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.
Typical year one modules
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.
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.
Metaphysics, Science and Language
The module will cover topics from each of Metaphysics, Epistemology and the philosophy of science, and the philosophy of language. Indicative questions include: metaphysics – why is there something rather than nothing? Does it make sense to talk of a telos, or purpose, to the universe? Is the universe deterministic, or is there chance; philosophy of science – is science the guide to all of reality? Is there a scientific method; philosophy of language – what is truth? Is truth relative? Does language create reality?
Philosophy of Religions
This module will explore the thought about religion of a few key philosophical thinkers chosen from more than one tradition. Representative thinkers might include, but are not limited to, atheists such as Feuerbach and Nietzsche, Buddhists such as Śāntideva and Dōgen, Christians such as Augustine, Pascal and Weil, Hindus such as the writers of the Upanisads and Shankara, Jews such as Spinoza and Buber, Muslims such as Mulla Sadra and Nasr, and Taoists such as Zhuangzi; in some years, more contemporary thinkers might be chosen. The texts will be used to raise issues of wider philosophical significance, such as the variety of conceptions of ultimate reality; goals for the spiritual life; the nature of religious experience; the relations of religion and morality; explanations of suffering and evil; human nature and continuing existence after death; and problems of religious diversity. While such content may vary from year to year, each year will focus on a few key thinkers and themes.
Philosophy and the Contemporary World
This module will provide students with the resources necessary to critically understand and constructively engage with a variety of topical practical, social, and political issues and phenomena. These include a range of psychological phenomena of relevance to both university environments and social life, and large-scale political and cultural developments that invite moral and intellectual concern. An overt aim of the module is to provide students with the intellectual skills necessary to undertake their duties as responsible citizens in a democratic society within a multicultural and multiracial world.
History of Philosophy: Ancient to Modern
Through considering some of the greatest thinkers who have ever lived, students on this module will become familiar with some of the main philosophical ideas which have shaped philosophy. They will understand how and why these ideas arose and developed across the history of philosophy in response to wider contexts and movements. The historical scope runs from the ancient to the modern period. Typical figures might include: Plato, Aristotle, Ibn-Tufayl, Ibn-Rushd, Montaigne, Locke, Wollstonecraft, Marx, Gandhi, Fanon, Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Murdoch. Typical topics might include: ancient Greek conceptions of the good life, reason and tradition in classical Islamic philosophy, medieval philosophy, existentialism, and Afro-Caribbean philosophy.
Gender, Justice and Society
Proposed topics include: what is justice? What is gender justice? What would a just organization of labour and resources look like? How does the gendered distribution of labour and resources affect this? What is autonomy? How does gender affect the way we understand autonomy? What is culture, and why does it matter? How should the state respond to cultural differences? What should feminists say about this? Is violence justified? How can we make sense of gender-based violence? Should there be a distinction between the public and the private? Does it make sense to think of our personal lives as ‘political’?
Typical year two modules
This module is a survey course in social philosophy. The module addresses issues in social metaphysics and social epistemology. We will examine the metaphysics of social kinds and explore different accounts of social kinds that have been offered. We will also examine how the fact that we are situated in a social world can affect what we can or cannot know or understand about ourselves, each other, and the social world itself. We will also address ethical and/or political issues that arise once we take account of social metaphysics and social epistemology. In particular, we might consider whether there are special kinds of injustices that arise du to our social reality. What is epistemic injustice and how does it relate to social injustice? How do certain privileged groups structure the social world that create and maintain privilege and patterns of ignorance that perpetuate that privilege? What are some obligations that we have given metaphysical and epistemological concerns we have explored? Topics can include how to do philosophy responsibly; sexism, racism (including everyday sexism/racism); arguments for and against affirmative action.
Topics in Asian Philosophy
This module explores some of the major figures, texts, and schools of the philosophical traditions of India, China, and Japan. The Asian traditions address familiar philosophical themes – in ethics, epistemology, and aesthetics - but often approach them in ways that may seem unfamiliar. Studying them can challenge our culturally inherited presuppositions in instructive ways, as well as illuminating the history and current state of those cultures – an important thing in an age when many Westerners are ‘looking East’. Topics may include: Confucianism, Mohism, Daoism, and Hinduism; the Analects, Bhagavad Gita, and Zhuangzi; the relationship between morality and religion; etiquette, ethics and aesthetics; the nature of ultimate reality and the good life; and the relation of Asian philosophies to the Western tradition.
The Nature of Meaning
The module begins with an exploration of various theories of reference and meaning, paying particular attention to the classic theories of singular terms (including Frege, Russell, and Kripke). We then turn our attention to pragmatics, and we cover Grice's theory of implicature and Searle's theory of speech acts. In the final part of this module, we assess various problems in philosophy of language and logic, primarily having to do with the interactions between semantics and pragmatics and with the roles of context in the theory of communication.
Freedom and Obligation
Are you obliged to obey the law even when you disagree with it? What features must a state have in order to be legitimate? In this module we will approach these classic questions of political philosophy by examining the work of a number of important past political philosophers, such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (this list is suggestive, and the line up each year may vary). The emphasis of the module is partly exegetical and partly evaluative. That is, we will seek both to understand why the thinkers' works have been open to different interpretations, and to evaluate their arguments under these different interpretations.
Mind and Consciousness
This module aims to introduce students 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
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 (foundationalism vs. coherentism; internalism vs.externalism; evidentialism); the justification of induction; the notion of a priori justification; the relation between your evidence and what you know; the natures of perceptual experience and perceptual knowledge; safety and contextualist theories of knowledge; Moore's response to skepticism; testimonial knowledge, "virtue" epistemology and its relation to "reliabilist" epistemology.
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
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
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 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
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.
Typical year three modules
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. But, for example, 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 just lower-level ones such as having a certain size, and shape? How are we to distinguish the senses? Can we see empty space? Can we hear silence? So the 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, what properties or kinds perception can present, issues about the senses, and specific issues about vision and audition.
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.
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.
Students 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.
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).
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. Students will be encouraged to explore the relationships between these topics and to consider their application to debates and practices outside of philosophy.
Dissertation in Philosophy
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.
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? 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? Readings will include seminal works by historical figures such as Bentham, Mill, 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.
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, 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. Students will be invited to draw upon their prior philosophical learning to generate their assessments, except in the case of handout where they will be set a specific philosophical task and asked to complete some (very basic) independent research.
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.