The following is a sample of the typical modules that we offer as at the date of publication but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Due to the passage of time between commencement of the course and subsequent years of the course, modules may change due to developments in the curriculum and the module information in this prospectus is provided for indicative purposes only.
Core economics modules
Foundations of Economics
This is an introductory module in microeconomics and macroeconomics; there is no assumption of any prior knowledge of economics.
The first semester considers microeconomics. It begins by analysing how the economic choices of households and firms can be understood using consumer and producer theory. It then looks at how these individual choices are aggregated into market demand and supply to be mediated through the price mechanism. A variety of market settings are considered, ranging from the paradigm of perfect competition to the analysis of monopolistic firms. The module continues by providing an introduction to the normative evaluation of economic outcomes and market failures.
The second semester considers macroeconomics - the study of the aggregate economy. This part will focus on the determinants of aggregate output, both in the short run - addressing cyclical movements of booms and busts - and in the long run - providing an introduction to economic growth. A running theme will be debates over the role of the government in macroeconomic management, covering fiscal and monetary policy. The module will introduce a series of basic models used in modern macroeconomics.
The first half of the module provides an introduction to the mathematical methods required for economic modelling, focusing on:
- mathematical finance
- analysis of functions
- supply and demand
- matrix algebra
- elasticities, maximisation/minimisation
- optimisation subject to constraints
The second half introduces the statistical methods and concepts most applicable in economics. The analysis of economic data necessarily proceeds in an environment where there is uncertainty about the processes that generated the data. Statistical methods provide a framework for understanding and characterising this uncertainty.
These concepts are most conveniently introduced through the analysis of single-variable problems. However, economists are most often concerned about relationships among variables. The module builds towards the study of regression analysis, which is often applied by economists in studying such relationships.
This module aims to introduce you to the essential skills required for writing as an economist. It will be delivered in conjunction with Libraries, Research and Learning Resources (LRLR), who will cover content on key information skills relating to the library and learning resources.
It will give an introduction to the language of economics and basic research skills and how to write essays and exams. Among the topics covered will be:
- academic integrity and plagiarism
- time management
- writing essays
- writing quantitative projects
- presentation skills
- referencing and using the internet
- revision and examinations
Careers and Employability for Economists
This module aims to provide a means for enabling students to reflect on their personal development and the implications this might have for their future career paths. It will include:
- guidance on recording and evaluating skills
- guidance on careers from the Careers and Employability Service
- information, guidance and advice form a range of graduate employers and alumni
Core philosophy modules
Mind, Knowledge and Ethics
This module covers issues in ethics, epistemology, and the philosophy of mind. Topics might include the mind body problem, the nature of persons, perception, knowledge, free will, the nature of ethics, normative theories, the problem of moral motivation, and the nature of ethical judgements.
Reasoning, Argument and Logic
This module introduces a series of key skills relevant to the aims and methods of philosophical inquiry. It is designed to (a) help students understand the nature and structure of arguments, (b) acquire critical tools for assessing the arguments of others, (c) improve their ability to present their own reasoning in a clear and rigorous manner, particularly in essays, and (d) supply the basic minimum knowledge of logic and its technical vocabulary which every philosophy student requires.
Core politics modules
Introduction to Comparative Politics
This module seeks to compare and contrast the decision-making structures of modern democratic states. Topics to be covered will include:
- government and the state
- the comparative approach
- constitutions and the legal framework
- democratic and authoritarian rule
- political culture
- the political executive
- political parties and party systems
- electoral systems and voting behaviour
- the crisis of democracy
British Political History Since 1945
This module will introduce and interrogate British political history since 1945. The module will take students through key issues and controversies in post-war British politics and as they relate to leaders and governments and key debates over controversies.
The module will explore a range of issues relating to:
- economic policy
- social policy and the welfare state
- industrial relations
- foreign and defence policy
- local government
- nuclear deterrence
Seminars will employ a range of activity-based scenarios to develop student understanding of key crises experienced by leaders and governments since 1945.
Modern Political Theory
This module introduces you to the ideas of some of the canonical thinkers in the history of political thought, such as Burke, Rousseau, Kant, Mill, and Marx. The module considers the impact of these thinkers on modern political thought and practice, with reference to key political ideas and historical developments (such as liberty and equality, and the Enlightenment). The module will be text based.
