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UC Davis Department of Philosophy

19th Century European Philosophy

Philosophy Department

1240 Social Sciences and Humanities
University of California, Davis
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616

Phone: (530) 752-0607

Fax: (530) 752-8964

Picture of Hegel

G. W. F. Hegel

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This is the home page of G. J. Mattey’s Philosophy 151, Nineteenth Century European Philosophy, for Fall Quarter, 2013.

The Course

Philosophy 151 introduces the student to the leading philosophers of Europe during the nineteenth century, with readings from their central works.

General Catalog Course Description

Survey of the main movements in nineteenth century philosophy on the European continent. Idealism in Schopenhauer and Hegel, dialectical materialism in Marx, irrationalism in Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Dostoevsky.

The Topic

In 1781, Immanuel Kant published his Critique of Pure Reason, which he described in the Preface to the second edition as having placed metaphysics on the secure path of a science. The price of taking this path was to declare as unknowable much of what previous metaphysics had sought to discover. Schopenhauer followed this path to some extent, but he ventured beyond it in declaring the ultimate reality to be blind will. For other philosophers, none of Kant’s limits were acceptable. Soon after the publication of the Critique, philosophers such as Fichte and Hegel produced all-encompassing metaphysical systems. These systems were idealistic, in the sense that they described all reality as dependent upon mind. Marx, employing Hegel’s methodology, turned away from metaphysics in favor of naturalism and practical action. Kierkegaard rejected both the Hegelian methodology and the search for objective truth, in favor of a passionate, subjectively-based, relationship with God. Like Marx, Nietzsche rejected God, and theologically-based metaphysics, altogether. He held out a vision of overcoming the human condition and the emergence of a higher type. Dostoyevski, like Kierkegaard, considered modern society to empty the human life of significance and promoted spiritual renewal from within.