Philosophy

The following modules are available to incoming Study Abroad students interested in Philosophy.

Alternatively you may return to the complete list of Study Abroad Subject Areas.

EPR.100: Ethics, Philosophy and Religion

  • Terms Taught: Full Year course.
  • Also Available:
    • Michaelmas term only
    • Lent / Summer term only.
    • NOTE:  If you are studying with us for a Full Academic Year and you select a course that has full year and part year variants, you will not be allowed to take only part of the course.
  • US Credits:
    • Full Year course - 10 Semester Credits.
    • Michaelmas Term only - 5 Semester Credits.
    • Lent / Summer Terms only - 5 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits:
    • Full Year course - 20 ECTS Credits.
    • Michaelmas Term only - 10 ECTS Credits.
    • Lent / Summer Terms only - 10 ECTS Credits.

Course Description

The course provides an introduction to key areas at the intersection of ethics, philosophy and religious studies. Historically and practically these areas of enquiry have often been closely related and, even today, we can appreciate that there are areas of life and experience  such as in global politics, the technological advances all around us, and in our own ethical decisions  where an understanding of the philosophical and religious foundations of ethics has profound relevance and significance.

The course is divided into five main areas. They will provide a range of core themes and perspectives including western and Asian philosophical and religious ethics and the authorities upon which ethical standpoints are grounded.

Educational Aims

On successful completion of this course, you will have acquired a comprehensive range of skills that can only be obtained in an interdisciplinary course of this kind. You should be able to:

  • Identify, describe and discuss key philosophical debates and key figures in western philosophical and theological traditions (chiefly Judeo-Christian, Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment)
  • Identify, describe and discuss key ethical debates and key figures in eastern philosophical traditions (chiefly Hindu and Buddhist)
  • Engage in and exemplify philosophical reasoning in relation to a range ofphilosophical and ethical issues and debates covered in the course
  • Recognise, analyse, and critically evaluate a range of philosophical conceptions of the divine and accounts of how the divine may be known
  • Recognise, analyse, and critically evaluate a range of philosophical critiques of various conceptions of the divine and accounts of how the divine may be known
  • Compare and critically evaluate different ethical and philosophical approaches from different religious or cultural traditions - to the same or related topics

Outline Syllabus

In Michaelmas term, the course begins with an exploration of the different conceptions of God at the intersection between philosophy and religion. In particular, it examines some of the very different conceptions of God that have existed in the history of the western Christian tradition. It explores the ways in which these different conceptions have been produced by contrasting philosophical methodologies and variegated understandings of the ways in which philosophy should relate to religion. The section attempts to show how intertwined are philosophy and religion, and to explore the ways in which philosophy impacts upon understandings of God within religion itself.

In the second half of the term, we consider the foundational aspects of Ethics and the conceptual understanding of morality with special reference to the western philosophical tradition. Building upon this foundation, we will explore the interconnected nature of ethical precepts and how the Christian tradition developed its ethical framework with reference to Jesus of Nazareth. Finally this section will also touch upon the global nature of Christianity and consequent ethical implications.

In the Lent term, the course moves on to look at the relationships between science and religion. There is much debate on the question of whether religion and science can peacefully co-exist, or are intrinsically antagonistic. We will first look at two major episodes in the history of science that are often regarded as occasions of conflict between religion and science: the Scientific Revolution in the 17th century, and the emergence of Darwinism in the 19th. Then we will consider scientific theories of the origins of religion and whether they have any implications for religious belief. Finally in this section, we will look at some recent thinkers who think that science and religion are intrinsically antagonistic, and some who think they are not.5

In the second half of the Lent term, we will examine the general themes of the course specifically within the context of two Asian religious and philosophical traditions: Hinduism and Buddhism. We will examine teachings on the Self, teachings on Not-self, Hindu conceptions of God and ethics, and Wisdom and Compassion in Mahayana Buddhism. Finally, we will look at two modern thinkers  Mohandas Gandhi and the Dalai Lama  who have posed challenges to Western modernity from Hindu and Buddhist perspectives.

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 50%
  • Exam: 50%

PHIL100: Introduction to Philosophy

  • Terms Taught: Full Year course.
  • Also Available:
    • Michaelmas Term only.
    • Lent / Summer Term only.
    • NOTE:  If you are studying with us for a Full Academic Year and you select a course that has full year and part year variants, you will not be allowed to take only part of the course.
  • US Credits:
    • Full Year course - 10 Semester Credits.
    • Michaelmas Term only - 5 Semester Credits.
    • Lent / Summer Terms only - 5 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits:
    • Full Year course - 20 ECTS Credits.
    • Michaelmas Term only - 10 ECTS Credits.
    • Lent / Summer Terms only - 10 ECTS Credits.

Course Description

The Part I course introduces you to some of the central problems of philosophy and theories produced in response to them, some of the subject's technical concepts and vocabulary, and some of its techniques of reasoning and analysis. Reading includes both classical and contemporary material. 

Philosophy has a significant role to play, both in acquainting you with some of the ideas which have helped shape Western culture, and in the critical understanding of ideas and methods in many other disciplines. The level of the course does not presuppose previous knowledge of philosophy. If you have studied philosophy before, the course will enable you to deepen and broaden your understanding of the subject and to improve your philosophical skills.  The course aims not only to acquaint you with what philosophers have said but also to encourage you to engage with the issues.

