Instructor: Colin McLear
Course: PHIL 4/880
Time: T 3:30-6:05pm
Location: 312 Louise Pound Hall
Office: 315P Louse Pound Hall
Office Hours: T 1-3 p.m. or by appointment

Classical German Idealism

Course Overview

A survey of “Classical” German Idealism, starting with Kant’s publication of the Critique of Pure Reason in 1781 and concluding with the first part of Hegel’s Science of Logic in 1812. Figures discussed include Kant, Jacobi, Reinhold, Schulze, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. The general theme of the course concerns the question, “How is inquiry into the nature of reality—i.e. metaphysics—possible?”. In asking this question we focus on four lines of thought prominent in German Idealism—viz. Spinozism, skepticism, self-consciousness, and the relationship between the senses and the intellect.

Course Objectives

In completing this course students will (i) gain a basic grasp of the views of Immanuel Kant and his immediate German Idealist successors; (ii) learn how Kant’s thought was received in Germany into the early 19th century; (iii) understand the formation and early developemnt of the various views that are typically grouped under the moniker of post-Kantian “German Idealism”.

Course Materials

There are three required books. Other materials will be posted on the course website.

Course Requirements


You are expected to attend every class meeting fully prepared to discuss each assigned reading, to submit written work punctually, and to offer thoughtful and constructive responses to the remarks of your instructor and your classmates. Make sure that you bring the relevant readings with you to every lecture class. I further expect you to treat both the texts at hand and your classmates’ ideas with openness and respect.


Attendance is required. You are also expected to attend every section meeting. 1/2 a letter grade will be deducted from your final course grade for every absence from section after your fifth.


We will use a course website for all materials. The site address is: Upcoming assignments and readings will be posted there. Please let me know if you have any problems. Technical glitches, computer malfunctions and crashing hard drives are not excuses for failing to complete work in this class.

Format for Papers

Please submit work as a .docx or .rtf file. All work must be typed. I will not accept any handwritten work aside from that we do in class. Your papers should be in 12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced with margins set to one inch on all sides. Your name, my name, the date and assignment should appear in the top left hand corner of the first page. Your last name and page number must appear in the top right hand corner on each subsequent page. Please staple or paperclip hard copies of papers and drafts. You are responsible for the presentation of your papers.

Late Work

Late papers and assignments will standardly be marked down by 1/3 of a letter grade for each day the work is late (for example, from A- to B+, from B+ to B, and so on).


Four Passage Analyses: 20%

Analyze and explain the point of a particular passage in plain language. 3-500 words. Passages will be provided.

Essay: 35%

Explain and critically assess a philosophical argument. Topics will be suggested. Paper will be due in two drafts.

Weekly reading responses: 25%

Submit a weekly reading response of roughly 100-150 words (500 max) to the course listserv via email on Mondays by 8pm. Your reading responses should detail your observations and questions for week’s assigned reading. The responses should not be summaries. Move to delimit 1-2 major points or ideas from the reading and discuss them. What do you find interesting or compelling? What do you find logically or philosophically problematic?

Weekly reading précis: 5%

Write a précis addressing a particular primary or secondary text assigned for the week (this does not include my notes). These must be submitted (via email) by class time each week. A précis is a rhetorical exercise that asks you to summarize a text, including the claim/argument, supporting evidence, purpose, and audience in four sentences. For a helpful example of the form, see: this pdf template

Participation: 15%

The participation grade takes into account your attendance in class as well as the quantity and quality of your participation in discussion.


Academic Integrity

All the work you turn in (including papers, drafts, and discussion board posts) must be written by you specifically for this course. It must originate with you in form and content with all contributory sources fully and specifically acknowledged. Make yourself familiar with UNL’s Student Code of Conduct and Academic Integrity Code, available online. In this course, the normal penalty for any violation of the code is an “F” for the semester. Violations may have additional consequences including expulsion from the university. Don’t plagiarize – It just isn’t worth it.

University Policies

This instructor respects and upholds University policies and regulations pertaining to the observation of religious holidays; assistance available to physically handicapped, visually and/or hearing impaired students; plagiarism; sexual harassment; and racial or ethnic discrimination. All students are advised to become familiar with the respective University regulations and are encouraged to bring any questions or concerns to the attention of the instructor.


The University strives to make all learning experiences as accessible as possible. If you anticipate or experience barriers based on your disability (including mental health, chronic or temporary medical conditions), please let me know immediately so that we can discuss options privately. To establish reasonable accommodations, I may request that you register with Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD). If you are eligible for services and register with their office, make arrangements with me as soon as possible to discuss your accommodations so they can be implemented in a timely manner. SSD contact information: 117 Louise Pound Hall; 402-472-3787.


Please turn off cell phones, beeping watches, and other gadgets that make noise before entering or beginning class. Absolutely no texting is permitted during class. I will subtract up to five points from your participation grade each and every time your phone rings or I see you texting during class.



It’s important to be on top of the technical terms used by philoso- phers. Please ask for clarification of terms in class. You can also consult Jim Pryor’s online “Philosophical Terms and Methods.”

Help with Writing

Papers should adhere to some consistent practice of footnoting and citation (Chicago, MLA, etc.). I don’t really mind which one you use as long as you are consistent. On writing a philosophy paper, there is no better on-line guide than Jim Pryor’s. Please consult it. Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference is also extremely helpful. Useful online writing help may be found at the Purdue Online Writing Lab at

The UNL Writing Center can provide you with meaningful support as you write for this class as well as every course in which you enroll. Trained undergraduate and graduate peer consultants are available to talk with you about all forms of communication. You are welcome to bring in everything from lab reports, presentations, and research papers to cover letters, application essays, and graduate theses and dissertations. Writing Center Consultants can work with you at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming and organizing your ideas through polishing a final draft.

In 2020-21, there are two ways you can connect with a Consultant: Online (a real-time, video conversation) and eTutoring (email feedback). To learn more about these options and view video tutorials, please visit our Online Writing Services. You can sign up any time by visiting For more information about the Writing Center, please visit


The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at is an excellent online resource.