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Undergraduate Philosophy 2022-2023

PH1023: EXPERIENCE, KNOWLEDGE AND REALITY

15 credits

Level 1

First Sub Session

How “real” is reality? How does the mind relate to the world? This course introduces two approaches to answering these questions: rationalism and empiricism. By 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 see how Hume grounds knowledge in experience. We read Hume on impressions and ideas, induction, causality, miracles and critically compare and examine Descartes’ and Hume’s arguments by drawing on readers and critics.

PH1027: CONTROVERSIAL QUESTIONS

15 credits

Level 1

First Sub Session

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 worse-off? Are you unknowingly biased against underprivileged groups?

PH1518: LOGIC AND ARGUMENT

15 credits

Level 1

Second Sub Session

What makes an argument a good argument? What are the correct rules for reasoning? How do the meanings of sentences relate to each other? How can the tools of logic be used in philosophy?

This course provides an introduction to logic and tools for successfully evaluating arguments. Some of the topics covered include validity, soundness, consistency, entailment, provability, quantification, and identity. Two formal languages are introduced, the language of sentential logic and the language of quantified logic. The course develops the ability to symbolise English sentences into formal languages and to complete proofs in Natural Deduction. Logical concepts are applied to issues in philosophy of language, metaphysics, as well as philosophical puzzles and paradoxes.

PH1522: HOW SHOULD ONE LIVE?

15 credits

Level 1

Second Sub Session

What are the key elements of a good life? Freedom, happiness, acting in our own interests, doing good for others, or following moral laws? Philosophers have asked these questions for millennia, generating a large number of answers and a larger number of further questions. In this course, we will read and discuss theories of ethics from a range of times and cultures. We will read some of the most important works in the history of philosophy from Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, Kant, and Mill, before turning to contemporary approaches including feminist ethics and virtue ethics. Throughout, we will consider and discuss our own views about the values of good and bad, right and wrong, and how to live a good life.

PH201B: WHAT WE ARE: MIND IN A PHYSICAL WORLD

15 credits

Level 2

First Sub Session

Watch the course video! In this course we explore a series of arguments which suggest that it is hard to fit the mind into the physical world. In particular, we 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. 

PH201C: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

15 credits

Level 2

First Sub Session

What (if any) forms of government are legitimate? What, if anything, grants legitimacy to the state to limit the freedoms of its citizens through its laws? What makes tyranny worse than democracy? Is our current system of government indeed the best possible one, or are there better alternatives?

This course addresses questions in political philosophy and explores central concepts such as freedom, equality and democracy by providing students with a (non-exhaustive) overview of key theories and principles in political philosophy. The course will encourage students to apply these theories to contemporary concrete political issues and problems. Topics to be examined may include: ancient Greek democracy, tyranny, social contract theory, liberalism, Marxism, libertarianism, feminist political philosophy, non-Western political philosophy, anarchism, and resistance.

PH2532: DOING BAD THINGS WITH WORDS: PHILOSOPHY AND HARMFUL SPEECH

15 credits

Level 2

Second Sub Session

In this course you will learn about recent research in which tools and methods developed in Philosophy of Language and Linguistics are applied to imperfect or ‘bad’ language use—e.g. lying, bullshitting, silencing, harmful speech, confusion over consent (or the lack thereof), etc. Students will learn about key theories in these areas, apply them to real life case, and reflect on how such ‘bad language’ should be managed, if at all.

PH2540: METAPHYSICS AND EPISTEMOLOGY

15 credits

Level 2

Second Sub Session

This course provides students with an introduction to central issues in metaphysics and epistemology. The emphasis is on introducing some of the central issues in these areas; issues that have shaped the contemporary debate.  In addition to introducing a number of central issues in metaphysics and epistemology, this course also teaches and further develops a number of essential skills including extracting and evaluating philosophical arguments, critical writing, and the application of logical concepts to philosophical problems. 

PH303M: FREE WILL AND MORAL RESPONSIBILITY

30 credits

Level 3

First Sub Session

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? For further details see the course guide.

PH304T: DEMOCRACY & LEGITIMACY

30 credits

Level 3

First Sub Session

Governments exercise a significant degree of coercive power over people. They shape the terms of our social and political coexistence, and, through their decisions, they have the capacity to restrict our freedoms and impinge on our autonomy. Faced with the question of what (if anything) could legitimize such coercion in the first place, it is commonly held that a government’s exercise of political authority is legitimate only insofar as it is democratic. That is, only if it is somehow authorized by the people. But what, if anything, makes democracy so special and uniquely justified or valuable? What kind of values does democracy embody or realize? Are there legitimate alternatives to democracy? What are the limits of democratic authority? The course will deal with these fundamental questions first by providing students with a broad overview of the problem of political legitimacy and of some attempts at solving it. The course will then focus on the problem of democratic legitimacy. It will present students with the main accounts of democratic legitimacy developed in the current literature, as well as with recent philosophical and political criticisms of democracy.

