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EUH 4930: Modern European Intellectual History

Abelard to Nietzsche

Professor Steven Kreis

Florida Atlantic University, Davie
Spring 1996

COURSE OUTLINE: This course is specifically designed for the advanced undergraduate. The student must be at least familiar with the basic outlines of European history from roughly the 15th century to the present. What this course intends to do is provide a critical analysis of the major intellectual trends in European thought. We shall accomplish this task by paying close attention to primary sources. It is for this reason that there is no general textbook. My overwhelming concern is to establish that each historical epoch---as defined by past historians---has had its own Weltanschauung (or world view). Although we shall more carefully define this expression during the course of the semester, a world view can be briefly summarized as an intellectual or philosophical matrix which defines man's place in the world. In other words, a world view is a mental construct which explains man's perceptions of the world. A world view gives man the idea of the world. Although there are a number of other trends/themes which will be developed this semester, the concept of a Weltanschauung is perhaps the most important. Of course, while we are engaged in our work in modern European intellectual history, it is hoped that we may also answer a more fundamental question: what is intellectual history?

COURSE REQUIREMENTS: Attendance and informed participation at ALL class meetings is not only expected but required. This means that you (1) show up to class on a regular basis and (2) complete your reading assignments on time. The entire success of the course, both from my standpoint and from yours is that you get involved, get interested, and get motivated to study a field of historical endeavor which is pretty much overlooked in many history departments. Overlooked? Yes, but important nonetheless. We shall soon see why. A very long time ago I learned a very important lesson about education, more specifically, I learned a lesson about the roles of student and instructor. Here it is in a nutshell: education is nothing more than dialogue, and according to the master of dialogue, Socrates, good dialogue ought to improve both student AND instructor. If this course asks you to do anything out of the ordinary it is to THINK and discuss your ideas openly.


Franklin Le Van Baumer, Main Currents in Western Thought: Readings in Western European Intellectual History from the Middle Ages to the Present, (Yale, 1978)
Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Penguin, 1961)

READING ASSIGNMENTS: I realize that for most of you the reading will appear to be dense, abstract and "too philosophical" All I can say is, "welcome to the club." The reading IS difficult. Well, a good deal of it is. I shall present you with general lectures which discuss the epoch at hand and you will be responsible for reading selections of primary sources which illustrate the themes which I have developed in class. The reading is meant to serve as an adjunct to my lectures. The readings will also give us a platform for discussions. It is your responsibility to keep up with the reading. If you have not done the reading for a specific week, you should still show up to class. Of course, not having done the reading will make my lectures and especially our discussions darn close to meaningless. If you have specific problems with the readings it is your responsibility to let me know about it.

GRADING: You are required to complete THREE primary writing assignments for this class. Two of these assignments will appear in the form of a take-home examination in which you will be asked to address a specific question about the material discussed in class. Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra will serve as the topic of your third writing assignment. You will have one full week to complete each of these assignments which should be 7-10 pages in length. There will also be a number of secondary writing assignments---mostly one or two paragraph responses to your readings. Class participation is weighed heavily in all my classes---figure on at least 15-20% of your final grade.

THE INTERNET: I would urge all of you to sign up for your FREE VAX account at FAU. In this way we can communicate after hours on any subject which may have been discussed during class time. I cannot force you to get this FREE account but I do recommend that you do obtain this FREE account as soon as possible. If you already have access to email (via American Online, CompuServe, MSN or Prodigy) or if you have a full Internet account, fine. If you don't have an account, get one NOW!

The Internet is an amazing platform for intellectual improvement. Since it is there and access is now so inexpensive and easily available, you would be doing yourselves a severe injustice if you did not take advantage of all that the Internet has to offer. If you have any questions about the Internet, please do not hesitate to ask me.

THE CLASS: My conduct in this class, as you will soon see, is based on a genuine respect for the intellect of each and every student. My approach is informal and, at times, irreverent. Just the same, I take my work very seriously and I expect you to do so as well. If you show up late for a class I expect you to enter the room as discreetly as possible. If you miss any class it is your responsibility to make sure that you make up for lost ground. I have found that a format of lecture and discussion works to the advantage of everyone involved, including myself. If you are not prepared to at least think about our subject, then I suggest you will have a tough time overall. In other words, come to class prepared to learn and discuss new ideas and, above all, THINK!

To each eye, perhaps, the outlines of a great civilization present a different picture. . . . In the wide ocean upon which we venture, the possible ways and directions are many; and the same studies which have served for my work might easily, in other hands, not only receive a wholly different treatment and application, but lead to essentially different conclusions.

---Jacob Burckhardt (1860)


JANUARY 10 Course Introduction: Objectives and Expectations. What is Intellectual History?
JANUARY 17 The Medieval World View: Abelard, Aquinas and Dante
READINGS: Baumer, pp.3-32, 34-43, 46-65, 91-100
JANUARY 24 The Medieval Synthesis and the Discovery of Man: The Meaning and Significance of the Historical Renaissance
READINGS: Baumer, pp.103-115, 161
JANUARY 31 The Medieval Synthesis Under Attack: Savonarola, Luther, Calvin and the Protestant Reformation
READINGS: Baumer, pp.165-243
FEBRUARY 7 FILM: A Man For All Seasons
FEBRUARY 14 The Medieval Synthesis and the Secularization of Human Knowledge: Copernicus, Galileo and Newton
READINGS: Baumer: pp.249-263, 271-277, 280-297, 303-309, 315-317, 326-336, 342-348, 356-359
FEBRUARY 21 �crasez l’inf�me!: The Triumph of Science and the Heavenly City of the 18th Century Philosophe
READINGS: Baumer: pp.363-381, 393-411, 412-439, 443-448
FEBRUARY 28 Vico, Gibbon and Condorcet: Thoughts Toward a Philosophy of History: The Idea of Progress and the Idea of Decay.
READINGS: Baumer: pp.448-451, 454-460 (plus Handout)
MARCH 13 The Age of Ideologies I: Kant, Liberalism and Early Socialism
READINGS Baumer: pp.463-471, 490-495, 505-517, 519-521
NOTE: You should all begin reading Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra (See April 10)
MARCH 20 The Age of Ideologies II : Romanticism and Marxism
READINGS: Baumer: pp.472-490, 495-497, 500-505, 540-557
MARCH 27 The Age of Ideologies III: Comte and Darwin
READINGS: Baumer: pp.524-537, 563-587, 592-596, 618-623
APRIL 3 And Then There Was Nietzsche: The Irrational and the Birth of Modernism
READINGS: Baumer: pp.610-615, 633-641
APRIL 10 GENERAL DISCUSSION: Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra
APRIL 17 Fascism and Totalitarianism in the 20th Century
READINGS: Baumer: pp.647-654, 725-757, 763-771
APRIL 24 The Age of Absurdity: "Hell is other people"
READINGS: Baumer: pp.655-663, 673-681, 691-699, 709-710, 715-718, 722-724, 773-780

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Last Revised -- April 13, 2012