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Undergraduate Philosophy 2015-2016

PH1023: EXPERIENCE, KNOWLEDGE AND REALITY

15 credits

Level 1

First Sub Session

How “real” is reality? Where does knowledge come from? How does the mind relate to the world? This course introduces two approaches to answering these questions: rationalism and empiricism. Through reading Rene Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, we learn about Descartes’ rationalist approach to knowledge, reality, mind-body dualism, and God’s necessary existence. Through David Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding we see how Hume grounds knowledge in experience. We read Hume on impressions and ideas, induction, causality, and miracles. We critically compare and examine Descartes’ and Hume’s arguments by drawing on their readers and critics. 

PH1027: CONTROVERSIAL QUESTIONS

15 credits

Level 1

First Sub Session

Watch this course video! We examine questions such as: Is eating animals immoral? Is being a good or bad person a matter of luck? If so, are we justified in punishing bad people? Should anyone be able to set limits on what you can do with your own body, even if it’s ‘for your own good’? Should everyone be allowed to state their mind, even if their views are harmful or offensive? Is censorship ever justifiable? Do you have a moral obligation to help those who are worse-off than you? Are you unknowingly biased against underprivileged groups?

PH1522: HOW SHOULD ONE LIVE?

15 credits

Level 1

Second Sub Session

Why do the morally right thing when you have so much more to gain by doing evil and know you could get away with it? Should you save five lives even if this requires you to kill someone in exchange for them? Would you lie on the witness stand to protect your guilty mother from a life in prison? We will read and discuss responses to these questions that have been presented in both historical and contemporary texts, including those by Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Kant, John Stuart Mill, Bernard Williams, Judith Thomson, Shelly Kagan, and T.M. Scanlon. 

PH1525: SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY I

15 credits

Level 1

Second Sub Session

Scientific research appears to be a particularly effective and reliable way of gaining empirical knowledge. Science is often portrayed as an essentially rational enterprise in which as yet unproven hypotheses are put to rigorous tests by means of systematic observations and sophisticated experiments. But are the sciences really accumulating knowledge about natural processes according to a uniform scientific method? Or are scientists inevitably bound by paradigms, ways of thinking and doing that constrain what they research and how they interpret the data? These are two of the question we will explore in this course. 

PH201B: WHAT WE ARE: MIND IN A PHYSICAL WORLD

15 credits

Level 2

First Sub Session

In this course we will explore a series of arguments which suggest that it is hard to fit the mind into the physical world. In particular, we will focus on three topics: the Mind/Body Problem, Free Will and Determinism, and Personal Identity. Each topic starts with an argument which suggests that we are not merely physical entities like brains, the central nervous system or other biological entities. Taken together, these arguments offer a serious challenge to the view that we can explain human cognition in terms of the physical characteristics of human brains and bodies.

PH2033: SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY 2

15 credits

Level 2

First Sub Session

This course introduces students to selected topics in general philosophy of science and in the philosophy of the special sciences. Here are some of the questions we will consider: Do we have reasons to believe that our best confirmed scientific theories are true? Do theoretical entities like electrons exist or are they conceptual tools for research? Are scientific explanations in some sense 'objective' or do they merely provide us with a warm feeling of understanding? What makes a scientific explanation good or bad? Among the special sciences, we will explore topics in physics, chemistry, the life sciences, and psychology. 

PH2529: LIFE, DEATH AND MEANING

15 credits

Level 2

Second Sub Session

Watch the course video! This is a topic-driven course on which we critically explore questions relating to the meaning and value of life. These topics will include: God, suffering, absurdity and death. In doing so we will draw upon a wide range of thinkers from both Anglo-American and European traditions, and also, where relevant, on literature and film. Specific topics will change from year to year (see below for details). This course does not presuppose any previous philosophical knowledge; it is open to all interested students!

PH2531: THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE

15 credits

Level 2

Second Sub Session

Have you ever wondered if, like characters in the movie The Matrix, you might be the victim of a massive illusion, that the world around you is nothing like it appears? In this course we systematically investigate questions of this type and, more generally, questions about nature of knowledge and related notions (such as epistemic justification and evidence)​. This investigation will lead to some surprising and potentially disturbing, results.​ This is a foundational course in epistemology (philosophy of knowledge) that provides a critical survey of theses, problems and issues that have discussed in this field in the last 50 years.​  

PH2535: GENDER EQUALITY

15 credits

Level 2

Second Sub Session

Watch this course video!

In recent times equality among genders has attracted increasing attention. This is no longer a matter of concern to a fringe movement, but a central issue to contemporary society. In this course we will examine some of the crucial issues in the debate and assess the merits of key arguments. The topics we’ll discuss include the ‘glass ceiling’ (i.e. pay inequality), the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and popular culture, harassment, pornography, and the objectification of women.

