Typical Year One Modules
Appearance and Reality
In this module you’ll examine some of the central themes surrounding the work of John Locke, one of the first philosophers who sought to integrate philosophy with our modern scientific worldview. Topics covered include: empiricism and science, perception, justification and scepticism and the nature of objects among others. You’ll have two hours of lectures and on some weeks an hour-long lecture with an hour-long seminar on other weeks throughout the semester.
This module provides an introduction to modern logic including technical vocabulary required to aide your understanding of modern philosophical work. You’ll discuss the symbolism of modern logic, the theory of the structure of thought and practice translation between symbolism and English. You’ll have two hours per week of lectures studying this module.
Introduction to Ethics
This module introduces you to some of the main ethical questions studied by philosophers. The first part focuses on some contemporary moral problems (for example, the justification of punishment). The second part of the course looks at some normative ethical theories and concepts that provide ways of approaching such moral problems. The third part of the course considers some challenges to the idea of systematic moral inquiry (such as relativism, egoism and emotivism). You’ll spend four hours per week in lectures and seminars.
Reasoning and Argument: An Introduction to Philosophical Method
In this module you’ll learn a series of key skills needed to follow critical methods of philosophical inquiry. The aim is to help you understand the structure and nature of arguments of others and improve your reasoning ability to assist you in your further studies during your course. You’ll have two hours of lectures some weeks and an hour-long lecture with an hour-long seminar on other weeks throughout the semester.
Self, Mind and Body
In this module you’ll be introduced to the important central issues in philosophy of self, mind and body which continue to be debated to present day. You’ll examine Descarte’s Meditations focusing on his thoughts on dualism and mind-body interaction, comparing these with other related topics. You’ll have two hours of lectures some weeks and a hour-long lecture with an hour-long seminar on others throughout the semester.
What is the moral status of animals? What are the limits of free speech? What are the moral issues when discussing abortion? Is affirmative action unjust? In this module you will be looking at these and other issues that arise when we try to put ethics into practice. You’ll have two hours of lectures some weeks and a hour-long lecture with an hour-long seminar on others throughout the semester.
The Existence of God
This module will examine the basic philosophical issues that concern the existence of God. The lectures will cover such topics including: Cosmological Argument, the Ontological Argument, the Design Argument, and the Problem of Evil. You’ll spend four hours per week in lectures and seminars studying for this module.
This module will discuss a number of problems tackled by Plato. Attention will be given to the development of the theory of the forms, but we will be working towards an understanding of the motivations for the development of this theory which may be found in his moral/political philosophy. You’ll have two hours of lectures for some weeks and an hour-long lecture in others with an hour-long seminar throughout the semester.
Issues in Feminist Philosophy
This module will provide an introduction to some of the issues discussed in contemporary feminist philosophy, considering a range of sometimes opposing feminist views on topics including: pornography, feminine appearance, and gender roles within the family and in the workplace. You’ll also examine the ways in which feminist writers have shown that matters not traditionally considered political do in fact have political significance. You’ll have two hours of lectures some weeks and a hour-long lecture with an hour-long seminar on others throughout the semester.
History of Western Philosophy
Through considering some of the greatest thinkers who have ever lived, you will become familiar with some of the main philosophical ideas which have shaped western analytical philosophy. You will understand how and why these ideas arose and the context in which they were developed. The thinkers which could be covered include: Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, St Augustine, St Aquinas, Hume, among others. You’ll spend four hours per week in lectures and seminars.
History of Christian Thought to 1600
In this module you’ll be introduced to the lives and works of some key theologians, from the first Christian thinkers in the 2nd century, up to the Reformation and Counter-Reformation in the 16th century. Figures will include Augustine, Aquinas and Luther. It focuses upon the ideas of the theologians, but places them in their broader historical and ecclesiastical context. You’ll have two hours of lectures and an hour-long seminar weekly studying this module.
Introduction to Islam
This module examines the narrative and textual foundations of the Islamic tradition including the Qur'an, the prophetic tradition and the life events of the Prophet Muhammad. You’ll also look at the development and structure of Islamic society, law, doctrine and spirituality through the classical period, and Muslim responses to challenges posed by modernity including questions of gender and the nation state. You’ll have a two hour lecture and one hour seminar each week.
