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PH453M: FREE WILL AND MORAL RESPONSIBILITY (2018-2019)

Last modified: 22 May 2019 17:07


Course Overview

It seems obvious that many choices you make are entirely up to you. 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?   Download Course Guide

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 4
Session Second Sub Session Credit Points 30 credits (15 ECTS credits)
Campus None. Sustained Study No
Co-ordinators
  • Dr Stephan Torre

Qualification Prerequisites

  • Either Programme Level 3 or Programme Level 4

What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Programme Level 4
  • Any Undergraduate Programme (Studied)

What other courses must be taken with this course?

None.

What courses cannot be taken with this course?

None.

Are there a limited number of places available?

No

Course Description

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 are nothing over and above the physical universe, subject to the same laws of nature that govern colliding billiard balls and decaying fruit. But if this is so, how can our 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 our choices and actions are outside of our control, then it seems that we ought not blame murderers or praise philanthropists for their actions. In this course, we will examine these questions and the main philosophical debates in free will, determinism, indeterminism, and moral responsibility. Some topics to be covered include the consequence argument, compatibilism, illusionism, indeterministic accounts of free will, Frankfurt cases and moral luck. We will also look at some recent results from neuroscience and assess their philosophical import for the free will debate. The reading will include works from A J Ayer, Laura Eckstrom, Roderick Chisholm, Daniel Dennett, Harry Frankfurt, Jennan Ismael, Robert Kane, Benjamin Libet, Daniel Wagner, and Peter van Inwagen.


Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

More Information about Week Numbers


Summative Assessments

1st Attempt: two 3500-word essays (90%) plus seminar presentation (10%). No resit. In line with School Policy, failure to submit a component piece of assessed work, or submitting a token piece, will result in the withdrawal of the class certificate (students are not eligible for resit). If a component piece of assessed work is submitted and marked 0-5, students cannot pass the course on the first attempt. The student is automatically entitled to resit, and must resit in order to pass the course.

Formative Assessment

Feedback on essays; individually arranged conversations during office hours/by appointment; feedback on in-class presentations

Feedback

Written on essay and marking sheet; office hours/appointment; peer questions and comments during in-class presentations

Course Learning Outcomes

None.

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