Can my experience of myself be trusted as what is finally real? Or is this experience just another obstacle to knowing things as they are? This unit explores the modern project, beginning with Descartes, and continuing through Hume and Kant, to place the knowing self at the centre of existence. At this postgraduate level, the legacy for our time of the modern notion of subjectivity will be afforded additional philosophical reflection.

Unit code: AP9170P

Unit status: Approved (Major revision)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Elective

Unit discipline: Philosophy

Proposing College: Pilgrim Theological College

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Learning outcomes


Demonstrate a grasp of Aristotle's notion of “the subject”, as that relates to "substance" and continues into medieval philosophy


Grasp insights and analyse arguments by which the Aristotelian substantial subject evolves into the modern “self” (with Descartes, Hume and Kant


Integrate the above knowledge with other philosophical concepts and distinctions (epistemology vs. ontology, soul vs. body, mind vs. matter, freedom vs. necessity, human vs. animal, rationalism vs. empiricism).


Develop a sustained argument for or against a particular philosophical account of subjectivity, in terms of its internal coherence and/or consistency with lived experience.


Reflect at meta-level on the legacy afforded our own time by the above approaches to locating "subjectivity

Unit sequence

undergraduate philosophical studies, or comparable literary or cultural studies.


Synchronous interactive lectures and tutorials

Indicative Bibliography

  • Ayer, A.J. Hume. Oxford: OUP, 1980.
  • Descartes, René. “Discourse on Method” and “The Meditations.” Trans. and introduced by F.E. Sutcliffe. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 2005. (recommended for purchase)
  • Hume, David. A Treatise on Human Nature. Introduced by Ernest C. Mossner. Penguin Classics. London: Penguin Books, 1986. (recommended for purchase)
  • Guyer, Paul, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
  • Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason. Trans. and ed. Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
  • Melchert, Norman. The Great Conversation: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy. 4th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2001. (recommended for purchase)
  • Schacht, R. Classical Modern philosophers: Descartes to Kant. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984. (recommended for purchase)
  • Snell, R.J., and Steven F. McGuire, eds. Subjectivity: Ancient and Modern. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2016.
  • Jonson, Stefan. Subject without Nation: Robert Musil and the History of Modern Identity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001.
  • Taylor, Craig, and Stephen Buckle, eds. Kant and the Enlightenment. London: Pickering and Chatto, 2011.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)
Essay - 1st essay

A philosophical argument relating to accounts of subjectivity found in the earlier part of the unit.

3500 50.0
Essay - 2nd essay

A philosophical argument integrating ideas on subjectivity emergent over the span of the unit and with graduate-style assessment: seminar reading of presented draft (40%) + submission of a 3500-word final version (60%).

3500 50.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by Prof Albert Haddad on 24 Aug, 2022

Unit record last updated: 2022-08-24 14:58:43 +1000