Philosophy for Theologians
This module will provide an overview of the most important philosophical ideas, theories, and arguments that are of special interest to students of theology. You’ll begin with the Greek 'natural theology' of the pre-Socratic thinkers and end with the postmodern 'turn to religion' of Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida. The method of instruction will combine historical and speculative approaches, using the perspective of the 'history of ideas'. This module is delivered through two hours of lectures and an hour-long seminar weekly.
Typical Year Two Modules
The Philosophy of Religion
In this module you’ll explore significant problems in the philosophy of religion, such as the credibility of the existence of God, the relation between religion and science, the relation between religion and morality, the problem of evil, and the possibility of an after-life. There will also be discussion of significant themes, such as the nature of being, of faith, of religious experience, of religious language, and of religious love. This module is taught through four hours of lecture and an hour-long seminar weekly.
Following Jesus: Identity, Discipleship and Community in Early Christianity
In this module you will focus on five early church documents (1 Thessalonians; The Didache; Mark’s Gospel; 1 Clement; and 1 Peter) to identify the varying patterns that emerged in early churches with regard to a) their identity as followers of Jesus; b) their understanding of the nature of discipleship; and c) their understanding of themselves as a specific community within history. The module is taught through a two hour lecture and a seminar each week.
Body and Soul: Christian Theological Anthropology
This module examines Christian theological understandings of the human person. It begins by exploring the Hebrew scriptures and ancient Greek philosophy in relation to the nature of the soul, the importance of the body and gender. Of central importance is a theological anthropology focused on the imago dei. The module will progress to the study of Christ as the true human and the mediaeval concept of the human person as a microcosm of the cosmos. The latter stages of the module will focus on theological anthropology in the context of modern philosophical anthropologies, modernity's focus on 'mind' and 'consciousness' in the understanding of the human person, and contemporary ethical issues surrounding human 'enhancement' via medical technologies. You’ll have two hours of lectures each week and a seminar every other week.
In this module you’ll discuss key issues in social philosophy. Indicative topics that might be covered include: philosophy of gender; philosophy of race; philosophy of disability; philosophy of relationships and friendship; slavery and abolition; social and psychological oppression; the political thought of Hannah Arendt. Recently, the focus for this module has been on the Philosophy of Race and has concerned questions such as: How should race be conceptualised following the discrediting of biological conceptions of race? What does it mean to consider race as a social construct? Should we be eliminitivists about race? What are the implications of how we conceptualise race for understandings of racism? The teaching will be delivered through a mixture of lectures and seminars.
The Nature of Meaning
The module begins with an exploration of various theories of naming, paying particular attention to the works of Frege, Russell, and Kripke. We then turn our attention to various puzzles concerning the nature of meaning, including the distinction between analytic and synthetic sentences. In the final part of the module, we move on to a discussion of some of the mainstream theories of meaning; particularly, a truth-conditional semantics, and we explore how this might be developed to take into account indexical terms such as `I', `now', and `here'. You’ll have a weekly two hour lecture and one hour seminar.
Freedom and Obligation
This module combines consideration of the political philosophy of Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and J.S. Mill with related themes in contemporary debates. The module is designed to introduce you to each of the thinkers and then to consider how related issues are treated by contemporary writers. You’ll have a weekly two hour lecture and one hour seminar.
Mind and Consciousness
This module aims to introduce you to some of the major issues within contemporary philosophy of mind. We will examine four topics and the interactions between them: intentionality, consciousness, mental causation and the status of physicalism. You’ll have a weekly two hour lecture and one hour seminar.
Knowledge and Justification
This module explores contemporary treatments of issues pertaining to knowledge and the justification of belief. It addresses issues such as the following: the structure of justification and its relation to one's mental states and evidence; the justification of induction; the notion of a priori justification and the relation between your evidence and what you know, among others. You’ll have two hours of lectures some weeks and a hour-long lecture with an hour-long seminar on others throughout the semester.
We all have opinions about moral matters. But for most of us, our moral opinions are not very well-organized. Indeed, upon reflection we may discover that some of our beliefs about morality are inconsistent. One of the main projects of moral theorizing over the past few hundred years has been the attempt to systematically denominate right and wrong actions. In this module you will examine some of these, including consequentialism, deontology and virtue ethics. Teaching will be via a weekly two hour seminar and one hour lecture.