Problems in Global Politics
This module explores some of the major problems that exist in contemporary global politics. It introduces you to a wide range of challenges faced by states and non-state actors in the international system and engages with topics ranging from security concerns to economic issues.
The module draws on a wide range of ideas and examples from around the world to help you to better understand global politics.
Core economics modules
Principles of Macroeconomics
The modules covers intermediate macroeconomics covering simple macro-models of goods, labour and money markets, such as IS-LM and aggregate supply/aggregate demand, including open economy extensions. Dynamic issues incorporating expectations and long run growth will also be considered. The module will analyse policy questions surrounding exchange rates, monetary and fiscal policy, budget deficits and debt.
Principles of Microeconomics
This module covers microeconomics including general equilibrium analysis, welfare economics, social choice, elementary game theory, and strategic behaviour of different actors such firms, voters and governments.
Two from philosophy:
Ancient Greek Philosophy
Philosophy erupted into Greek intellectual culture the 5th and 4th centuries BCE. This period of intense reflection and debate imprinted Western philosophy to the present day. This module introduces some major figures and disputes of classical Greek philosophy, themed around two central concerns: the nature of physical change and the distinction between appearance and reality.
Being, Becoming and Reality
We look at some fundamental metaphysical questions about the cosmos. A selection of the following topics will be studied:
- Objects: concrete vs. abstract; existence and nothingness
- Sets and mereology
- Properties, Property bearers, Relations
- States of affairs and non-mereological composition
- Modality (including counterfactuals) and possible worlds
- Time, persistence, change, and the non-present
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. Thus the module combines a thinker-based approach to studying political philosophy with a topic-based approach.
An Introduction to Contemporary Metaethics
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.
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:
- Mental causation
- The status of physicalism
The Nature of Meaning
The module begins with an exploration of various theories of naming, paying particular attention to the works of Frege, Russell (including the theory of descriptions), 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'. Some of the skills acquired in Elementary Logic will be applied in this module.
Normative ethics is the branch of moral philosophy that attempts to systematise everyday judgements about the rightness and wrongness of actions. In everyday life we commonly form opinions about such things as whether euthanasia should be legalised, or how we should balance the competing goals of fighting terrorism and protecting individual liberties, for example.
Are these judgements on diverse topics logically disconnected, or should they conform to some common structure or pattern? The focus of this module is on the three main attempts to systematise them that have been made by moral philosophers.
The first, consequentialism, holds that the rightness or wrongness of actions is wholly determined by their goodness. The second, deontology, holds that there are moral constraints on acting such that it can sometimes be wrong to act in a way that brings about the best results. The third, virtue ethics, emphasises the relationship between right action and good and bad character.
Philosophy of Art
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 engage critically with positions and arguments in a wide range of areas within the philosophy of art. These include debates such as those concerning the nature of art, the relationship between art and ethics, and the relationship between art and emotion. Introductory reading (note: this is optional, not required as preparation for the module): Steven M. Cahn and Aaron Meskin, Aesthetics: A Comprehensive Anthology, Blackwell Publishing, 2007.
Philosophy of Science: From Positivism to Postmodernism
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 postmodernism-relativism of the late-20th century and its aftermath. Readings will include seminal works by Ayer, Hempel, Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, Feyeraband, Bloor, and Laudan. While we may consider various examples from the history of science, no background knowledge of science or logic (beyond elementary first-year logic) is presupposed. All reading assignments for this module are accessible to students with no training in science. More technical/formal reading materials will be made available to those who are interested, but such readings will not be compulsory for this module.
This module will address some key issues in social philosophy, or key ideas from thinkers 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
Special Topic in the History of Philosophy
Philosophers have often contributed to huge advances in science and technology, while at the same time witnessing, and sometimes causing, political and social upheaval on a grand scale. In this module, we shall track the philosophical thoughts and motivations behind some of these advances and upheavals.
The module will proceed via a close reading of primary texts, drawing on additional material by scholars, background material and influential responses. Possible subjects are some of the writings of, for example, Aristotle, Descartes, Margaret Cavendish, Isaac Newton, Thomas Reid, Emilie Du Chatelet, David Hume, Jean Le Rond D'Alembert and Mary Shepherd.
Please note: the module is not a survey of the history of philosophy, and it may focus on the writings of only one philosopher in any given year that it runs.