Educational Aims

By the end of the course of study, we aim for you:

  • to be able to explain, contrast, and evaluate arguments in some central philosophical debates;
  • to have developed your ability to read philosophical texts critically and in depth;
  • to have developed your skills in rational argument, both in writing and in conversation;
  • to have a working grasp of philosophy’s distinctive disciplinary modes of reading, thinking, talking, and writing; and
  • to have begun to develop your own reflective views on some philosophical questions.

Outline Syllabus

Topics will be drawn from the range of philosophical problems, approaches, and canonical figures, to be chosen depending on expertise of available staff and appropriateness for part I level work.

Topics could include:

  • The theory of knowledge, including for example questions about the ultimate source of knowledge in sense perception, reasoning, or elsewhere.
  • Metaphysics, including for example questions about the ultimate nature of the universe (mind, matter, neither, both).
  • Ethics, including for example questions about the adequacy of consequentialist, deontological, and/or virtue-theoretical approaches to moral issues.
  • Political philosophy, including for example questions about the justifiability of capitalism.
  • Free will, including for example questions about the extent to which humans can be morally responsible for their actions in a deterministic world.
  • Critical reasoning, including for example the identification and study of patterns of correct and incorrect reasoning.

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 45%
  • Exam: 45%
  • Participation: 10%

PPR.201: History of Philosophy

  • Terms Taught: Full Year course.
  • Also Available:
    • Michaelmas term only
    • Lent / Summer terms only.
    • NOTE:  If you are studying with us for a Full Academic Year and you select a course that has full year and part year variants, you will not be allowed to take only part of the course.
  • US Credits:
    • Full Year course - 8 Semester Credits.
    • Michaelmas Term only - 4 Semester Credits.
    • Lent / Summer Terms only - 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits:
    • Full Year course - 16 ECTS Credits.
    • Michaelmas Term only - 8 ECTS Credits.
    • Lent / Summer Terms only - 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: At least one entry-level course in philosophy.

Course Description

Western philosophy has a long and rich history, and many of the questions that occupy present-day philosophers have been around for hundreds or even thousands of years. This course looks at some figures and debates from philosophy’s past. The exact make-up of the course will vary from year to year, but themes may include: What is the nature of the mind? How does it relate to the body? What is the nature of perception? How does the mind make contact with the world around it? What is the relation between language and thought? Can we have any reliable knowledge of the world outside our minds? Is there a God? What is the relation between philosophy and its history?

Educational Aims

The aim of this module is to provide students with:

  • a solid, critical understanding of some major problems and debates in the history of philosophy, some major philosophers from the past, and how these problems, debates, and thinkers relate to each other,
  • the ability to articulate their understanding of these issues through philosophical argument and analysis and through careful interpretation of primary texts, and to develop the capacity to  set out and to critically analyse some of the major arguments that philosophers from the past have made in relation to various problems, and to begin independent evaluation of these arguments.

Outline Syllabus

Western philosophy has a long and rich history, and many  of the questions that occupy present-day philosophers have been around for hundreds or even thousands of years. This module will look at some of the great figures from philosophy's past. The exact make-up of the module may vary from year to year, but core themes will normally include:

What is the nature of the mind? How does it relate to the body?

What is the nature of human knowledge? Can we come to have any reliable knowledge of the world outside our minds?

Is there a God? What arguments have been made in the history of philosophy for the existence of God? How successful are these arguments?

What is fundamentally real? Minds? Matter? Ideas?

These and other problems are studied in this module by close consideration of a selection of texts from the history of Western philosophy. This may include selections from any of the ancient (classical) period, the medieval, the 'early modern' (17th and 18th centuries) period, and the 19th century. Thinkers who may be considered include Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Scotus, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Hegel, and Nietzsche.

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 40%
  • Exam: 60%

PPR.202: Ethics: Theory and Practice

  • Terms Taught: Full Year course.
  • Also Available:
    • Michaelmas term only.
    • Lent / Summer terms only.
    • NOTE:  If you are studying with us for a Full Academic Year and you select a course that has full year and part year variants, you will not be allowed to take only part of the course.
  • US Credits:
    • Full Year course - 8 Semester Credits.
    • Michaelmas Term only - 4 Semester Credits.
    • Lent / Summer Terms only - 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits:
    • Full Year course - 16 ECTS Credits.
    • Michaelmas Term only - 8 ECTS Credits.
    • Lent / Summer Terms only - 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: At least one entry-level course in philosophy.

Course Description

This module will address central issues in ethics by means of several strands: 

  • the critical reading of  classic texts in the history of the subject (such as Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, David Hume's, Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals; Immanuel Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals; or John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism);
  • selected topics in moral philosophy (such as the nature, strength and weakness of consequentialism, deontology, and virtue theory);
  • selected topics in meta-ethics (such as the 'moral problem', non-cognitivism, realism, and quasi-realism); 
  • topics in applied and practical ethics (such as, issues of life and death in biomedical practice, the ethics of war, and the ethics of personal life; as well, as the nature of moral motivation, and moral psychology).

Educational Aims

The aim of this module is to provide students with:

  • some historical and contemporary approaches to the subject of ethics,
  • the ability to engage in informed argument about some of the key topics in moral philosophy, and
  • develop an understanding of how to use practical examples to illuminate and exemplify the various approaches to the subject.