Being, Becoming and Reality
In this module you’ll discuss several topics in contemporary metaphysics. Recent examples include: What is metaphysics? Do composite objects exist? And, if so, when does composition occur? Do numbers, sets, propositions (etc.) exist? Do other possible worlds exist? What is the nature of time? The teaching will be delivered through a mixture of lectures and seminars.
Are there moral fact? What is moral truth? Do psychopaths really understand moral language? These are just some of the questions we’ll be asking on this module. Metaethics isn’t anything like normative or applied ethics; rather it is about asking how ethics works. This means we’ll be thinking about, amongst other things, moral ontology, moral language, moral psychology and moral reasons. The teaching will be delivered through a mixture of lectures and seminars.
Philosophy of Art
This module includes a discussion of some philosophical problems pertaining to art. Topics will include: definitions of art, Walton’s theory of make-believe, art, music, and the emotions, and the ontological status of artworks. This module aims to promote a deeper understanding of philosophical issues pertaining to art. By the end of the module, you should be able to discuss and evaluate different views of the expressive power of art, to explain certain current views on expression and representation, and to present the main contemporary viewpoints pertaining to the nature of artworks. The teaching will be delivered through a mixture of lectures and seminars.
Typical Year Three Modules
Environmental ethics addresses the issue of how human beings should interact with the non-human natural world. This module will cover a range of topics from contemporary philosophical literature on environmental ethics, including: the scope of moral concern (i.e. whether and how our moral theory should concern itself with animals, plants, rocks, ecosystems); whether nature is intrinsically valuable, or whether it possesses value only by being valuable to us; whether it is reasonable to search for just one overarching ‘environmental ethic’ (i.e. the debate between monism and pluralism in ethics); the metaphysics, ethics and politics of the ‘deep ecology’ movement; whether there is any connection between the twin oppressions of women and nature (as ecofeminists claim); the nature of sustainability and whether it is worth seeking; the ethics of restoring nature after it has been damaged by human development; whether there are any distinct environmental virtues.
Problems of Religious Diversity
Does faith in one religion require the rejection of all others? This module presents you with the opportunity to bring together the diverse things you have learned about religion and to formulate and clarify your own viewpoint. It will provide an opportunity to explore ways of dealing with the variety of commitments to an ultimate viewpoint in the contemporary world. Approaches to other faiths from Christian theology, philosophy, and mysticism will be explored, as well as approaches from other faiths. Attempts to unify world religions will be examined alongside attempts to retain their differences, as well as causes of deep underlying conflicts between faiths. You’ll be taught through a two-hour lecture each week.
Free Will and Action
This module will focus on a number of questions, including: what would it take for an action to be free (or an exercise of ‘free will’)? Is there is any way in which our actions could be free in the relevant sense, whether or not determinism is true? How do actions differ from bodily movements that are not actions? Actions are typically (perhaps always) done for reasons, but what exactly is the relation between the reasons and the actions? Do the reasons cause the corresponding actions – and if they do, can this be the same kind of causation as is involved in ordinary ‘mechanistic’ causal explanation? What is the connection between intentional or voluntary action and rational action? In particular, it seems that we sometimes intentionally and voluntarily do things that we ourselves regard as irrational – but how is such ‘weakness of will’ possible? You’ll be taught through a two-hour lecture each week.
In this module you’ll be introduced to the theories of Karl Marx through selected texts from his works. Topics covers will include: alienation, the material conception of history, the labour theory of value and French political theory among others. You’ll gain an understanding of concepts essential for advanced study on this course.
This module investigates different kinds of contemporary logic, as well as their uses in philosophy. We will look at logics of possibility and necessity, time, and knowledge, as well as alternative logics, including ‘anti-realist’ logic and fuzzy logic. We will apply formal techniques from these logics to philosophical topics including vagueness, the liar paradox and anti-realism. We will also investigate basic set theory, infinity and the limits of formal logic, including soundness, completeness and decidability proofs.