Approaches to Politics and International Relations
The module introduces you to alternative theoretical approaches to the study of political phenomena. We consider the different forms of analysing, explaining, and understanding politics associated with approaches such as behaviouralism, rational choice theory, institutionalism, Marxism, feminism, interpretive theory and post-modernism.
The module shows that the different approaches are based upon contrasting ontological suppositions about the nature of politics, and they invoke alternative epistemological assumptions about how we acquire valid knowledge of politics and international relations. We examine questions such as: what constitutes valid knowledge in political science and international relations? Should political science methodology be the same as the methods employed in the natural sciences? Can we give causal explanations of social and political phenomena? Can we ever be objective in our analysis? What is the relationship between knowledge and power?
British Party Politics
Political parties were central to the British political system throughout the 20th century and remain so at the beginning of the 21st. Despite persistent criticism, and perennial claims of their 'decline', parties are an essential component of any student's understanding of British politics and remain the central means by which the electorate passes judgement on the government.
This module examines the structure, ideology and history of British political parties. Topics covered include how the major and minor parties fought the 2015 general election, along with a discussion of how parties adapt to change.
Contentious Politics: The Struggle for Democracy in Greater China
This module compares and contrasts social and political development in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan from the late 1970s until the present day. It introduces you to rapidly changing state-society relations in three distinctive and yet interrelated Chinese communities. You will analyse the interplay between political institutions and civil society in the Greater China region. More specifically, you will appraise how executive overreach and/or factional infighting among ruling elites have time and again led to cracks in the authoritarian edifice.
Drawing on specific case studies on mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan you will recognise how dissidents, civil society practitioners, and social movement leaders have made good use of resulting political opportunity structures and challenged state authority. You will assess to what extent civil society-led contentious politics has managed or failed to bring about political liberalisation and democratisation in the Greater China region.
Crises and Controversies in European Politics
This module aims to provide you with a systematic introduction to current debates in the comparative analysis of European politics.
The module adopts a thematic approach and focuses on both traditional fields of comparative enquiry, such as the study of party systems and representation, elections and voting behaviour, party competition and government formation, executive-legislative relations, as well as emerging fields of interest, such as political participation, extreme right politics, immigration, political corruption and the political and social challenges of globalisation and European integration.
The diverse experiences of liberal democracy in European countries and the political and social changes that they have undergone are discussed thematically in the seminars. In the seminars, a country-expert system is used whereby you are assigned a particular country to cover. The module covers both long-established democracies in Western Europe and newer democracies in Central and Eastern Europe.
This module explores issues in global security since the end of the Cold War. It focuses on security in a broad sense, from issues relating to the use of force by states, through to violence by non-state actors, such as terrorist groups, and on to the concept of human security.
The module builds on the first year modules, Understanding Global Politics and Problems in Global Politics, challenging you to deepen your theoretical as well as empirical knowledge in international security. It is also a preparation for the research-led third year modules that require a much more developed capacity of analysing empirical developments from a range of different theoretical perspectives.
How Voters Decide
Elections are the foundation of representative democracy. The act of voting creates a link between citizens' preferences and government policy. This means that the choices voters make have important consequences.
But, how do voters make these choices? Are they based on the policies that parties promise to enact in the future, or is it more about the policy successes (or failures) that parties have experienced in the past? Does the party's leader make a difference? Can campaigns or the media's coverage change how voters see their electoral choices? Finally, given the importance of elections, why do many citizens choose to abstain from the process altogether?
How Voters Decide will explore the choices that citizens make when they participate in elections and it will provide students with the skills necessary to evaluate arguments about electoral behaviour in Britain and beyond.
International Political Economy and Global Development
This module studies the historical development of international political economy with a specific focus on development as well as the different ways this can be theoretically analysed.
While some speak about the internationalisation of the temporary order, others think in terms of more drastic changes and define them as globalisation. Similarly, while some are very optimistic that increasing free trade administered by the WTO will lead to general development, others argue that this is precisely the mechanism, with which underdeveloped countries are kept in a situation of dependence.
Based on the teaching of background information on different IPE theories and the immediate post-war period, it is these kinds of questions the module will be addressing. The module builds on the first year modules Understanding Global Politics and Problems in Global Politics, challenging you to deepen your theoretical as well as empirical knowledge in IPE.
It is also a preparation for the research-led third year modules, which require a much more developed capacity of analysing empirical developments from a range of different theoretical perspectives.