Outline Syllabus

This module will address central issues in ethics by means of several strands:

  • the critical reading of  classic texts in the history of the subject (such as Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, David Hume's, Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals; Immanuel Kant's Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals; or John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism);
  • selected topics in moral philosophy (such as the nature, strength and weakness of consequentialism, deontology, and virtue theory);
  • selected topics in meta-ethics (such as the 'moral problem', non-cognitivism, realism, and quasi-realism);  topics in applied and practical ethics (such as, issues of life and death in biomedical practice, the ethics of war, and the ethics of personal life; as well, as the nature of moral motivation, and moral psychology).

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 40%
  • Exam: 60%

PPR.204: Philosophy of the Mind

  • Terms Taught: Full Year course.
  • Also Available:
    • Michaelmas term only
    • Lent / Summer terms only.
    • NOTE:  If you are studying with us for a Full Academic Year and you select a course that has full year and part year variants, you will not be allowed to take only part of the course.
  • US Credits:
    • Full Year course - 8 Semester Credits.
    • Michaelmas Term only - 4 Semester Credits.
    • Lent / Summer Terms only - 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits:
    • Full Year course - 16 ECTS Credits.
    • Michaelmas Term only - 8 ECTS Credits.
    • Lent / Summer Terms only - 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: At least one entry-level course in philosophy.

Course Description

We start by examining issues in the metaphysics of mind. What is the relation between mentality and life? How do mental states connect up with behaviour? Is the mind really just the brain? Is the mind a kind of computer? Do we think in a ‘language of thought’? How do our thoughts manage to reach out to reality and be about anything? Can we explain consciousness? We then move on to epistemological issues: how can we gain knowledge of our own mental states, or of other people’s? How should psychologists seek to investigate the mind? For the most part, this course will be structured around contemporary texts.

Educational Aims

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Outline and expand upon some of the main issues and theoretical positions in philosophy of mind.
  • Set out some of the influential argumentation that has been developed in relation to the various issues and problems discussed in this module.
  • Begin an independent evaluation of these problems and be in a position to make some progress towards developing authoritative views of their own. 

Outline Syllabus

We start by examining issues in the metaphysics of mind. What is the relation between mentality and life? How do mental states connect up with behaviour? Is the mind really just the brain? Is the mind a kind of computer? Do we think in a ?language of thought'? How do our thoughts manage to reach out to reality and be about anything? Can we explain consciousness? We then move on to epistemological issues: How can we gain knowledge of our own mental states, or of other people's? How should psychologists seek to investigate the mind? For the most part, this course will be structured around contemporary texts.

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 40%
  • Dissertation (Optional): 60%
  • Exam (Optional, Default): 60%

PPR.210: Philosophy of Science

  • Terms Taught: Lent / Summer Terms only
  • US Credits: 4 semester credits
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS
  • Pre-requisites: At least one entry-level course in philosophy.

Course Description

This course considers philosophical issues that arise in connection with the sciences. It will consider what scientific method is, how science relates to the rest of knowledge, whether it provides an ideal model for rational inquiry in general, and whether we should think of science as describing reality.

In the first few weeks we will consider traditional accounts of scientific method and theory-testing, and then examine philosophical challenges to the status of science as a rational form of enquiry. We give particular consideration to three of the most important twentieth-century philosophers of science: Popper, Kuhn, and Feyerabend. Next we will consider whether and in what sense we should be confident that our best current scientific theories are accurate descriptions of reality.

It is not assumed that students have an extensive knowledge of science: the relevant scientific concepts will be presented in a simple and accessible way, and there will be no maths.

Educational Aims

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Engage critically with the arguments of major twentieth-century philosophers of science and philosophical critics of science.
  • Have a considered critical opinion on whether it is possible to clearly distinguish between science and pseudo-science
  • Have a considered critical opinion on whether there is such thing as a single scientific method that is common to all the sciences
  • Have a considered critical opinion on whether we should think of entities we cant directly observe (e.g. subatomic particles) as real.
  • Take a critical perspective towards the currently-popular scientistic view that science is an appropriate tool for approaching a great number of questions that are not traditionally considered scientific - e.g. moral and religious questions.

Outline Syllabus

The module will cover issues that relate to how we should think of scientific knowledge, how it relates to the rest of knowledge, whether it provides an ideal model for rational inquiry in general, and whether and in what sense we should be confident that our best current scientific theories are accurate descriptions of reality.

Indicative list of topics:

  • Karl Poppers falsificationist criterion for distinguishing science from pseudo-science
  • The dependence of scientific observation upon theory
  • Thomas Kuhns conception of science in terms of the rise and fall of paradigms
  • Relativistic views about scientific versus other forms of knowledge
  • Scientism, its defenders and its critics
  • Inference to the best explanation
  • Theories of what constitutes a scientific explanation
  • Realism and anti-realism regarding the unobservable entities in science

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 40%
  • Exam: 60%

PPR.211: Philosophical Questions in the Study of Politics and Economics

  • Terms Taught: Michaelmas Term only
  • US Credits: 4 semester credits
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS
  • Pre-requisites: At least one entry-level course in philosophy.

Course Description

This module considers some of the difficulties involved in gaining knowledge about human societies.  We focus especially on economics and politics, disciplines which raise some of the largest questions about society – for example: Who gets what?  Who rules whom? Can individual choices generate social change?