PH303Z: PHILOSOPHY OF TIME (30 CREDITS)

30 credits

Level 3

First Sub Session

How does time feature in the physical description of the world, and how does this description relate to how time appears to us? Among other things, this course will look at how time is defined and used in the physics from Aristotle to Einstein, at the experience of a 'flow' of time, at time travel, at why Champagne corks pop but not 'unpop', and at whether one could causally affect the past.

PH3094: RESEARCH RELATED SUBJECT 1

30 credits

Level 3

First Sub Session

We'll discuss the later work of one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century: Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951). In the first half of the course we'll focus on selected passages from Philosophical Investigations, in which Wittgenstein undermines many of our opinions and theories regarding meaning and language, self-knowledge and action. In the second half of the course we'll turn our attention to developments and applications of Wittgenstein’s later work specifically, in relation to religious belief and certainty. Key primary texts we'll look at are ‘Lectures on Religious Belief’, ‘Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough’, Culture and Value and On Certainty

PH30ZT: HUME ON KNOWLEDGE

15 credits

Level 3

First Sub Session

This course focuses on David Hume's 'An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding' (1748/1777). This important text continues to exert a strong influence in contemporary metaphysics, epistemology and philosophy of mind. Topics covered will include: the mind-world relation and the nature of thought; the nature of causation and causal explanation; free will and determinism; the Design Argument for the existence of God; the nature of objectivity. Classroom sessions involve both lecture-style teaching and student-led group work.

PH352F: INDEPENDENT STUDY

30 credits

Level 3

Second Sub Session

Each student will choose a specific topic of interest to them. (These choices will be confirmed by / negotiated with the department). With supervision and direction from elected supervisors, the student will produce an extended essay of 5,000 words.

PH352G: GLOBAL JUSTICE

15 credits

Level 3

Second Sub Session

Do citizens in developed countries, like the UK, have a demanding moral duty to help needy people in developing countries? Is there anything wrong with showing a bias towards our own less needy family and fellow citizens? How much should be done to limit climate change and how should the burdens of this effort be divided among different countries? What responsibilities, if any, do we have to future generations? When, if ever, is war justified and what conduct in war is morally acceptable? In responding to these questions, we will attempt to develop an account of what international justice requires

PH353M: FREE WILL AND MORAL RESPONSIBILITY

30 credits

Level 3

Second Sub Session

It seems obvious that many choices you make are entirely up to you: you freely choose what to do this evening. But according to an attractive and currently popular view, we're nothing over and above the physical universe, subject to same laws of nature that govern colliding billiard balls and decaying fruit. But if this is so, how can our actions and decisions be entirely up to us? Aren’t they the result of a string of complex physical, chemical and biological reactions that are outside of our control? If so, then why should we be praised or blamed for them?

PH353Y: PHILOSOPHY OF BIOLOGY

30 credits

Level 3

Second Sub Session

Over the last decades philosophy of biology has matured into a dynamic field of philosophical inquiry. Apart from reflecting on specific findings and controversies within the life sciences, such inquiry can shed light on debates in general philosophy of science and philosophy of mind. This course examines both classical topics and more recent developments. It will address questions such as: Do genes really carry information or is this just a metaphor? What does it mean to say that the function of the heart is to pump blood? Are biological species natural kinds? Do animals have beliefs and desires? 

PH35ZR: ADVANCED LOGIC

30 credits

Level 3

Second Sub Session

In Reason & Argument, you learnt about logic with the aim of building skills to enhance your reasoning by applying logical techniques to language and argument. This course has a very different goal. Rather than applying reason and logic to problems in general, we are going to make reason itself the object of our investigation. The course is mainly concerned with one problem: how powerful is reason? What can we expect from it and what are its limitations? This leads us to two of the most important results in twentieth century logic: completeness theorem and Gödel’s incompleteness theorem

PH35ZU: HUME ON MORALITY

15 credits

Level 3

Second Sub Session

This course focuses on David Hume’s 'An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals' (1751/1777). Hume’s work exerts a strong influence in contemporary ethics and related disciplines (e.g. philosophy of action, the free will debate, etc.). Topics covered will include: how moral reasoning works; the possibility of free will and its relation to moral responsibility; subjectivism and relativism about morality. Classroom sessions involve both lecture-style teaching and student-led group work.

PH4004: RESEARCH RELATED SPECIAL SUBJECT 1

15 credits

Level 4

First Sub Session

Research Related Subject 1- Aesthetics. This introduction to Aesthetics offers an overview of the birth of modern aesthetics and, at the same time, an exposition of some basic concepts and problems of modern aesthetic thinking which have preserved their significance in the contemporary discourse of criticism and art theory, too. The discussed historic period ranges from cca. 1650 to 1800; the central theoretical problems include taste and aesthetic experience; the beautiful, the je-ne-sais-quoi, and the sublime; nature, art, and the landscape garden; the versions of the imagination; wit and humour, etc

PH402D: PHILOSOPHY DISSERTATION

30 credits

Level 4

Both Sessions

The dissertation is on a topic in philosophy. The specific topic will be chosen by the student with the approval of the supervisor. The choice of topics is restricted insofar as it must fall within the teaching competence of the supervisor.

