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.
The Quantum World
This module will provide an introduction to the theory and applications of quantum mechanics, a theory that is one of the key achievements of 20th century physics. This module will begin with a discussion of simple systems and develop the mathematical formulation of quantum mechanics. The module will then extend the formalism to cope with the movement of particles and make links to the material that you have seen in the 'From Newton to Einstein' module.
Thermal and Statistical Physics
In this year-long module you’ll learn about the two main themes relating to the description of important physical properties of matter; thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. You’ll discover that they share common features through two hours of lectures weekly and four practical workshops throughout the year.
In this module, you are introduced to the concepts of scalar and vector fields, and introduced to the mathematics of vector calculus that can be used to describe these fields. The mathematics will then be used to provide a framework for describing, understanding and using the laws of electromagnetism.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Knowledge and Justification
This module explores contemporary treatments of issues pertaining to knowledge and the justification of belief. It addresses issues such as:
- 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
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.
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 facts? 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.
Philosophy of Art
This module is a discussion of some philosophical problems pertaining to art.
Topics will include:
- definitions of art
- the objectivity versus the subjectivity of aesthetic evaluations
- emotional response to art
- the ontological status of artworks
- Walton's theory of make-believe
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
A dissertation of 8,000-words on a philosophical topic approved by the Module Convenor. The supervisor is not permitted to read and comment more than once on one draft of 8,000 words.
Metaphysics and Language: Quine, Kripke and Lewis
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
The Structure of Stars
This module will develop your knowledge of the various physical processes occurring in stars of different types. You’ll use this knowledge to build both mathematical models and your qualitative physical understanding of stellar structure and evolution will be enhanced. You’ll have two hours per week of lectures studying this module.
Symmetry and Action Principles in Physics
Symmetry is a powerful notion, both in the development of theories of physical phenomena and in the solution of physical models. In this module the basic aspects of the mathematical language of symmetry will be introduced and applied to a range of physical phenomena, and the principle of least action, introduced in The Principles of Dynamics module, will be further developed.
Theoretical Elementary Particle Physics
In this module you’ll have an introduction to theoretical aspects of the standard model of particle physics. You’ll learn about ideas such as symmetry and conservation laws through a number of different topics including relativistic notation, relativistic particles, Feynman diagrams and discrete symmetries among others. You’ll have two hours per week of lectures studying this module.
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’?
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.