In this module we will not address such questions empirically, but instead step back to ask what sort of methods have been used to answer them, what sorts of modes of explanation or understanding are appropriate, and what assumptions are built into the ways economists and political scientists frame their enquiries.  The aim of the module, then, is to critically examine methods and assumptions in both disciplines, in order to appreciate the scope and limits of their claims to knowledge.

Educational Aims

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Discuss philosophical questions raised by the political and economic sciences
  • Discuss underlying assumptions at work in the methods of these sciences
  • Formulate their own opinions on these questions and assumptions, while appreciating the reasons that may be offered for different or opposing points of view

Outline Syllabus

This module will cover key issues in the philosophy of social science, paying particular attention to questions that arise for political science and economics. An indicative list of topics to be covered is given below:

  • Rational choice theory and other models of human behaviour
  • Methodological individualism versus holist modes of explanation
  • Structure versus agency in theories of social life
  • Ontology of collective entities (nations, organisations, classes etc)
  • Institutionalism in economics
  • The constitution of social realities: rules and the basis of social institutions
  • Quantitative v. qualitative methods, questions about causation as opposed to correlation
  • Causation, explanation and understanding in social science
  • Looping effects; self-fulfilling and self-refuting prophecies
  • The nature of power
  • Value neutrality in social science

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 40%
  • Exam: 60%

PPR.212: Metaphysics

  • Terms Taught: Michaelmas Term only
  • US Credits: 4 semester credits
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS
  • Pre-requisites: At least one entry-level course in philosophy.

Course Description

Studying this module should improve students'  knowledge and understanding of some key issues in metaphysics as determined by the syllabus. This focuses primarily on some issues concerning space and time, the nature of physical objects  and persons, and some key philosophical distinctions. Studying this module should also enable them to see connections between various philosophical issues that should be of value to them with regard to other philosophy modules thatthey are studying.

Educational Aims

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a good understanding of some key philosophical distinctions and a good knowledge of some basic metaphysical issues.
  • Articulate and analyse several of the problems that arise in this area, and show how they relate to each other and to other problems within philosophy.

Outline Syllabus

Topics studied will typically include:

  • A priori and empirical; analytic and synthetic; necessary and contingent. Some basic distinctions examined and compared.
  • The status of geometry and the metaphysics of space
  • The nature of physical objects; 3-D versus 4-D treatments
  • Personal identity
  • The reality or unreality of time

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 40%
  • Exam: 60%

PPR.213: Epistemology

  • Terms Taught: Lent / Summer terms only
  • US Credits: 4 semester credits
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS
  • Pre-requisites: At least one entry-level course in philosophy.

Course Description

The aim of this course is to give you a good, broad introduction to some of the key themes in epistemology (the theory of knowledge).  We being with the question what is knowledge?  This then leads us on to questions about how knowledge relates to other things, like belief, and truth.  Our answers to these questions have implications for how we think about the structure of knowledge (e.g., must all of our knowledge rest upon a “firm foundation”?).  Throughout the term we will see that it is much harder to answer our core question than you might think and this raises the question of why it is so hard to give a clear, general, account of what knowledge is. We also look at different sources of knowledge - especially, perception, self-knowledge and “testimony” (other people’s say-so) and, towards the end of term explore some of the relationships between epistemology and ethics, ending the term with the question whether we ever ought to refrain from seeking knowledge.

Educational Aims

By the end of this module students should aim to have gained knowledge and understanding of a range of key topics in epistemology, including:

  • understanding what an analysis of knowledge is, and how it proceeds
  • knowing the basis of various philosophical analyses of knowledge, including the justified true belief account, truth tracking accounts, and accounts based upon epistemic virtue
  • understand how different analyses of knowledge have further implications for epistemology, including foundationalism and coherentism
  • knowledge of a range of core epistemological concepts and theories including foundationalism, coherentish, externalism, internalism, reductionism and foundationalism in the epistemology of testimony
  • by working through a number of epistemological problems in close, critical, detail, students should aim to increase their knowledge and understanding of broader philosophical questoins and methods, including, the nature and importance of philosophical knowledge, and the nature and limitations of philosophpical analysis as a methodology

Outline Syllabus

Topics studied will typically include:

  • What is knowledge?
  • Justification: reasons and the internal perspective.
  • Foundationalism and the epistemic regress argument
  • Perception and empiricist foundationalism
  • Self-knowledge.
  • Testimony: reductionism versus fundamentalism.
  • Gettier cases and some responses.
  • Tracking the truth: Nozicks conditional theory of knowledge.
  • Epistemic virtue and the credit theory
  • Epistemic Restraint and the Vice of Curiosity

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 40%
  • Exam: 60%

PPR.301: Aesthetics

  • Terms Taught: Lent / Summer Terms only
  • US Credits: 4 semester credits
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS
  • Pre-requisites: You must have undertaken relevant previous studies in Philosophy.

Course Description

This module introduces central issues, problems and theories in philosophical aesthetics by critically examining specific topics in the philosophy of art and by examining the theories of major figures who have contributed to the tradition of philosophical aesthetics. The course uses concrete examples from most of the arts, including painting, literature, film, and music, to illuminate theoretical debates and issues.

