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:
    • Full Year Course
    • 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.
  • Pre-requisites: None

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.
  • Pre-requisites: None

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 may 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.206: Values and Objectivity

  • 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 course covers core theoretical questions surrounding the nature and status of normative claims: those involving moral, political, or other values. We explore the whether normative claims admit of truth or falsity, or whether they are merely expressions of preference: whether such claims can be objectively warranted, or are ultimately ‘subjective’.

Themes to be treated include: the meaning of words such as ‘ought’ and ‘good’; the relationship between values and facts; the Frege-Geach problem; the place of motivation in value judgments. Key ‘metaethical’ theories, such as naturalistic and non-naturalistic realism, emotivism and prescriptivism, will be outlined and explored.

Educational Aims

The module aims to develop:

  • An understanding of the nature of value claims.
  • An understanding of what it might mean to regard value claims as either ‘subjective’ or ‘objective’.
  • An understanding of the costs and benefits of regarding value claims as truth-apt/non-truth-apt.
  • A familiarity with debates within contemporary metaethics.

Outline Syllabus

This course covers core theoretical questions surrounding the nature and status of normative claims: those involving moral, political, or other values. We explore the whether normative claims admit of truth or falsity, or whether they are merely expressions of preference: whether such claims can be objectively warranted, or are ultimately ‘subjective’.

Themes to be treated include: the meaning of words such as ‘ought’ and ‘good’; the relationship between values and facts; the Frege-Geach problem; the place of motivation in value judgments. Key ‘metaethical’ theories, such as naturalistic and non-naturalistic realism, emotivism and prescriptivism, will be outlined and explored.

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 40%
  • Exam: 60%

PPR.207: Moral Philosophy

  • 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

Moral philosophy is the systematic theoretical study of morality or ethical life: what we ought to do, what we ought to be, what has value or is good. This module engages in this practice by critical investigation of some of the following topics, debates, and figures: value and valuing; personhood/selfhood; practical reason; moral psychology; freedom, agency, and responsibility; utilitarianism and its critics; virtue ethics and its critics; deontology and its critics; contractarianism and its critics; the nature of the good life; the source and nature of rights; the nature of justice; major recent and contemporary figures such as Bernard Williams, Martha Nussbaum, Peter Railton, Christine Korsgaard, Philippa Foot, Allan Gibbard, Simon Blackburn; major historical figures such as Aristotle, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, G. E. Moore.

Educational Aims

This module aims to to develop:

  • An understanding of various historical and contemporary approaches to moral philosophy
  • The ability to engage in informed argument about key topics in moral philosophy.

Outline Syllabus

Moral philosophy is the systematic theoretical study of morality or ethical life: what we ought to do, what we ought to be, what has value or is good. This module engages in this practice by critical investigation of some of the following topics:

  • Debates, and figures: value and valuing
  • Personhood/selfhood
  • Practical reason
  • Moral psychology
  • Freedom, agency, and responsibility
  • Utilitarianism and its critics; virtue ethics and its critics
  • Deontology and its critics
  • Contractarianism and its critics
  • The nature of the good life
  • The source and nature of rights
  • The nature of justice
  • Major recent and contemporary figures such as Bernard Williams, Martha Nussbaum, Peter Railton, Christine Korsgaard, Philippa Foot, Allan Gibbard, Simon Blackburn
  • Major historical figures such as Aristotle, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, G. E. Moore.

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 40%
  • Exam: 60%

PPR.208: Mind-Body Problem

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

Course Description

In this module we will be looking at a variety of views about the nature of mind and mental phenomena and how they fit into the natural world. We begin with the classic Cartesian account of mind: substance dualism. We then turn to current behaviourist, materialist, and functionalist theories of mind. Some of the larger questions we will be considering are: How are behaviour and mental states related to each other? Are minds really just brains? Or are minds more like computers? Next we consider three of the most perplexing problems about the nature of mind, currently occupying philosophers. How do our thoughts manage to reach out to reality and be about anything, especially when many of the things we think about don’t exist? Do mental states have causal powers of their own or do they somehow inherit them from the causal powers of brains? And finally, can we explain the mystery of consciousness?

