HUMN 2074 Origins of the Secular West

Credit Points 10

Description Early Modern European culture was underpinned by religious conceptions of nature, society and morality. The Modern West sees itself as having emancipated itself from these religious underpinnings, and as being grounded in human naturalistic and scientific values. This subject traces the transition from the first of these conceptions to the second, through politics, philosophy, culture and science.

School Humanities & Comm Arts

Student Contribution Band

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Level Undergraduate Level 2 subject


Successful completion of 40 credit points of study in currently enrolled program.

Learning Outcomes

1. Critically assess the thought of a variety of key thinkers in early modern European scientific, political and religious thought.
2. Interpret and analyse primary historical sources.
3. Evaluate some of the key historiographic debates around the history of European religious and political thought and the emergence of a secular state.
4. Discuss the origins and ancestry of the modern Western conceptions of secularism and secular society.
5. Discuss the relationship between modern Western science and the culture of secularism.

Subject Content

• Sacred and secular in the Western tradition
• The Reformation and secular authority
• Galileo and the Church
• Hobbes on Scripture and civil sovereignty
• Reason and experiment in natural philosophy
• Locke on civil society and human nature
• Newton and the mechanical universe
• Rousseau and popular sovereignty
• Romanticism, faith and the modern personality
• Darwin and the modern idea of science
• The idea of universal religion: the Ethnographers


The following table summarises the standard assessment tasks for this subject. Please note this is a guide only. Assessment tasks are regularly updated, where there is a difference your Learning Guide takes precedence.

Item Length Percent Threshold Individual/Group Task
Presentation 10 minutes 20 N Individual
Critical Review 350 words 10 N Individual
Essay 1500 words 40 N Individual
Final Exam 1250 words 30 N Individual

Prescribed Texts

None: readings uploaded to vUWS

Teaching Periods

Structures that include subject