Educational Aims

The aim of this module is to provide students with:

  • a solid, critical understanding of some major problems in aesthetics, some major aesthetic theorists, and how these problems and the ideas of these theorists relate to each other.
  • the ability to articulate these issues through philosophical argument and analysis and through careful interpretation of primary texts. 
  • enhanced awareness of the nature of art and aesthetic experience and the wider place of art in society.

Outline Syllabus

Topics and major aesthetic theorists to be covered may include the following (note this list is indicative and not all topics and theorists will be covered each year): 

  • Aesthetics in the analytic and continental traditions of philosophy
  • The aesthetic theories of Plato, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, the Frankfurt School
  • Definitions of art: Can art be defined?
  • What is tragedy and what is its aesthetic significance?
  • Beauty and its definition
  • The relation between art, religion and philosophy
  • The connections between art and morality: Can or should ethical evaluations affect aesthetic evaluations?
  • Emotional responses to art
  • The changing historical context and circumstances of art, including in the ancient world and in modernity
  • The rise of the culture industry and its impact upon our understanding of and responses to art
  • The normative status of aesthetic judgements: Can they ever be objective? If so, how?
  • The concept of disinterestedness
  • The relation between aesthetics and politics: Should art be politically committed? If so, in what ways?

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 40%
  • Exam: 60%

PPR.302: Continental Philosophy

  • Terms Taught: Michaelmas Term Only.
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: You must have undertaken relevant previous studies in Philosophy.

Course Description

This module considers the work of three figures in nineteenth and twentieth century continental philosophy: Nietzsche is primarily a theorist of morality. Foucault and Arendt are two of the most important political thinkers of the twentieth century.

We begin by looking at Nietzsche’s polemic on the origins and development of morality (Toward a Genealogy of Morality). His speculative but insightful history aims to undermine the self-evidence of morality’s claim to be the ‘value of values.’ He also tries to suggest the desirability of different perspectives on human action and flourishing – although he offers little practical guidance concerning the implications his critique.

We next turn to Foucault, who adapts Nietzsche’s method of historical analysis in order to challenge our assumptions – in his case, about progress toward freedom and welfare in modern societies. For example, in his book Discipline and Punish, Foucault suggests that modern societies can be interpreted as systems of discipline on the model of the prison, rather than as liberal regimes of freedom and rights.

We then turn to Hannah Arendt. Her political thought begins with totalitarian politics. Using a parallel method of historical analysis, Arendt pictures disparate elements – anti-semitism, racism, imperialism, bureaucratic secrecy and more – as coming together in the totalitarian ambition to remake the world. She subsequently develops a picture of politics that places great value on human differences and political freedom.

Educational Aims

Students will be helped to:

  • engage in general philosophical methods of critical analysis and the assessment of arguments;
  • increase their awareness of how philosophical problems develop and change;
  • deepen their appreciation and understanding of the philosophical tradition in relation to broader intellectual currents of thought;
  • develop their ability to make connections between different areas of philosophical thought , and in some cases continuing in contemporary philosophy;
  • increase their knowledge and understanding of the history of philosophy.

Outline Syllabus

This course aims to introduce the work of some key figures in 19th and 20th century continental philosophy, such as Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, Hannah Arendt and Habermas. The approach taken is predominantly philosophical rather than historical, and will involve examining critically claims and arguments about such matters as the existence and nature of human freedom, the relationships between knowledge, truth, power and morality, alienation and human labour, and the possibility of mutual recognition and community.It is expected that students will engage with the original texts,formulate the central arguments to be found in them and assess their cogency.

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 40%
  • Exam: 60%

PPR.304: Darwinism and Philosophy

  • Terms Taught: Michaelmas Term Only.
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: You must have undertaken relevant previous studies in Philosophy.

Course Description

The module will look at philosophical issues that arise out of Darwin’s theory of evolution. These include questions about how best to understand the theory of evolution, and questions about what evolution implies for our view of the world, and in particular of ourselves. The course breaks down into three broad areas:

  • Different ways to understand the theory of evolution, e.g. Is evolution, as some would have us believe, all about genes? Is natural selection the only important factor in evolution?
  • Conceptual issues relating to biology, e.g. How do we define ‘function’? Is there one right way to classify living things?
  • Implications of Darwinism for understanding human nature, e.g. Does the fact that we have evolved affect how we should see human nature? Why are evolutionary theories of human nature so controversial? Does Darwinism have any implications for moral questions?

Educational Aims

The course aims to give students:

  • an understanding and appreciation of the philosophical issues that arise from biology and medicine;  
  • a good understanding of the issues that are involved in defining key terms in these areas – e.g. species, gene, disease. 
  • a good understanding of different interpretations of the theory of evolution, and of the implications that this has for other issues, such as ontology and human nature. 
  • the ability to understand, and make critical judgements about, different claims in this area.

Outline Syllabus

The module will look at philosophical issues that arise out of Darwins theory of evolution. These include questions about how best to understand the theory of evolution, and questions about what evolution implies for our view of the world, and in particular of ourselves. The course breaks down into three broad areas:

  • Different ways to understand the theory of evolution, e.g Is evolution, as some would have us believe, all about genes? Is natural selection the only important factor in evolution?
  • Conceptual issues relating to biology, e.g. How do we define function? Is there one right way to classify living things?
  • Implications of Darwinism for understanding human nature, e.g. Does the fact that we have evolved affect how we should see human nature? Why are evolutionary theories of human nature so controversial? Does Darwinism have any implications for moral questions?