Educational Aims

Students who pass this module should be able to:

  • Critically assess various accounts of the mind: substance dualism, behaviourism, type and token identity theories, functionalism, and anomalous monism
  • Understand why key features of the mental, such as consciousness and intentionality, are philosophically problematic
  • Understand and be able to apply key concepts that are used in the philosophy of mind – e.g., “supervenience”, “reduction”, “materialism”, “intentionality”, “qualia”, “identity”, and others
  • Construct and critically analyse philosophical arguments and positions
  • Interpret and evaluate complex philosophical texts

Outline Syllabus

In this module we will be looking at a variety of views about the nature of mind and mental phenomena and how they fit into the natural world. We begin with the classic Cartesian account of mind: substance dualism. We then turn to current behaviourist, materialist, and functionalist theories of mind. Some of the larger questions we will be considering are:

  • How are behaviour and mental states related to each other?
  • Are minds really just brains? Or are minds more like computers?

Next we consider three of the most perplexing problems about the nature of mind, currently occupying philosophers.

  • How do our thoughts manage to reach out to reality and be about anything, especially when many of the things we think about don’t exist?
  • Do mental states have causal powers of their own or do they somehow inherit them from the causal powers of brains? and finally,
  • Can we explain the mystery of consciousness?

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 40%
  • Exam: 60%

PPR.210: Philosophy of Science

  • 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 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

Our aim in this module is to consider some of the big philosophical questions underlying social sciences. Economics and politics raise both deep philosophical questions about society and subjectivity – for example: Who gets what? Who rules whom? Who, or what, decides? In this module we will investigate a variety of methods that attempt to address these questions, and what answers might be possible. In sum, the aim is to examine methods and assumptions across central movements in the social sciences, politics and economics, from a philosophical perspective – to see the troubles and possibilities in each.

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

Our aim in this module is to consider some of the big philosophical questions underlying social sciences. Economics and politics raise both deep philosophical questions about society and subjectivity – for example: Who gets what? Who rules whom? Who, or what, decides? In this module we will investigate a variety of methods that attempt to address these questions, and what answers might be possible. In sum, the aim is to examine methods and assumptions across central movements in the social sciences, politics and economics, from a philosophical perspective – to see the troubles and possibilities in each.

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.214: Nineteenth-Century Philosophy

  • 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 covers nineteenth-century philosophy, a crucial period in several ways: there was a new attention to history and the relation between philosophy and history; there was the rise of socialism and its impact on philosophy; and there were philosophical criticisms of Christianity, which were met by explicit defences of Christianity by some philosophers. We explore these issues through the work of four figures in nineteenth-century philosophy: Hegel, Feuerbach, Marx, and Kierkegaard.

Educational Aims

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

  • Discuss the philosophical questions raised by some key authors of the nineteenth century;
  • Discuss the work of these authors and interpretations of their work in a balanced and well-informed way;
  • Formulate their own opinions on the questions and arguments covered in the period, while appreciating the reasons that may be offered for different or opposing points of view.

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 40%
  • Exam: 60%

PPR.215: Issues in Contemporary Political Philosophy

  • 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 module will consider major issues currently being debated by political philosophers and political theorists. Specific topics may change from year to year, but issues covered will include some of the following:

  • State power and citizens’ obligations
  • Equality between social groups
  • Material equality
  • Environmental politics
  • Public goods and state action
  • Politics and regulation of business activity
  • Global justice

Educational Aims

Students who pass this module should be able to

  • Evaluate complex issues in a critical and reflective manner;
  • Compare and contrast differing arguments and assess their validity;
  • Communicate their conclusions clearly in non-specialist language;
  • Analyse difficult debates and assess the merits of competing views.

Outline Syllabus

This module will consider major issues currently being debated by political philosophers and political theorists. Specific topics may change from year to year, but issues covered will include some of the following:

  • State power and citizens’ obligations
  • Equality between social groups
  • Material equality
  • Environmental politics
  • Public goods and state action
  • Politics and regulation of business activity
  • Global justice

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 40%
  • Exam: 60%

PPR.218: Knowing Well: The Ethics and Politics of Knowledge

  • Terms Taught: Michaelmas Term only
  • US Credits: 4 US 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 begin 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.

Assessment Proportions

Coursework: 40% Exam: 60%

PPR.260: Indian Philosophical and Religious Thought

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

Course Description

This module is a study of fundamental ideas and texts of the classical philosophical and religious traditions of India. The topics covered will include the origins and nature of inquiry and the evolution of a tradition of epistemology, debates about the nature and existence of the self, questions about the nature of ethics and ethical dilemmas, competing theories of the nature of reality, and the existence and nature of the divine. The aim is to introduce students to some of the varied intellectual debates from Indian traditions, and widen their understanding of the nature of religious and philosophical thought. Discussions will proceed through reading passages from key texts in translation.