International Politics in the 20th Century
The module examines issues and themes in 20th-century international politics, from the eclipse of the 19th-century European diplomatic order to the collapse of the global bipolar system at end of the Cold War.
The course is taught from the disciplinary standpoint of international relations rather than that of international history. Therefore, various theoretical perspectives are brought to bear on each of these themes. For instance, we discuss:
- the broad differences between the disciplines of international relations and international history in respect of explaining and understanding the international politics of the 20th century
- questions of causality in international relations with reference to the onset of the Cold War
- questions about political psychology with respect to the Cuban missile crisis
- questions about prediction and the purposes of theory in relation to the end of the Cold War
Political Parties and Party Systems Around the Globe
This module will offer an overview of political party development and the functioning of party systems in democratic states around the world, with a special focus on post-transitional democracies in Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia.
Applying a variety of analytical concepts, theoretical approaches and empirical indicators to the study of party politics, the module will highlight the institutional and sociological determinants of party organisation development and system stability as well as the consequences of party failure and party system collapse.
Social and Global Justice
'Justice' has been one of the key themes of political theory at least from the time of Plato, as questions of who gets what, when, and why are absolutely central to political discourse. Should people be able to keep what they earn with their talents, or is it only fair to take wealth away from those who have it to give to those who have little? Do different cultures deserve equal 'recognition'?
Recently these questions of distributive and social justice have taken on a global dimension. Does the developed world have obligations to distant others, and do they have rights against it?
This module will look at these questions from a contemporary perspective, looking at ideas about justice from thinkers such as the utilitarians, John Rawls, Thomas Pogge, Susan Moller Okin, and Bhikhu Parekh.
Social Change and Public Policy in China's Reform Era
This module examines major public policy programs since the beginning of the reform and opening up in the 1978 in the areas of education, environment, media and communications, health, population, labour, ethnicity, along with social changes and their consequences for people's livelihoods.
In addition to exploring the content, evolution and effects of policy in these areas, the module will examine how policies are made and implemented. Lectures will introduce substantive issues and the appropriate theoretical frameworks for making sense of developments on the ground while seminars will help students to understand the impacts of these policies and the social changes accompnaying them.
You will be able to take either 40 credits worth of modules from each of politics, philosophy and economics, or 60 credits worth of modules from any two of politics, philosophy and economics.
Optional economics modules
Advanced topics such as:
This module adopts a broad focus on factors influencing growth and development. Topics covered include macroeconomic policies, aid, debt, trade; growth experiences in East Asia, China and Africa.
Economic Policy Analysis
This module will introduce you to economic policy analysis, using examples from public, environmental and urban and regional economics. The first part of the module will focus on the role played by different institutional rules in shaping the behaviour of elected governments. We will analyse how alternative institutional arrangements (for example, electoral rules) may have important effects on policy making by providing different incentives to elected politicians to act in the interest of their constituents.
The environmental policy part of the module will examine different forms of sustainability and show how sustainability can be measured. We shall also explore the intertemporal and international aspects of climate change.
We will examine why it is so difficult for countries to come to an agreement to reduce their emissions and we will evaluate actual climate change negotiations and policies. The urban and regional economics part of the module will start with an overview of trends in spatial disparities in the UK and other countries. We will develop a microeconomic toolkit that will help us answer questions such as "Why do cities exist?" or "What determines house prices?" We will use these tools to evaluate urban and regional policies in the UK and elsewhere.
Experimental and Behavioural Economics
This module provides a window on three important sub-areas of experimental and behavioural economics. The first focuses on design issues and individual decision-making, the next two sections focus on applications to the study of strategic behaviour and market behaviour.
You do not need to have studied experimental or behavioural economics before because all topics will be introduced at a level that will be accessible to the newcomer. The module is, nevertheless, suitable as a sequel to the year two module Experimental and Behavioural Economics because the contents of the two modules cover distinct, but complementary, topics.
This module will offer an introduction to some theoretical concepts related to the allocation of risk by financial institutions. Then it will apply these concepts to the analysis of financial and banking crises.
This module provides an advanced economic analysis of the theory of organisation of firms and industries. It will analyse a variety of market structures related to the degree of market competition with a special emphasis on imperfectly competitive markets. It will also analyse issues related to the internal organisation of firms.
International Money and Macroeconomics
This module will provide an introduction to international monetary issues, including the determination of exchange rates, and the functioning of the international monetary system.
