The history of modern philosophy (p) (2018/2019)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Laura Anna Macor
Laura Anna Macor
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
Sem. 1B dal Nov 19, 2018 al Jan 12, 2019.

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

The course aims to develop a trajectory based on a direct study of texts with a view to enabling the critical understanding of a crucial topic for early-modern philosophy. The interweaving of conceptual analysis, historical reconstruction and close examination of single texts should in fact enable students to develop complex philosophical competences.

The anticipated learning objectives are as follows:

1) Knowledge and understanding of early-modern philosophical contexts;
2) Knowledge and understanding of some of the most representative texts of early-modern philosophy;
3) Knowledge and understanding of the lexicon of early-modern philosophy.

1) Applying acquired knowledge and understanding to the critical reading of and commentary on early-modern philosophical texts, possibly in the original or at least with some reference to it, wherein particular attention will be paid to the history of the editions of the same text;
2) Applying acquired knowledge and understanding to the analysis of crucial concepts for early-modern philosophy;
3) Making autonomous judgments and engaging in independent reasoning;
4) Developing communication skills in the following areas: participating in guided discussions, explaining ideas and defending these through argument, and possibly delivering short presentations in class;
5) Enacting autonomous learning skills through the development of an appropriate methodology of study, historical reconstruction and interpretation of texts.


The linguistic considerations of the classes do not presuppose knowledge of German; all necessary information for a full understanding of the concepts and key words arising during the course will be provided in the teaching.

-Course Content:
“The Vocation of Man” (1748 [1st ed.]-1794 [11th ed.]) by Johann Joachim Spalding. History of the Text and Introduction to the Concept.

The course will centre on the examination of the text "The Vocation of Man" by Johann Joachim Spalding (1714-1804), which was a veritable bestseller of the German Enlightenment, being republished by the author in eleven revised and expanded editions (1748 [1st ed.]-1794 [11th ed.]), not to mention a number of clandestine reprints and translations. Spalding is to be credited with introducing into the German lexicon the concept of “vocation of man” (Bestimmung des Menschen), which was to have enormous success and would be appropriated by Kant and Fichte, among others. Spalding’s text first appeared during the Enlightenment, being updated for the last time in the Kantian era, and the relevant modifications, which affected terminology as well, enable us to follow the development of German thought in an epoch marked by radical turns.

The course will consist of three parts:

1) Introduction to Johann Joachim Spalding and the concept of “vocation of man”: historical, cultural and theoretical context;
2) Examination and commentary on the first edition of "The Vocation of Man" (1748): genesis, argument and lexicon;
3) Examination and commentary on subsequent editions of "The Vocation of Man" (1748 [2nd ed.]-1794 [11th ed.]) and their comparison: additions, cuts, variations and terminological updating.

-Teaching Methods:
The course will successively involve lectures, discussions guided by the professor and short papers given by students. Students’ presentations can be designed as an introduction to the text examination and class discussion, or as appropriate further enquiries. Possible themes for papers will be offered in class, but students are equally invited to make their own pertinent suggestions: indeed, the ability to identify and explore new perspectives relating to the subject of the course represents a further, important step in the process of acquiring the anticipated skills. Presentations are not mandatory, though strongly recommended in order to demonstrate attainment of both knowledge and skills outlined in the Learning Objectives.

-Mandatory Reading*:

1) J. J. Spalding, La vocazione dell’uomo, ed. by L. Balbiani and G. Landolfi Petrone, Bompiani, Milano 2011;

2) Learning materials distributed in class and/or published on e-learning;

3) G. Landolfi Petrone, «Una certezza che scaturisce dalla ricerca». Spalding e la Bestimmung des Menschen nel dibattito del Settecento, in J. J. Spalding, La vocazione dell’uomo, ed. by L. Balbiani and G. Landolfi Petrone, Bompiani, Milano 2011, pp. 5-69;

4) L. Balbiani, Una morale della ragione. Introspezione e argomentazione nella Bestimmung des Menschen di J. J. Spalding, in J. J. Spalding, La vocazione dell’uomo, ed. by L. Balbiani and G. Landolfi Petrone, Bompiani, Milano 2011, pp. 71-106.

-Learning Materials:
Additional learning materials, which will form part of the mandatory reading, will be distributed during the class and/or published on e-learning.

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
J. J. Spalding La vocazione dell'uomo Bompiani 2011

Assessment methods and criteria

Oral exam + optional presentation in class.

The exam aims to assess the attainment of the course’s twofold learning objectives (knowledge/understanding and skills), and this will be addressed as follows: 1) reading of and commenting on a passage taken from the first edition of "The Vocation of Man": students will have to contextualize the passage within the work and examine it, demonstrating knowledge and understanding of the philosophical arguments and the lexicon used; 2) comparison of two or more different editions of "The Vocation of Man": students will have to comment on the modifications introduced by the author in relevant passages, and demonstrate understanding of the reasons underlying these modifications and the process of terminological updating put into practice in order to correspond to the theoretical turns then underway; 3) discussion of the meaning of the concept of “vocation of man”.
Each part of the exam has equal weighting, i.e., a third of the final mark. Students who have presented an optional short paper will be exempt from the part of the exam corresponding to the nature of the work already done. The paper’s assessment will contribute a third of the final total.
No distinction will be made between attending and non-attending students. However, non-attending students are requested to contact the professor in order to receive the additional learning materials distributed in class.