PH404B: SCEPTICISM

15 credits

Level 4

First Sub Session

This advanced course in episte​mology focuses on the recent philosophical debate on scepticism. We will single out prominent forms of scepticism and explore attempts to respond to them. The emphasis will be on external world scepticism and responses to it. The course doesn't aim to reject scepticism. Its function is rather that of illuminating and critically discussing problems affecting our most basic theses, notions and intuitions in epistemology through the analysis of sceptical arguments.

PH404Z: PHILOSOPHY OF TIME

30 credits

Level 4

First Sub Session

How does time feature in the physical description of the world, and how does this description relate to how time appears to us? Among other things, this course will look at how time is defined and used in the physics from Aristotle to Einstein, at the experience of a 'flow' of time, at time travel, at why Champagne corks pop but not 'unpop', and at whether one could causally affect the past.

PH4057: CURRENT ISSUES IN EPISTEMOLOGY

15 credits

Level 4

First Sub Session

This is an advanced course in epistemology that offers a critical overview of hot issues currently debated in various branches of epistemology, including general epistemology of justification, epistemology of perception, social epistemology and epistemology of modalities.

PH4094: RESEARCH RELATED SUBJECT 1

30 credits

Level 4

First Sub Session

We'll discuss the later work of one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century: Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951). In the first half of the course we'll focus on selected passages from Philosophical Investigations, in which Wittgenstein undermines many of our opinions and theories regarding meaning and language, self-knowledge and action. In the second half of the course we'll turn our attention to developments and applications of Wittgenstein’s later work specifically, in relation to religious belief and certainty. Key primary texts we'll look at are ‘Lectures on Religious Belief’, ‘Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough’, Culture and Value and On Certainty.

PH452F: RESEARCH RELATED SPECIAL SUBJECT 2

15 credits

Level 4

Second Sub Session

Research Related Special Subject 2 (Kripke's Naming & Necessity). Close study of Saul Kripke’s Naming and Necessity (1972) serves as an ideal introduction to many contemporary debates in analytic philosophy. We will concentrate in particular on Kripke’s work in philosophy of language and metaphysics. Kripke’s work sets the agenda for a variety of debates in these areas. In philosophy of language, we will focus on what he has to say about the nature of reference, meaning and truth. In metaphysics, we will focus on what he has to say about the nature of possible but non-actual states of affairs. 

PH453M: FREE WILL AND MORAL RESPONSIBILITY

30 credits

Level 4

Second Sub Session

It seems obvious that many choices you make are entirely up to you: you freely choose what to do this evening. But according to an attractive and currently popular view, we're nothing over and above the physical universe, subject to same laws of nature that govern colliding billiard balls and decaying fruit. But if this is so, how can our actions and decisions be entirely up to us? Aren’t they the result of a string of complex physical, chemical and biological reactions that are outside of our control? If so, then why should we be praised or blamed for them?

PH453Y: PHILOSOPHY OF BIOLOGY

30 credits

Level 4

Second Sub Session

Over the last decades philosophy of biology has matured into a dynamic field of philosophical inquiry. Apart from reflecting on specific findings and controversies within the life sciences, such inquiry can shed light on debates in general philosophy of science and philosophy of mind. This course examines both classical topics and more recent developments. It will address questions such as: Do genes really carry information or is this just a metaphor? What does it mean to say that the function of the heart is to pump blood? Are biological species natural kinds? Do animals have beliefs and desires? 

PH45AV: ANCIENT ETHICS

15 credits

Level 4

Second Sub Session

Do we always have an overriding reason to be moral? Would we have such a reason if we were guaranteed that we could get away with doing evil? What is the difference between a good and a bad person? What is the difference between a good and a bad life? How important is pleasure to happiness? To what extent is our happiness up to us? What is the relationship between virtue and happiness? Can virtue be taught? This course will attempt to address these questions through close-reading and discussion of responses offered by three philosophical giants: Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato

PH45ZR: ADVANCED LOGIC

30 credits

Level 4

Second Sub Session

In Reason & Argument, you learnt about logic with the aim of building skills to enhance your reasoning by applying logical techniques to language and argument. This course has a very different goal. Rather than applying reason and logic to problems in general, we are going to make reason itself the object of our investigation. The course is mainly concerned with one problem: how powerful is reason? What can we expect from it and what are its limitations? This leads us to two of the most important results in twentieth century logic: completeness theorem and Gödel’s incompleteness theorem

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