International Trade Policy
This module looks at:
- trade policy - theory and evidence
- trade policy and imperfect competition
- trade and distortions
- the political economy of protection
- trade policy reform
This module is an introduction to international trade theory and policy. It covers the core trade theories under perfect and imperfect competition and applies them to understanding the pattern of trade, gains from trade and modern topics like foreign outsourcing. On the policy side, it examines the effects of different government trade policy instruments and the role of international trade agreements.
This module provides an introduction to the economics of the labour market. We will look at some basic theories of how labour markets work and examine evidence to see how well these theories explain the facts.
Particular attention will be given to the relationship between the theory, empirical evidence and government policy. The module will refer especially to the UK labour market, but reference will also be made to other developed economies.
This module covers:
- dynamic general equilibrium models, focusing on how the time path of consumption, and saving, is determined by optimising agents and firms that interact on competitive markets
- growth in dynamic general equilibrium, focusing on the Solow model and the data, and the role played by accumulation of knowledge (endogenous innovation) in explaining long run growth
- Real Business Cycles (RBC), focusing on how the RBC approach accounts for business cycle fluctuations, and what links short run fluctuations and growth processes
The module will cover topics in advanced microeconomics and decision theory. The precise content may vary from year to year, but the module will start from the basis established by the Microeconomic Theory module.
This module will provide an outline of the elements of monetary theory and of theoretical policy issues.
The module will cover the following:
- The rational political individual?
- Voter participation
- Collective action and the role of the state
Core political economy
- The economic approach to politics
- Political aspects of economics: rights and the limits of the state
- Political aspects of economics: inequality and the duties of the state
Political economy in action
- Political economy in action: some current issues in applied political economy
Public Sector Economics
This module looks at:
- public finances in the uk
- market failures
- fundamental theorems of welfare economics
- social welfare functions
- public goods
- natural monopolies
- public choice
- social insurance: social security, taxation and equity
- excess burden of taxation and tax incidence
Optional philosophy modules
This module investigates different kinds of contemporary logic, as well as their uses in philosophy. We will investigate the syntax and semantics of various logics, including first order logic, modal logics, and three-valued logics, as well as ways to apply formal techniques from these logics to philosophical topics such as possibility and necessity, vagueness, and the Liar paradox. We’ll cover ways to reason and construct proofs using the logics we study, and also ways to reason about them. We’ll look at proofs regarding the limits of formal logic, including proofs of soundness, completeness, and decidability.
Advanced Topics in Aesthetics
This module is a discussion of some philosophical problems pertaining to art. Topics could include definitions of art, the objectivity versus the subjectivity of aesthetic evaluations, emotional response to art, the ontological status of artworks, and Walton's theory of make-believe.
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 the status of aesthetic evaluations, and to present the main contemporary viewpoints pertaining to the nature of artworks.
Advanced Topics in Meta-ethics
It is a peculiar fact about humans that we engage in distinctively normative discourse – that is, discourse characterised by terms such as ‘good’, ‘wrong’, ‘unjust’, ‘better’, ‘rational’ and so on. This course deals with the philosophical study of the nature of this discourse: its distinctive methods, meanings, and place within a broader understanding of ourselves and the world we inhabit. The primary focus will be on the understanding of ethical discourse (a study known as ‘meta-ethics’) and in particular on the following questions: - Semantic: What is the distinctive meaning of ethical terms? Are ethical judgements the sorts of things that can be true or false? - Psychological: Is the state of mind involved in accepting an ethical judgement a cognitive state like a belief, or is it a non-cognitive state like a desire or preference? - Metaphysical: Are there moral facts and properties that our moral discourse hooks us up with? If so, what are they like? - Epistemological: Can ethical judgements ever be justified? If so, how? How do we come to be aware of ethical facts and properties, if they exist? These questions will be discussed through the study of three main theories: realism, expressivism and error theory. In the process the course will cover such issues as: the objectivity of moral truths, moral relativism, moral subjectivism, the nature of moral motivation, the possibility of amoralism and the possible comparisons between ethics and science.
Advanced Topics in Social Philosophy
This module addresses some key issues in social philosophy, or key ideas from thinkers in social philosophy. Each year, there will be a focus on one or two topics for advanced examination of that/those topic(s). Indicative topics that might be covered include: philosophy of race, philosophy of gender, philosophy of disability, oppression, institutions and structure, etc.