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 40%
  • Exam: 60%

PPR.305: Logic and Language

  • Terms Taught: Lent/Summer Terms Only
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: You must have undertaken relevant previous studies in Philosophy.

Course Description

The course provides an introduction to formal logic together with an examination of various philosophical issues that arise out of it. The syllabus includes a study of the languages of propositional and quantificational logic, how to formalize key logical concepts within them, and how to prove elementary results using formal techniques. Additional topics include identity, definite descriptions, modal logic and its philosophical significance, and some criticisms of classical logic.

Educational Aims

This module aims to equip students with an understanding of some key issues in philosophical logic and the philosophy of language as determined by the syllabus.

Students will become acquainted with some formal logic, but will not learn in detail how to prove results within formal systems. The emphasis will be on the philosophical implications of logical principles.

Outline Syllabus

  • The languages of propositional and predicate calculi
  • Implication
  • The nature of reference
  • Introduction to modal logic
  • Vagueness
  • Conditional statements
  • The nature of truth

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 40%
  • Exam: 60%

PPR.307: History of Twentieth Century Philosophy

  • Terms Taught: Lent/Summer Terms Only.
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: You must have undertaken relevant previous studies in Philosophy.

Course Description

This course focuses upon some key aspects of the history of Twentieth Century Philosophy. We start off by examining a “revolution” in philosophy at the very start of the C20 with the origins of analytic philosophy. We then focus on Wittgenstein’s radical philosophy (or “anti-philosophy”). Wittgenstein’s own philosophical development brings to the fore a deep schism, or tension, that has existed throughout C20 philosophy: the schism between those who hold that philosophy should align itself with natural science and mathematics, and those who reject this view. We ask whether philosophy should seek to emulate the natural sciences and illustrate the tension between “scientistic” and “humanistic” philosophy via mid-C20 debate about the nature of  historical explanation.  The final two lectures look at the distinction between analytic and continental philosophy in C20, and upon the emergence of applied philosophy in the late C20, asking whether philosophy can ever really be “applied” to real-life problems.

Educational Aims

This module aims to provide students with:

  • a thorough introduction to some of the major philosophical thinkers and issues of the last century, many of which are still of central importance to contemporary philosophy. The focus will be primarily on central developments in the analytic tradition, such as the rise and development of conceptual analysis, but may also offer examination of some of the key movements in continental thought, such as existentialism.
  • the ability to engage in general philosophical methods of critical analysis and the assessment of arguments based on knowledge of these themes and thinkers;increased awareness of how philosophical problems develop and change;
  • deeper appreciation and understanding of the philosophical tradition in relation to broader intellectual currentsof thought;
  • the ability to make connections between different areas of philosophical thought across the 20th century, and in some cases continuing in contemporary philosophy.

Outline Syllabus

This course focuses upon a key C20 philosophical movement?analytic philosophy? some of its main figures, and some key issues.  We will look at the origins of analytic philosophy, upon Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, and upon analytic philosophical disputes about historical explanation.   Wittgenstein provides the central focus of the main part of the term for two broad reasons.  First, he is one of the two "main" thinkers of C20 philosophy (the other being Heidegger), one whose work has been very influential.  Second, Wittgenstein's own philosophical development brings to the fore a deep schism, or tension, that has existed throughout C20 philosophy: the schism between those who hold that philosophy should align itself with natural science and mathematics, and those who reject this view, and hold that philosophy must be part of a humanistic process of reflection upon and interpretation of our conscious, rational, social and historical lives. This tension is particularly apparent in a mid-C20 debate about the nature of  historical explanation.

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 40%
  • Exam: 60%

PPR.312: Seminar in Contemporary Moral Philosophy

  • Terms Taught: Michaelmas Term Only.
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS
  • Pre-requisites: You must have undertaken relevant previous studies in Philosophy.

Course Description

The aim of this module is to develop the skills and virtues of a final-year undergraduate level philosopher and scholar of philosophy, by guided practice in close reading and reasoned discussion of selected works in contemporary moral philosophy.  No attempt at broad survey will be made.  The module will instead be run as a reading group on a small number of high-quality texts.  Seminars will consist of moderated discussion of reading introduced by the tutor or by a student presentation.  Assessment will be by 5,000 word essay on a topic chosen by the individual student and developed in consultation with the tutor.

‘Moral philosophy’ will be understood fairly broadly, as including metaethics, the philosophies of action, selfhood, and agency, and the more normative and/or theoretical parts of political philosophy.  Possible topics, works, debates, and/or figures in contemporary moral philosophy include: wellbeing; value and valuing; personhood/selfhood; practical reason; moral psychology; metaethics; freedom and responsibility; utilitarianism and its critics; virtue ethics and its critics; deontology and its critics; the work of major recent and contemporary figures in moral philosophy, for example Bernard Williams, Martha Nussbaum, Peter Railton, Christine Korsgaard, Philippa Foot, Allan Gibbard, Charles Taylor, Simon Blackburn, Peter Singer or Derek Parfit.

