04385 - History of Modern Philosophy

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

Students will be able to pinpoint and clarify the main problematic cruxes from the late Renaissance down to the Age of Enlightenment. The focus will be on the following areas: philosophy in the Renaissance after the rebirth of Platonism: interest in Hellenistic philosophy and modern scepticism; new models of rationality: the cosmological debate, mathematical learning, knowledge of the outside world, history torn between rhetoric and science; political philosophy: variations in the doctrine of natural law, the absolute State, a tempered monarchy, republican claims; the rise of economic science: protectionism, free exchange, theories of value; the encyclopaedic approach to learning. Via the reading of texts (some 300 pages in translation or the original) and via examination of the basic critical bibliography, students will learn to understand a philosophical text and grasp its significance from a historical angle.

Course contents

Theories and Systems of Modern Reason.

Spinoza's Ethics and its Interpretations between the Eighteenth and Twentieth Centuries


The course is divided into three parts:

1. Monographic course
2. Seminars
3. Institutional course


The monographic course is divided into two sections. In the first section (30h), Parts I, II, V of Spinoza's Ethica will be examined, covering their fundamental themes: the theory of substance, the relationship between mind and body, the origin of the affections, the slavery and the freedom of the mind. In the second section (30h) three authors of modernity - Bayle, Condillac, d'Holbach - will be investigated, who lead the philosophy of infinite substance to the category of "system".
System of atheism, illegitimate system, system of nature: the notion of system is the symbol of the metamorphoses and theoretical manipulations that Spinozian philosophy undergoes in the modern age, becoming part of the dialectic between "systemic spirit" and "systematic spirit" that shapes the encyclopaedic spirit of the Enlightenment up to the contemporary debate on the models of scientific explanation.


The seminars will examine the forms of classification and transmission of philosophical and scientific knowledge between the 18th and 20th centuries, from the encyclopaedic spirit of the Enlightenment to the systems theory of contemporary epistemology.

Seminar schedules and materials will be announced during the course of the lectures.


Seminar I.

System and autopoiesis. The concept of system in the social sciences. N. Luhmann and systems theory.


Starting from the academic year 2021-2022, Professors Alberto Burgio, Francesco Cerrato and Diego Donna will work together on the institutional part of the History of Philosophy examinations in their respective three-year (History of Philosophy B, History of Modern Philosophy) and two-year (History of Philosophy LM) courses.

The institutional part of the examination is identical for all courses. It can only be taken once: the mark obtained in one of the above-mentioned subjects will be recognised - without the need for a further examination - for the others as well.




The following texts will be read:


1. Spinoza, Etica (1677)

Etica, introduzione, traduzione e note di D. Donna, Sant’Arcangelo, Rusconi, 2021

2. Bayle, Dizionario storico-critico (1697) art. Spinoza

Dizionario storico-critico, a cura di G. Cantelli, vol. II, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 1976, pp. 355-459

3. Condillac, Trattato dei sistemi (1749)

Trattato dei sistemi, trad. it. a cura di M. Garin, introduzione di E. Garin, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 1977, selected pages

4. D’Holbach, Sistema della natura (1770)

Sistema della natura, trad. it. a cura di A. Negri, Torino, UTET, 1978 (2013), pp. 64-113; 164-181; 230-259; 345-356; 444-471.


Monographic Part - Studies

Studies on the Ethics (1 text at your choice):

P.-F. Moreau, Spinoza. La ragione pensante (1975), trad. it. di A.A. Cantucci, Roma, Editori Riuniti, 1998

F. Mignini, L’«Etica». Introduzione alla lettura, Roma, Caroc­ci, 1995

E. Scribano, Guida alla lettura dell'«Etica» di Spinoza, Bari, Laterza, 2008

E. Balibar, Spinoza, il transindividuale, Milano, Ghibli, 2002

S. Nadler, Baruch Spinoza e l’Olanda del Seicento, Torino, Einaudi, 2002

S. Nadler, Baruch Spinoza e l’Olanda del Seicento, Torino, Ei­naudi, 2002

S. Nadler, Spinoza sulla vita e sulla morte. Una guida filosofica, Torino, Einaudi, 2021

G. Deleuze Spinoza e il problema dell’espressione (1968), trad. it.a cura di S. Ansaldi, Macerata, Quodlibet, 1999

M. Messeri M., L’epistemologia di Spinoza. I corpi e le menti, Mi­lano, Mondadori, 1999

F. Cerrato, Stili di vita, Fonti, forme e governo nella filosofia spinoziana dell’affetto, Milano, Mimesis, 2017

Y. Melamed, La metafisica di Spinoza. Sostanza e pensiero, Mimesis, Milano-Udine, 2020


Studies (1 text at your choice):