Advanced Topics in the Philosophy of Mind
The philosophy of mind addresses philosophical questions about the mind and aspects of the mind: mental or psychological states and capacities. Advanced topics in the philosophy of mind will focus on a specific area (or areas) of the philosophy of mind. Which specific area (or areas) of philosophy of mind is in focus may vary from year to year.
Advanced topics in the philosophy of mind may focus on the philosophy of perception, and cover questions such as what is it to perceive the world? What is it to have a conscious experience in perceiving the world? In perceiving the world, does anything get between the perceiver and the world, or is perception immediate and direct? How does perception lead to knowledge? Does perception present higher-level properties such as being a tree, or being of a certain race, or just lower-level ones such as having a certain size, and shape?
Topics for this area of philosophy of mind may include the nature of perception, the nature of perceptual consciousness, the directness or indirectness of perception, the perception-knowledge link, and what properties or kinds perception can present.
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, in particular, the origin and nature of suffering, the no-self thesis, enlightenment, consciousness, experiential knowing, and the doctrine of Emptiness (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.
This module will teach you how to communicate philosophy through a variety of different mediums, assessing you in each. We will look at how philosophy can be communicated through legal documentation, press releases, handouts, lesson plans, webpages, funding bids and posters (with optional presentations).
A number of the sessions will be delivered by professionals from outside the University, with support from the module convener. Seminars will be used to develop each of the items for assessment. You will be invited to draw upon your prior philosophical learning to generate your assessments, except in the case of handout where you will be set a specific philosophical task and asked to complete some (very basic) independent research.
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.
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. Representative topics include: 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 ethics of zoos; the nature of sustainability; ethical issues relating to climate change; the ethics of restoring nature after it has been damaged by human development; whether there are any distinct environmental virtues.
Free Will and Action
This module involves the study of a set of related issues concerning the nature and explanation of action and the requirements for free action and free will. Questions to be discussed are likely to include all or most of the following: What would it take for an action to be free (or an exercise of ‘free will’) in a sense that would make it an action for which we are morally responsible? 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? And what about the fact that at least some of our actions seem to have purely physical causes? If they do, doesn’t this make any ‘mental causes’ of those actions redundant? 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?
God and Money
This is a module in the philosophy of political economy. It explores the tensions between earlier visions of society where obligation, personal fulfilment, trust, and the common good were understood primarily in religious terms, and a modern society where these are understood primarily in economic terms. These tensions remain present in contemporary religious critiques of capitalism: the module will start with recent Papal pronouncements on economic life and close with a critique of the 'theology' inherent in money itself.
In the first half of the module, various philosophical and theoretical resources will be introduced, for example, theories of money from Aristotle and Marx; Graeber's work on the anthropology of debt; Nietzsche and the post-Nietzscheans on governmentality through debt; Weil and Gorz on work and time.
In the second half of the module, more contemporary perspectives will be introduced, such as modern money theory and explanations of the recent credit crisis; ecological perspectives on political economy; ecclesial visions of economic life; and a new perspective on money and debt as the defining principles of modern civilization.
Language, Metaphysics, and Metametaphysics
Typically, this module introduces you to some advanced topics in contemporary analytic metaphysics. The module focuses on important topics, which have received recent attention. The topics covered will include:
- metaphysical nihilism (why there is something rather than nothing, and the subtraction argument)
- causation (the counterfactual theory and other accounts)
- the metaphysics of grounding (and concerns with such a notion)
- the metaphysics of absolute and relational space and time, and vagueness and indeterminacy
The module presupposes a certain basic familiarity with general issues in metaphysics and the philosophy of language, but is designed to serve as an advanced introduction to new topics that is completely accessible to the uninitiated.
You will be introduced to the thought of Karl Marx thematically via texts selected from the Marx canon. Marxian themes considered will include alienation, the materialist conception of history, ideology and the labour theory of value.
Gaining an overview of Marx's attempt to synthesise German philosophy, French political theory, and British economics will be an important objective for the course.
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. All reading assignments for this module are accessible to students with no training in criminal law.
Philosophy of Sex
This module considers the conceptual, moral, political, and metaphysical issues raised by sexual activity. It also considers philosophical questions arising from the experience of groups considered sexual and gender minorities, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people.