Educational Aims

  • to help students to develop final-year undergraduate level skills in philosophys distinctive styles of reading, discussion, project research, and writing
  • to guide students through selected high-quality texts in contemporary moral philosophy, on topics potentially to include:
  • Well-being
  • Value and valuing
  • Personhood/selfhood
  • Practical reason
  • Moral psychology
  • Meta-ethics
  • Freedom and responsibility
  • Utilitarianism and its critics
  • Virtue Ethics and its critics
  • Deontology and its critics

Outline Syllabus

The aim of this module is to develop the skills and virtues of a final-year undergraduate level philosopher and scholar of philosophy, by guided practice in close reading and reasoned discussion of selected works in contemporary moral philosophy. No attempt at broad survey will be made. The module will instead be run as a reading group on a small number of high-quality texts in 2-hour seminars and without lectures, allowing students active, guided engagement with our texts. Each seminar (apart from the first and perhaps the last) will be a moderated discussion of set reading introduced by the convenor or by a student presentation. Assessment will be by 5,000 word essay on a topic chosen by the individual student and developed in consultation with the convenor. The last seminar of the module may be used for student presentation and discussion of their essay plans.

'Moral philosophy' will be understood fairly broadly, as including meta-ethics, the philosophies of action, personhood, and agency, and the more normative and/or theoretical parts of political philosophy, but as distinct from applied ethics.

Possible topics, works, debates, and/or figures in contemporary moral philosophy include:

  • Well-being
  • Value and valuing
  • Personhood/selfhood
  • Practical reason
  • Moral psychology
  • Meta-ethics
  • Freedom and responsibility
  • Utilitarianism and its critics
  • Virtue Ethics and its critics
  • Deontology and its critics

The work of major recent and contemporary figures in moral philosophy, for example Bernard Williams, Martha Nussbaum, Peter Railton, Christine Korsgaard, Philippa Foot, Allan Gibbard, Charles Taylor, Simon Blackburn, Peter Singer.

Assessment Proportions

Coursework: 100%

PPR.350: Indian Religious and Philosophical Thought

  • Terms Taught: Lent/Summer Terms only.
  • US Credits: 4 semester credits
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS
  • Pre-requisites: You must have undertaken relevant previous studies in Philosophy and/or Religion.

Course Description

This course will introduce major themes and issues in Indian philosophy, focusing on the Hindu and Buddhist philosophical traditions. Beginning with philosophical sections in the Upanishads and the dialogues of the Buddha, the course will trace the development of Indian philosophy from the early to the classical periods. We will cover various ethical, metaphysical, and epistemological concepts, such as: order and virtue (dharma), consequential action (karma), ultimate reality (brahman), the nature of the self (atman), the highest good (moksha), and the means for attaining knowledge (pramana). Throughout we will look at the dialogical relationship between the Hindu and Buddhist philosophical traditions, particularly the shared practice of debate.

Educational Aims

This course aims to provide students with:

  • an in-depth engagement with fundamental ideas and sources of religious and philosophical traditions from India. 
  • the opportunity to gain an understanding about the nature of religious and philosophical thought in an Indian context and how religious and philosophical ideas are intertwined with ideas about politics, society, and gender.
  • the opportunity for students to gain a familiarity with the form and articulation of Asian thought, which often is expressed differently from religious and philosophical thought in Western traditions, and to acquire an understanding of the variety of methods used to approach religious and philosophical sources

Outline Syllabus

This course is an in-depth analysis of a selection of fundamental ideas and texts of the religious and philosophical traditions of India. Each week we will be reading from original sources (all available in English translation), as we explore Indian ideas about the cosmos, the self, the divine, the nature of knowledge, ethics, politics, and the good life. In addition to examining key ideas and texts in their original historical and cultural contexts, we will look at how India religious and philosophical thought has changed through time and how fundamantal concepts have been adapted and re-interpreted by religious and philosophical thinkers in the modern period.

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 40%
  • Exam: 60%

PPR.391h: Philosophies of War and Conflict (Special Subject)

  • Terms Taught: Michaelmas Term Only
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS Credits
  • Pre-requisites: You must have undertaken relevant previous studies in Philosophy

Course Description

This course will examine some of the core philosophical questions raised by warfare and conflict.  We will look at the ethics of war and killing, but also at more neglected philosophical issues in this area, and non-Western approaches as well as classic texts in the Western tradition. 

We will do so by examining some of the central dilemmas faced by soldiers, policy makers and non-combatants, in the form of a weekly question for discussion.  These questions include: Can war be beautiful?  When, if ever, should we go to war?   What counts as legitimate action in war?  What, if anything, do we owe to our enemies?  Is soldiering a good life? What does technological development mean for warfare? What should a responsible citizen do when their country is, or looks about to be, at war?  Who has the epistemic authority to speak about war? Is war always tragic?

Educational Aims

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • Have an understanding of some of the key issues in the philosophy of war and conflict
  • Engage in sustained discussion of philosophical questions in person
  • Critically reflect on your own arguments in response to the readings and group discussions
  • Produce a critical, well-argued and –developed written discussion of a central question of the philosophical implications of war-fighting or the implications of war-fighting for philosophy.

Assessment Proportions

100% coursework

PPR.392a: Future generations

  • Terms Taught: Lent Term Only.
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: You must have undertaken relevant previous studies in Philosophy.

