hegel Introduction to lectures on Philosophy of History
W            Marx The Communist Manifesto
F              Engles The Principles of Communism


Week 5  The Liberal Response: “The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number”

M            Discussion: John Stuart Mill On Liberty
W            Utilitarianism practice session (in class discussion, no homework)
F              Benjamin Disraeli “Utilitarian follies”

Week 6   Darwin

M            Charles Darwin On the Origin of Human Species (chapters 1, 3, 4, 14)

W            Mivart: On the Genesis of Human Species
                Harun Yahya “A Brief History of the Theory of Evolution.”                                                                                             
                Stephen J. Gould “Evolution as Fact and Theory”
                Optional: watch the movie Inherit the Wind

F              Thomas Kuhn The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Chapter 9                
                Take home exam 1: Rationality (five page essay)         

Week 7   Fantasies of Science

M            “Scientific” Religion? Mary Baker Eddy Science and Health, chapter 1
W            Jules Verne The Mysterious Island (whole book)
F              Positivism and social Darwinism, the “corruption of science.” George Orwell “James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution”
                (Five page essay due!) 

Week 8

M            Discussion: Freud On the Interpretation of Dreams (start with “the method of interpreting dreams”, read to end)            
                Optional: watch the movie “Forbidden Planet”
W            Carl Jung Memories, Dreams, Reflections¸ ch. xxx (hand out Meyers-Briggs tests)
F              Discussion of Meyers Briggs tests. History of IQ testing.

Week 9  Romanticism as revolt against rationalism

M            Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Faust, part 1. (Walter Kaufman’s bilingual edition).
W            Faust, continued.
F              Shelley Frankenstein (Be sure and read the book, the movie is different.)

Week 10  Nietzsche: nobility as transcendence?

M            Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, “Good and Evil, Good and Bad” (~ 20 pages)            
Optional: Watch the film Rope.

W            Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, “Peoples and Countries, What is Noble?”
F              Discussion: Vitalism: Nietzshe as proto-Nazi

                Take home exam 2 Nietzsche and Freud (five page essay)

 Week 11   Absurdity as Experience: Kafka

M            Kafka “The Trial”
W            Borges “Kafka and his precursors”
Milan Kundera Testaments Betrayed “The Unloved Child…” Chapter 7,177-196 (on Kafka)
                (Don’t forget: five-page paper due!)

 Week 12 Absurdity as Philosophy: Existentialism

M            Discussion: Sartre Essays on Existentialism part II (75-186)
W            Camus “The Myth of Sisyphus”
F              Hemingway “A Clean Well-lighted Place”

Week 13 Feminism

M            Question and answer about research papers
W            Virginia Woolf A Room of One’s Own (1)
F              Room of one’s Own (2)      

                Due in Class on Friday: Research Paper (15 pages)

Week 14  Instead of a summary: Women in the writings of selected “Dead White Males”:

M            Engels The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State “The Monogamous Family”
W            J.S. Mill On the Subjection of Women
F              Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil “Our Virtues”                     
                Take home final exam: feminism (5 page essay)