00961 - History of Philosophy

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

Students will become familiar with some of the main currents of philosophical thought, and clarify the principal points of contention by textual interpretation and mastery of the relevant literature. They will learn to weigh interpretative categories and methodological tools as they tackle a research topic. They will compare written and oral texts, interact critically with the teacher, raise issues and initiate discussion. What they have learnt they will describe in the appropriate terminology and register for the discipline.

Course contents

Course Title: The rights of others and the freedoms of the moderns. From the 'myth of concord' to the paradigm of tolerance

The aim of the course is to retrace and illustrate, through study and discussion of the proposed texts, the pivotal moments in the process of formation of the modern concept of tolerance, up to the Age of the Enlightenment. Having predominantly negative connotations initially, the term 'tolerance' took on an altogether different ethical-political meaning from the mid-17th century, one which would lead to the codification of the right to freedom of thought and belief. This right was, in turn, based on the requirement for a boundary to individual conscience that was insuperable by any criteria or powers external to the conscience itself.

Taking a complex path in terms of the concept itself and the historical period, some genetic focal points of which, occurring between the Renaissance and the Reformation, will be examined, the evolving definition of tolerance was at the crux of some distinct thematic intersections. The following selected themes will be accorded special attention: the nature of truth and the cognitive limits of human reason; the dialectic between the unity of God and the plurality of historic religions; the theoretical foundations of the (non-overlapping) notions of 'peace', 'concord' and 'harmony' between different people; the perspective of a natural religion and the legitimacy of atheism; the distinction between political power and religious power in the new political arena of modern Europe; the limits of state intervention against the autonomy of individual conscience.


1. During the classes will be read the following texts (or any part):

N. Cusano, La pace nella fede, in Id., Opere religiose, a cura di P. Gaia, Torino, UTET, 2013, pp. 488-528;

S. Castellion, La persecuzione degli eretici, cura e traduzione di S. Visentin, Torino, La Rosa, 1997;

J. Bodin, Colloquium Heptaplomeres, a cura di C. Peri, Milano, Asefi, 2003;

P. Bayle, Commentario filosofico sulla tolleranza, a cura di S. Brogi, Torino, Einaudi, 2018;

J. Locke, Lettera sulla tolleranza, a cura di C. A. Viano, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2005;

Voltaire, Trattato sulla tolleranza, a cura di L. Bianchi, Milano, Feltrinelli, 2015.

2. In addition of the in-depth knowledge of the texts referred to in paragraph 1, students must read two essays, to be chosen from the following list:

F. Buzzi, Tolleranza e libertà religiosa in età moderna, Milano, Centro Ambrosiano, 2014;

Dis/simulazione e tolleranza religiosa nello spazio urbano dell'Europa moderna, a cura di E. Boillet e L. Felici, Torino, Claudiana, 2020;

M.L. Lanzillo, Tolleranza, Bologna, il Mulino, 2002;

M.L. Lanzillo, Voltaire. La politica della tolleranza, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2000;

D. Monaco, Cusano e la pace della fede, Roma, Città Nuova, 2013;

F. Pintacuda De Michelis, Socinianesimo e tolleranza nell'età del razionalismo, Firenze, La nuova Italia, 1975;

Le ragioni degli altri. Dissidenza religiosa e filosofia nell'età moderna, a cura di M. Priarolo e E. Scribano, Venezia, Edizioni Ca' Foscari, 2017;

A. Suggi, Sovranità e armonia. La tolleranza religiosa nel Colloquium Heptaplomeres di Jean Bodin, Roma, Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2005;

C. Vasoli, Armonia e giustizia. Studi sulle idee filosofiche di Jean Bodin, a cura di E. Baldini, Firenze, Olschki, 2008;

M. Walzer, Sulla tolleranza, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2003.

3. For a general knowledge of the history of philosophy in 15th-18th century is recommended a selective access to one of the following manuals:

G. Belgioioso, Storia della filosofia moderna, Milano, Mondadori-Le Monnier, 2018;

La filosofia dei moderni. Storia e temi, a cura di G. Paganini, Roma, Carocci, 2020;

L. Fonnesu, M. Vegetti et al., Le ragioni della filosofia, 2: Filosofia moderna, Firenze, Le Monnier, 2008 (e successive edizioni);

Storia della filosofia occidentale, a cura di G. Cambiano, L. Fonnesu e M. Mori, vol. 2: Medioevo e Rinascimento; vol. 3: Dalla rivoluzione scientifica all'Illuminismo, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2014.

N.B.: The course program is the same, as for attending and not attending students. Anyway, students who cannot attend classes or who don't know Italian may contact the teacher (in office hours, and not by email) to decide upon any additional or alternative readings.

Teaching methods

The course, consisting of 30 lectures in presence (with simultaneous connection via Teams with students who choose to follow remotely), will be mostly devoted to reading, text analysis and commentary. Students are therefore required to provide the texts at the start of the course.

The illustration of themes and concepts will be accompanied by the reconstruction of the cultural contexts and sources - both classical and modern - that have fuelled and enriched the reflection of the philosophers covered by this course.

Class attendance and direct participation of the students (either through discussion or the presentation of in-depth reports on particular topics) are strongly encouraged.

The course will be held in the first semester and will start on September 20, 2021.


- Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Room C, Via Centotrecento (during the I period);

- Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Room A, Via Zamboni 34 (during the II period).

Office hours: Prof. Scapparone will receive students on Thursday, h. 16-18 p.m.

Assessment methods

Final oral examination.

Assessment criteria

The goal of the exam is to measure the achievement of the following learning objectives:

1. Ability to navigate with confidence regarding the overall problem of the discipline and to comment analytically on the philosophical texts discussed during the lessons;

2. Knowledge of secondary literature works listed in the bibliography, combined with the ability to learn how to reference them in autonomous and critical forms;

3. Basic knowledge of the history of philosophy in 15th-18th century.

The student's ability to learn how to operate with confidence and autonomy within the sources and the secondary literature and the possession of a language and forms of expression appropriate to the discipline will be assessed in a particular manner.

Assessment thresholds

30 cum laude: Excellent as to knowledge, terminology and critical expression.

30: Excellent: knowledge is complete, well articulated and correctly expressed, although with some slight faults.

29-27: Good: knowledge comprehensive and satisfactory, essentially correct expression.

26-24: Fairly good: knowledge present in significant points, but not complete and not always expressed with correctness.

23-21: Sufficient: knowledge is sometimes superficial, but the guiding general thread is included. Expression and articulation incomplete and often not appropriate.

20-18: Almost sufficient: but knowledge presents only on the surface. The guiding principle is not included with continuity. The expression and articulation of the speech show important gaps.

< 18: Not sufficient: knowledge absent or very incomplete, lack of guidance in discipline, expression seriously deficient. Exam failed.

Teaching tools


Photocopies (limited to hard to find texts);

Advanced seminars;

Any individualized works.

Office hours

See the website of Elisabetta Scapparone