Course Description

What moral obligations do we have towards future generations – to people who are yet to be born, and to merely possible people whose very existence (or non-existence) depends on how we act now? PPR392a Future Generations explores this question by examining both a series of practical case studies and some of the main concepts and theories that philosophers use when thinking about these issues.  Questions considered normally include –

  • How should we weigh quality against quantity of life? Would a world with a relatively small number of ‘happier’ people preferable to one with many more ‘less happy’ ones?
  • Ought we to try significantly to extend the human life span (to 150 years or beyond)?
  • Is there a moral obligation to refrain from having children (e.g. for environmental reasons) and what measures may governments take to encourage or enforce population control? Conversely, might there be a moral obligation to have (more) children?
  • Should we use selection techniques to minimise the incidence of genetic disorders and disabilities in future populations
  • Should parents be allowed to use these techniques to determine the characteristics of their future children (e.g. choosing their child’s eye or hair colour, or sex selection)?
  • When considering the future, how should the interests of non-human creatures be weighed against those of humans? How strong are our moral obligations to prevent extinctions, and to preserve wildernesses?
  • When considering long-term environmental issues (e.g. climate change, nuclear power) and long-term financial issues (e.g. national debt and pensions) how should we balance the interests and rights of people who exist now against those of future people?

Educational Aims

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • give a sustained critical discussion of at least one substantial theme or line of argument that is in part or whole constitutive of the chosen topic;
  • use the resources of small study group to develop their own critical thinking
  • In addition, the module aims to develop students’ oral presentation skills. 

Assessment Proportions

  • Dissertation: 100%

PPR.392d: Special Subject: The Imagination

  • Terms Taught: Lent Term Only.
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS
  • Pre-requisites: You must have undertaken relevant previous studies in Philosophy.

Course Description

This course will examine philosophical accounts of the imagination. We will look at theories of the nature of the imagination and its connections to other mental states, such as attention, emotion, memory, beliefs, intentions, and desires.  In addition, a range of topics focussing on the role of imagining in a number of different domains will also be explored, including moral judgement, practical reasoning, perception, pictorial experience, and modal thought.

Educational Aims

The module aims to take participants' knowledge of philosophy and skills in philosophising to advanced levels. In particular, to give participants advanced knowledge and understanding of a particular philosophical topic experience of close philosophical study, led by a tutor who has an active research interest in the topic being considered. The seminars will also give students the experience of how to benefit from working in a small study group.

Assessment Proportions

  • Dissertation: 100%

PPR.392f: Feminist Philosophy

  • Terms Taught: Michaelmas Term
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS
  • Pre-requisites: You must have undertaken relevant previous studies in Philosophy.

Course Description

This course provides an introduction to key debates in feminist philosophy.  We focus on the work of three philosophers, Simone de Beauvoir, Luce Irigaray, and Judith Butler, who represent different directions in feminist thought.  Should women and men be treated equally (Beauvoir’s view)?  Should the difference between women and men be recognised and valued (Irigaray’s view)?  Or would it be best to break down the division of humanity into two genders altogether (Butler’s view)?

Educational Aims

The module aims to take participants' knowledge of feminist philosophy and skills in philosophising to advanced levels, led by a tutor who has an active research interest in the topic being considered. The seminars will also give students the experience of how to benefit from working in a small study group

Outline Syllabus

Special Subject classes run as seminars: the tutor convenes the group and suggests reading but does not lecture. Students are required to attend special subject seminars regularly. Each seminar group member takes their turn in making a presentation to the seminar, and it is the presentation that forms the basis for the seminar discussion. It also forms the basis for the submitted written coursework. This particular special subject focuses on feminist philosophy.

The aims are to take participants' knowledge of feminist philosophy and skills in philosophising to advanced levels, led by a tutor who has an active research interest in the topic being considered. The seminars will also give students the experience of how to benefit from working in a small study group.

Assessment Proportions

Dissertation: 100%

PPR.392h: Reading Philosophy in Progress: Autobiography, Narrative, Self-Knowledge, and Self-Realization (Special Subject)

  • Terms Taught: Michaelmas Term
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS credits
  • Pre-requisites: You must have undertaken relevant previous studies in Philosophy

Course Description

I am currently finishing a book under the working title Good Lives. Prospectus:

Reading autobiographies is a way to self-knowledge. We can learn about ourselves, as human beings and as individuals, by thinking through this distinctive kind of text. Reading and thinking through John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography is a way of learning about the nature of the good life, and the roles that pleasure and self-expression can play in it. Reading and thinking though Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs is a way of learning about the transformative power of experience, and the resulting disunity of human lives over time. Put that way the point may seem obvious, but it raises interesting philosophical questions. What is an autobiography? How can we gain self-knowledge from reading one? What should we learn, about what particular subjects? Given that autobiographies are narratives, should we learn something about the importance of narrative in human life? Could our narrations of our own lives make them good, unified, meaningful? Could it make the self? What is the self, and what is its good? In response, I read selected autobiographies as and with philosophy, and develop: an account of autobiography and of how to reason with autobiographies; a critique of narrative in human life; a pluralist and realist account of self-knowledge; an account of the self as unchosen, seedlike, and initially opaque; and a self-realization account of the good. We will read the book draft together, and discuss its arguments and topics.

Educational Aims

By the end of the module, you should be able to:

  • Give a sustained critical discussion of at least one substantial theme or line of argument in the book draft, or in one of the philosophical topics it addresses.
  • Deploy your own developed grasp of philosophy’s distinctive modes of reading, thinking, talking, and writing.

Assessment Proportions

100% Coursework