90068 - History of Philosophy from Renaissance to Enlightenment (2) (LM)

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

The course aims to provide depth knowledge on modern philosophical culture of the period that goes from fifteenth to the eighteenth century, with particular interest for Renaissance philosophical texts, seventeenth century philosophy and and Enlightenment philosophy. In this perspective, which focuses on modernity and its origins, specific themes will be examined and classical texts questioned, contextualizing their analysis in the framework of long-term traditions, but also underlining moments of crisis and rupture with the past. The aim of the course is to allow students to autonomously face the reading of philosophical texts in a historical perspective; to perceive the relevance of historiographical and methodological questions related to periodization and polarity between continuity and disruption; to know the main lines of modern and contemporary historiography, acquiring, at the same time, the awareness of the problematic nature and complexity of philosophical research.

Course contents

Course Title: Dreams, visions and prophecies in early modern philosophy: cognitive paths between nature and the supernatural

In Renaissance and early modern philosophy the issue of the status and language of prophecy is a relevant and still-ongoing theme which intersects with different types of knowledge and invests them with some crucial elements of gnoseology and religious thought (the nature and powers of the human mind; the bounds of consciousness; the relationship between natural divination and divine revelation), depending on the context, the reference authors and the lexical and semantic code.

The course will retrace some significant moments of this issue and also focus on the correlation between the type of prophecy and the type of somnium - the latter being an object of philosophical and scientific investigation going back to the time of Aristotle and the ancient medical tradition. In the centuries of modernity, then, somnia and dreams are charged both with psychophysiological meanings and with suggestive metaphysical and theological resonances.


Module 2: The languages of imagination and dreams in Descartes and Spinoza's philosophy

The second module will focus on the theme and lexicon of dreams in Descartes and Spinoza and on the strong link they have with the anthropology, psychology and theory of knowledge of these two thinkers. Particular attention will be given, on the one hand, to Descartes’ reflection on the origin and meaning of dreams and the metaphysical implications of the relationships between sleep/wakefulness and reality/appearance; on the other hand, to the nature of premonition and prophetic dreams by Spinoza and the connection between the psychology of imagination, the revelation of truth and the political dimension he expounds in his Theological-Political Treatise and correspondence.


1. During the classes will be read pages from the following texts:

A. Baillet, Vita di Monsieur Descartes, a cura di L. Pezzillo, Milano, Adelphi, 1996;

R. Descartes, Meditazioni metafisiche, traduzione e introduzione di S. Landucci, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2010;

R. Descartes, Opere filosofiche, vol. I, traduzioni di E. Garin, G. Galli e M. Garin, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2009;

R. Descartes, Tutte le lettere 1619-1650, a cura di G. Belgioioso, Milano, Bompiani, 20092;

B. Spinoza, Opere, a cura e con un saggio introduttivo di F. Mignini, Milano, Mondadori, 2007.

2. In addition to in-depth knowledge of the texts referred to in paragraph 1, all studens must read one of the following essays (unless already selected for the first module):

D. Bostrenghi, Forme e virtù della immaginazione in Spinoza, Napoli, Bibliopolis, 1996;

M. Foucault, Storia della follia nell’età classica, a cura di M. Galzigna, Milano, Rizzoli, 2011;

F. Mignini, Ars imaginandi. Apparenza e rappresentazione in Spinoza, Napoli, Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane, 1981;

Phantasia-Imaginatio, V Colloquio Internazionale del Lessico Intellettuale Europeo, (Roma, 9-11 gennaio 1986), Atti a cura di M. Fattori e M. Bianchi, Roma, Edizioni dell’Ateneo, 1988;

Profezia, filosofia e prassi politica, a cura di G. C. Garfagnini, A. Rodolfi, Pisa, ETS, 2013;

G. Rodis-Lewis, Le problème de l’inconscient et le cartésianisme, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1985;

C. Santinelli, Mente e corpo. Studi su Cartesio e Spinoza, Urbino, Quattroventi, 2000;

Spinoza et la psychanalyse, sous la direction d’A. Martins et P. Sévérac, Paris, Herman, 2012;

Studi sul Seicento e l’immaginazione, a cura di P. Cristofolini, Pisa, Scuola Normale Superiore, 1985;

P. Totaro, Instrumenta mentis. Contributi al lessico filosofico di Spinoza, Firenze, Olschki, 2010;

L. Vinciguerra, Spinoza et le signe. La logique de l’imagination, Paris, Vrin, 20182.

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 e-mail) to decide upon any additional or alternative readings.

Teaching methods

The course consists of 15 lessons.

Since it is a course/seminar, attending students will be encouraged to conduct brief individual works of critical analysis on topics or authors relating to the course contents.

These works will have value to the examination.

The course will be held in the second semester and will start on March 21, 2022.


- Monday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Room E, Via Zamboni 34;

- Tuesday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Room E, Via Zamboni 34;

- Thursday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Room C, Via Zamboni 34.

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

Assessment methods

Final oral examination.

Students who have attended the course will be able, if they wish, to integrate the examination with short essays or presentations on topics agreed with the teacher.

In accordance with the class, a written text on a specific part of the program could be organized. Detailed procedures about this text shall be laid down at the beginning of the course.

Assessment criteria

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

- Analysis and interpretation of Descartes and Spinoza's philosophical texts;

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

- Knowledge of the history of modern philosophy.

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 with distinction: Excellent results for the solidity of skills, wealth of critical articulation, expressive properties and maturity.

30: Excellent result: complete and well-articulated knowledge of themes addressed in lessons, with critical ideas, and illustrated with adequate expressive features.

29-27: Good result: complete knowledge and adequately contestualized, fundamentally correct presentation.

26-24: Moderate result: knowledge is present in the essential areas, though not thorough and not always articulated correctly.

23-21: Sufficient result: superficial or purely mnemonic understanding of the subject, confused articulation of the presentation, with often inappropriate expression.

20-18: Barely sufficient result: knowledge of the subject, articulation during discussions and methods of expression demonstrate considerable gaps in understanding.

< 18: Insufficient result, exam failed. The student is invited to attend a subsequent exam session where the essential skills have not been acquired, lacking the ability to orient themselves within the subjects of the course and of the same discipline and where the methods of expression demonstrate considerable gaps in understanding.

Teaching tools

Slides and photocopies (limited to hard to find texts);

Advanced seminars;

Any individualized works.

Office hours

See the website of Elisabetta Scapparone