Educational Aims

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

  • Consider one's own cultural modes of thinking more self-reflectively
  • Engage in the world with more awareness of the complexity and diversity of different cultures
  • Think critically and creatively
  • Demonstrate written and verbal communication skills in coursework, exam and seminar discussions

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 40%
  • Exam: 60%

PPR.301: Philosophy of Art

  • 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 nature) and by examining the theories of major figures who have contributed to the tradition of philosophical aesthetics. The course uses concrete examples from most 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.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: 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 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: Transformations and Revolutions in 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.351: Modern Religious and Atheistic Thought

  • 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 and/or Religion.

Course Description

The aim of this course is to examine and evaluate some of the most central issues in Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment Western religious and atheistic philosophical debates. The course will begin by looking the philosophy of G. W. F. Hegel and its implications for subsequent religious and atheistic thought. It will then proceed to consider the thought of the post-Hegelian ‘masters of suspicion’: Feuerbach, Marx, Freud and Nietzsche. After this, it will look at ways in which religious and atheistic thought have been brought together, as manifested in various forms of ‘Christian atheism.’ Finally, it will consider postmodern critiques of modern atheism and the nature of the associated ‘return of religion.’

Educational Aims

The aim of this course is to help students:

  • Examine and evaluate some of the most central issues in Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment Western religious and atheistic philosophical debates. After preliminary consideration of what is meant by modernity, religion and atheism, the course provides an introduction to the thought of some central Enlightenment philosophers, particularly Hegel and Nietzsche, and the implications of their thought for religious questions.
  • Look at the ways in which religious and atheistic thought have interacted with each other, particularly in studies of the death of God and the emergence of various forms of Christian atheism.
  • Consider postmodern and religious critiques of modernity and the Enlightenment.

Outline Syllabus

The course will examine some of the major debates in religious and atheistic thought, looking in particular at the way in which these debates are framed in a specifically modern epistemological framework, and the ways in which religious thought and atheistic thought might be though to be mutually constitutive and mutually implicated rather than simply oppositional. The syllabus will include the following topics:

  • Hegel - his notion of the 'death of God' and his disputed status as a religious or atheistic thinker
  • The post-Hegelian 'masters of suspicion': one or two of Feuerbach, Marx, Durkheim, Freud
  • Nietzsche - especially his notion of the 'death of God' and its subsequent reception
  • 'Christian Atheism' - particularly the work of Thomas J J Altizer and/or Don Cupitt
  • Between Theism and Atheism - particularly the work of Mark C Taylor and/or John D Caputo
  • After Atheism: The 'Radical Orthodoxy' of John Milbank

Assessment Proportions

  • Coursework: 40%
  • Exam: 60%

PPR.391c: Philosophy of Medicine

  • 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

Are psychopaths evil or sick? Should the NHS pay for the treatment of nicotine addiction? Is it right for shy people to take character-altering drugs? Whether a condition is considered a disease often has social, economic and ethical implications. It tends to be taken for granted that what it is to be “ healthy” can be identified and is desirable. Similarly, it is assumed that those who are diseased or disabled can be diagnosed and require help. In this module we question these assumptions via examining the key concepts of normality, disease, illness, mental illness, and disability.

Educational Aims

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

  • give a sustained critical discussion of 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

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. In recent years, special subjects have included Philosophy, Politics and Economics; Hannah Arendt; Leibniz; feminist ethics; Aesthetics; Nietzsche.

Assessment Proportions

  • Dissertation: 100%

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 be 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.392c: The Ethics and Politics of Communication

  • Terms Taught: Lent/Summer Terms only
  • Also Available: This module is only available in Lent term.
  • US Credits: 4 Semester Credits.
  • ECTS Credits: 8 ECTS Credits.
  • Pre-requisites: You must have undertaken relevant previous studies in Philosophy.

Course Description

The Special Subject classes run as seminars, the tutor convenes the group and suggests readings but does not lecture. You are required to attend special subject seminars on a weekly basis. 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.

Educational Aims

These Seminar options are mounted specifically to provide work at an advanced level for third year single and combined major students. 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. In recent years, special subjects have included Philosophy, Politics and Economics; Hannah Arendt; Leibniz; feminist ethics; Aesthetics; Nietzsche.

The aims are 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
  • 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)?

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.

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.

Assessment Proportions

  • Dissertation: 100%