Religious thought depends on a transcendent account of human nature, which has been challenged repeatedly by materialists and naturalists, in the context of successive theories of physics. This unit examines key debates between transcendent and reductionist accounts of the human person in the 17th–19th centuries, highlighting the resilience of transcendent accounts. It includes Descartes’ arguments for an immaterial soul, Locke and ‘thinking matter’, Ralph Cudworth's coinage of ‘consciousness’ (1678), the Newtonian theologian Samuel Clarke's correspondence with the materialist Anthony Collins (1706–17), the anti-materialist philosophies of mind of the Jesuit physicist Roger Boscovich (1757) and the Evangelical Christians Maxwell and Faraday, the dispute between philosophical idealist T. H. Green and the positivist and naturalist G. H. Lewes (1878–85), and the philosophy of mind in C. D. Broad's The mind and its place in nature (1925). Students will also be introduced to the primary working tools of contemporary research in early modern and 19th century philosophy.

Unit Code: AP3163C

Points: 18.0

Unit Level: Undergraduate Level 3

Unit Discipline: Philosophy

Delivery Mode: Face to Face

Proposing College: Catholic Theological College

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Learning Outcomes


Analyse the selected primary texts carefully in relation to their purpose and historical context, and identify their basic positions on human nature;


Expound the theories, terminology and arguments studied in the unit


Assess the theories and arguments studied in the unit


Narrate the outlines of the historical sequence of major encounters between philosophical naturalists and theologians and other defenders of human transcendence throughout the early modern period


Characterise the material studied in relation to the wider framework of key philosophical positions and ideas in the Christian tradition (e.g. faith and reason, anti-reductionism, human person, nature)


Lectures, seminars, tutorials


Type Description Wordcount Weight (%)

Unit variation one:
2,500-word essay 60% 2,000-word essay 40%


Unit variation two: 4,500 word essay 100%

0 100.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 1 Nov, 2017

Unit Record last updated: 2019-02-01 15:52:07 +1100