G. Mori, L’ateismo dei moderni. Filosofia e negazione di Dio da Spinoza a d’Holbach, Roma, Carocci, 2016

G. Paganini (a cura di), La filosofia dei moderni, Roma, Carocci, 2020

P. Casini, Newton e la coscienza europea, il Mulino, Bologna, 1983

E. Cassirer, La filosofia dell'Illuminismo, Firenze, La Nuova Italia, 1977

A. Lovejoy, La grande catena dell'essere, Milano, 1966

G. Paganini, Analisi della fede e critica della ragione nella filo­sofia di Pierre Bayle, Firenze, La Nuova Italia, 1980

G. Mori, Bayle Philosophe, Paris, Champion, 1999

P. Salvucci, Linguaggio e mondo umano in Condillac, Urbino, STEU, 1957

M. Dal Pra, Condillac, Milano, Fratelli Bocca, 1942

A. Negri, Introduzione al Sistema della natura, Torino, Utet, 1978; A. Negri, Materialismo iatrochimico ed etica in d’Holbach, in Studi in onore di Antonio Corsano, Manduria, Lacaita, 1970, pp. 495-519

D. Donna, Contre Spinoza. Critique, système et métamorphoses au siècle des Lumières, Genève, Georg, 2021

P. Naville, D’Holbach e la filosofia scientifica del XVIII secolo, Milano, Feltrinelli, 1976.



You may choose one of the seminars offered in the course. The texts for each seminar will be indicated.


Seminar I

N. Luhmann, R. De Giorgi, Teoria della società, Milano, FrancoAngeli, 1999 (2008), pp. 9-61; 247-400.



Knowledge of the fundamental authors and themes of the history of philosophy between the 16th and 18th centuries will be required for the examination. Students can use the textbook they prefer or that they already own, checking that all the authors included in the list below are covered and, if necessary, integrating it with other textbooks. For those who do not already have such texts we suggest:

Massimo Mori, Storia della filosofia moderna, Laterza, Roma- Bari 2005

Antonello La Vergata, Franco Trabattoni, Filosofia cultura cittadinanza, Rizzoli, Milano 2011

Giuseppe Cambiano, Massimo Mori, Storia e antologia della filosofia, Laterza, Roma 1993 e seguenti

Fabio Cioffi et al., Il testo filosofico, Mondadori, Milano 1992 e seguenti

Luca Guidetti, Giovanni Matteucci, Le grammatiche del pensiero, Zanichelli, Bologna 2012

List of topics and authors to prepare for the exam interview:

Bruno, Machiavelli, Bacone, Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, Montesquieu, Vico, Hume, Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Croce, Wittgenstein, Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Lukács, la Scuola di Francoforte, Foucault, Arendt.  


Teaching methods

Lectures and reading of the texts in the classroom, combined with discussion of the most important issues and direct participation of the students.

Methods of verification of learning

Attendance of the entire course corresponds to 12 credits. The programme is the same for attending and non-attending students.

The student will present the following programme:

1. Monographic course
2. Institutional course
3. One Seminar by choice

The oral examination takes place in the teacher's office and aims at verifying

the historical-philosophical knowledge acquired by attending lectures, studying basic texts and the relevant bibliography
the degree of comprehension and critical revision of the proposed contents
the expressive skills and the ability to orientate between the main lines of interpretation.

Registration for the exam is on-line on the ALMAESAMI website.

Assessment methods

30 with distinction: excellent exposition, sound knowledge and critical thinking.

30: excellent exposition, adequate knowledge and richness of expression

27-29: good exposition, satisfactory knowledge, correct expression

24-26: fair test, knowledge not exhaustive and partially correct

21-23: sufficient proof, general knowledge, confused expression

18-21: barely sufficient proof. Poor articulation and significant theoretical gaps

<18: inadequate proof, no or incomplete knowledge, lack of orientation in the argument.

Teaching tools

A collection of texts aimed at articulating the monographic part with the seminar part will be made available.

Office hours

See the website of Diego Donna