This module will take a detailed look at one of the main topics of contemporary analytical political philosophy: the theory of distributive justice. This theory attempts to specify abstractly the conditions under which a distribution of benefits and burdens amongst a group of persons would be just. You will consider challenges to the legitimacy of any redistributive principle, and attempts to accommodate values such as responsibility and choice in different patterns of distribution. You’ll have a two hour lecture and one hour seminar each week.
The module will focus on a critical examination of core aspects of Buddhist thinking, with emphasis on some of its basic psychological, spiritual, and metaphysical conceptions. These include, in particular: the origin and nature of suffering, the no-self thesis, enlightenment, consciousness, experiential knowing, and the doctrine of Emptiness ( the lack of inherent nature in all things and impermanence). The module will focus particularly on Nâgârjuna’s philosophy of the ‘middle way’ and some modern commentaries on it. The module will approach Buddhism as a philosophical world-view, rather than as a religious one. The module will not be involved in detailed exegesis of ancient texts. When possible the module will try to link Buddhist conceptions to contemporary ideas about personhood, consciousness and the fundamental nature of reality. You will have a mixture of seminars and lectures for this module.
The aim of this module is to provide students with an opportunity to write an 8,000 word dissertation on a philosophical topic, the precise subject of which is by agreement with the supervisor. At the completion of the module you will have had an opportunity to work independently, though with the advice of a supervisor.
Metaphysics and Language: Quine, Kripke and Lewis
The module involves the study of Naming and Necessity, a seminal text in the philosophy of language, philosophical logic and metaphysics of one of the most influential philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century: Saul Kripke. His work is generally considered the starting point of a twentieth century revolution in the philosophy of language and metaphysics, overturning the consensus established through the writings of Frege and Russell on reference and naming, and inaugurating a new era of analytical metaphysics, central to which is the acknowledgement of necessary a posteriori truths and a division between essential and accidental properties of individuals and kinds. The course will proceed via a close reading of Naming and Necessity, and also draw on additional material by Kripke, background material and some influential responses.
Philosophy of Criminal Law
There is perhaps no more vivid example of the exercise of state power over individuals than through the institution of criminal law. The criminal law raises a host of important philosophical questions, such as these: Is there a general obligation to obey the law? If so, what is the basis for this obligation? What sorts of acts should be criminalised, and why? What does it mean for someone to be responsible for a crime, or for the state to hold someone responsible? What is the proper role for the presumption of innocence: Who must presume whom to be innocent of what? Is criminal punishment justified? If so, why? Is the state ever justified in imposing legal restrictions on offenders even after they have completed their punishment? How should the criminal law function in the international context? Readings will include seminal works by historical figures such as Plato, Bentham, and Kant, as well as prominent work by more contemporary philosophers such as Hart, Hampton, Duff, and others.
This module will teach students how to communicate philosophy through a variety of different mediums, assessing them in each. We will look at how philosophy can be communicated through legal documentation, press releases, handouts, lesson plans, digital marketing campaigns, funding bids and posters (with optional presentations). A number of the sessions may be delivered by professionals from outside the University, with support from the module conveners.
If you and another person had your brains swapped, would you have swapped bodies? Or should we say that you still exist in your old body, only now your memories, beliefs, personality traits, etc. are different? Would you survive teleportation? What if teleporting worked by recording your body state, destroying your body, and then creating a copy of it elsewhere? Would this copy be morally responsible for your crimes? What if the teleporter created two copies? These puzzles raise the issue of what your continued existence consists of - are you essentially a brain, a soul, a body, a set of mental states, or something else? This is the issue we will examine in this course. We will also examine the moral implications of personal identity.
Philosophy of Science
What is science? Is there a scientific method, and if so, what is it? Can science tell us what the world is really like? Is it the only way to know what the world is really like? Does science progress? What is a “paradigm” and when/how does it “shift”? Is science “socially constructed”? Can a sociological study of the practice of science tell us anything about the nature of science? Is science "value-neutral"? Should we “save society from science”? What are "the science wars" and who won? These are some of the questions we will explore in this module. We will start with the positivism-empiricism of the early 20th century and culminate with the postmodernismrelativism of the late-20th century and its aftermath. Readings will include seminal works by Ayer, Hempel, Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, Feyeraband, Bloor, and Laudan.
The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. The above list is a sample of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.