Topics include the nature of sexual desire; sexual consent; sexual objectification; prostitution; pornography; sexual orientation; and trans and intersex experiences. You will be encouraged to explore the relationships between these topics and to consider their application to debates and practices outside of philosophy.
Rawls' Political Philosophy and its Critics
John Rawls was perhaps the most influential political philosopher of the twentieth century. He proposed both a theory of distributive justice (justice in the distribution of goods and opportunities) and a theory of political legitimacy (the conditions under which states and their actions are legitimate). In developing these views he was very concerned to take note of the fact that reasonable people disagree deeply and persistently about these issues. In this module we will consider several of Rawls’s contributions to political philosophy, along with some of the very important critical responses they have generated.
Taking Utilitarianism Seriously
This module is an extended discussion of utilitarian approaches to moral and political philosophy, including utilitarian accounts of:
- the nature of wellbeing
- reasons and rightness
- rights and justice
- individual decision-making
- praise and blame
Topic in the Philosophy of Sciences
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 postmodernism relativism of the late-20th century and its aftermath. Readings will include seminal works by Ayer, Hempel, Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, Feyeraband, Bloor, and Laudan.
Optional politics modules
Airpower and Modern Warfare
The invention of the aircraft fundamentally changed the ways in which wars are fought and won. Over the course of only a century airpower developed into an indispensable instrument of warfare. Today, war without airpower is an unlikely prospect and major military operations, as a rule, are launched with overwhelming air attacks.
In recent years, however, the utility of 'strategic' airpower has increasingly come under question. Whilst technological innovation continues to strengthen airpower's capabilities, the relevance of these capabilities in contemporary conflicts cannot be taken for granted.
This module critically assesses the role of air power in modern conflict within the broader framework of strategic and security studies. It will assess the evolution of air power theory since the First World War and examine the limits of its practical application with reference to specific air campaigns.
Government and Politics in the USA
This module will offer an overview of the main political institutions and the behaviour of political actors in the United States, applying a variety of analytic concepts and empirical tools to the study of American politics.
It will in particular focus on rational choice theories of voters and politicians' behaviours addressing the incentives and constraints faced by politicians when choosing public policies. By employing theoretical and empirical tools to study public decision making at the federal and state level, the module will highlight the impact of different institutional arrangements on electoral accountability and policies in the United States.
Ideas and Politics in Contemporary Britain
The aim of this module is to explain and assess the nature and role of ideas and ideologies in British politics. It examines how and why the policies of the 'mainstream' British parties (Conservative, Labour and the Liberal Democrats) have been affected by ideas and ideologies, on the one hand, and by political pragmatism, on the other.
It also explores the ideas, ideologies and policies of minor parties and 'new social movements' (ecologism; fascism, Nazism and racism; feminism; multiculturalism, and nationalism) and their significance for the study and practice of politics in Britain today.
Immigration and Citizenship
This module will introduce you to the current issues around migration. You will learn to differentiate between different types of immigration such as asylum, labour, family, and irregular as well as different aspects, such as integration and citizenship. The module will identify and analyse political responses to immigration at both national and supranational levels.
The module identifies and evaluates the role that Parliament plays in the political system. The module is both descriptive and analytical, comprising an introduction to Parliament (such as its place in the political process, the impact of party) and an investigation into the effectiveness or otherwise of its scrutiny and influence of selected sectors of government responsibility.
It covers the process of legislation, scrutiny, and links with the public. The module also considers the role of the House of Lords.
Politics and Drugs
This module studies the implications of the growing abuse of narcotics for the political system from both a national and international perspective. It will examine the production, consumption and trade in drugs as an international problem.
The development of and issues associated with contemporary British drug policy will be explored and the theoretical questions raised by drug control policy will be examined.
The War in Iraq
This module will comprehensively deconstruct the causes, conduct and consequences of one of the most controversial wars of the modern era: the invasion and occupation of Iraq. It will assess how the road to war was paved at the United Nations and through the formulation of a 'coalition of the willing'. It will then critically evaluate how the swiftly concluded invasion of Iraq and toppling of Saddam Hussein gave way to a vicious insurgency.
The adaptation of the US military to the demands of counter-insurgency warfare will be analysed, as will British military performance in southern Iraq. The module will end by critically assessing the effectiveness of the 'surge' strategy under the implementation of Gen. David Petraeus, and evaluating the utility of 'analogical reasoning' through comparisons with the Vietnam War.