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 teaches you practices of good reasoning, argument, and logic, as well as other skills relecant to philosophical study. Topics might include: philosophical essay writing; how to identity, produce, and assess arguments; forms of argument; fallacies and other standard errors of argument; conceptual analysis; basic philosophical vocabulary; the use of thought experiments.
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 addresses issues of contemporary concern, arising from unattractive features of human life in its current forms. Topics might include: the purpose of education; is there a right to higher education; who should pay for higher education; free speech *why value free speech; censorship and pornography, hate speech and safe spaces; identity and prejudice (race and racial politics; homophobia; transphobia; intersex; class, disability; representation of religion in politics; psychology of bias); civic responsibility (animals and the environment; ‘bullshit’, truth, and post-truth politics; suffrage; media culture); global justice (war; terrorism; world hunger; migration and refugees); ethics and technology (human enhancement; drugs and sport; artificial intelligence).
History of Philosophy: Ancient to Modern
This course offers an introduction to a range of figures, topics, and traditions in the Western philosophical tradition. These might include: conceptions of the good life in ancient Greek ethics; the relation of reason and tradition in classical Islamic philosophy; Renaissance humanism and the rise of science; the education of mind and character; philosophies of gendered, racial, and caste oppression; philosophy and the colonial experience in Afro-Caribbean philosophy; and existentialism and the authentic life.
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
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.
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.
Topics in Asian Philosophy
The world is increasingly ‘looking east’, and this module introduces you to major themes in the philosophical traditions of several Asian cultures. We will focus on texts like the Analects and Bhagavad Gita and range across Chinese, Indian, and Japanese thought. The themes might include the relationship between ethics and etiquette, the nature of the good life, the role of virtue in political life, and the nature of ultimate reality. This course is taught through small-group study of classical Asian texts.
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 and propositions 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.
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
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? This module explores topics such as these, with the range of topics varying each year.
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 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.
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 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.
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?
- 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.