PH304U: SOCIAL ONTOLOGY: HOW WE MAKE THE SOCIAL WORLD

30 credits

Level 3

First Sub Session

Social ontology is the field in philosophy that investigates the nature of the social world. Some questions addressed are: What are social groups? What is the role of language and attitudes in creating the social world? What is the nature of social categories and classifications? What, for instance, are race and gender? Are these features of the natural world or are they socially constructed?  The course will survey recent work in social metaphysics within the analytic and the continental tradition for thinking about these questions.

PH306D: CONTEMPORARY RESEARCH TOPICS IN PHILOSOPHY

30 credits

Level 3

First Sub Session

This team-taught course is designed to expose students to topics of contemporary research interest. Each lecturer will teach on topics related to their current research. The lectures and seminars of the course will cover issues and problems of applied ethics, social metaphysics, philosophy of language, metaphysics and epistemology. These are some of the questions that the course will investigate: How could you achieve the most good in your life? Should we prioritise avoiding risks that threaten humanity’s long-term future? How should we understand social groups and their collective intentions? How is the concept of race best understood? What is the difference between lying, deceiving and bullshitting? Morally speaking, is lying always worse than merely deceiving? Can we use possible-worlds to understand our beliefs? Is it always better to participate in political elections rather than abstain?

You can find more information about the course in the course guide.

PH354K: GENES, BRAINS AND EVOLUTION

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?

PH354P: HONOURS RESEARCH PROJECT IN PHILOSOPHY

30 credits

Level 3

Second Sub Session

This course introduces new Honours students to core research skills and methods in the academic discipline of Philosophy. Students will receive weekly support in the design, management and delivery of a 4000 word research project.

PH354R: ANCIENT CHINESE PHILOSOPHY

30 credits

Level 3

Second Sub Session

This course offers an overview of the main schools of ancient Chinese philosophy and an exploration of some of its central themes. One of our aims will be to demonstrate the relevance of an understanding of ancient Chinese philosophy to contemporary Western philosophy, and we will also reflect on the philosophical issues that arise in understanding different cultures and forms of thinking.

PH355J: RACE, RELIGION AND SECULARISM

30 credits

Level 3

Second Sub Session

Debates about living together in diverse societies often include questions about race, religion and secularism. Should religion and politics be separated? Do we need a shared national culture? How do we prevent exclusion based on race or religion? In the first half of the course, we interrogate the history and contemporary meaning of ‘race’, ‘religion’ and ‘the secular’. In the second half, we turn to how these concepts are used in contemporary debates in political philosophy, for example on multiculturalism, integration, religion in the public sphere, and Islamophobia.

PH402D: DISSERTATION

30 credits

Level 4

Full Year

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.

Another dissertation or Project course must not be undertaken alongside the Philosophy Dissertation

PH403M: FREE WILL AND MORAL RESPONSIBILITY

30 credits

Level 4

First Sub Session

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? For further details see the course guide

PH404T: DEMOCRACY & LEGITIMACY

30 credits

Level 4

First Sub Session

Governments exercise a significant degree of coercive power over people. They shape the terms of our social and political coexistence, and, through their decisions, they have the capacity to restrict our freedoms and impinge on our autonomy. Faced with the question of what (if anything) could legitimize such coercion in the first place, it is commonly held that a government’s exercise of political authority is legitimate only insofar as it is democratic. That is, only if it is somehow authorized by the people. But what, if anything, makes democracy so special and uniquely justified or valuable? What kind of values does democracy embody or realize? Are there legitimate alternatives to democracy? What are the limits of democratic authority? The course will deal with these fundamental questions first by providing students with a broad overview of the problem of political legitimacy and of some attempts at solving it. The course will then focus on the problem of democratic legitimacy. It will present students with the main accounts of democratic legitimacy developed in the current literature, as well as with recent philosophical and political criticisms of democracy.

PH404U: SOCIAL ONTOLOGY: HOW WE MAKE THE SOCIAL WORLD

30 credits

Level 4

First Sub Session

Social ontology is the field in philosophy that investigates the nature of the social world. Some questions addressed are: What are social groups? What is the role of language and attitudes in creating the social world? What is the nature of social categories and classifications? What, for instance, are race and gender? Are these features of the natural world or are they socially constructed?  The course will survey recent work in social metaphysics within the analytic and the continental tradition for thinking about these questions.

PH454K: GENES, BRAINS AND EVOLUTION

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?

PH454R: ANCIENT CHINESE PHILOSOPHY

30 credits

Level 4

Second Sub Session

This course offers an overview of the main schools of ancient Chinese philosophy and an exploration of some of its central themes. One of our aims will be to demonstrate the relevance of an understanding of ancient Chinese philosophy to contemporary Western philosophy, and we will also reflect on the philosophical issues that arise in understanding different cultures and forms of thinking.

PH455J: RACE, RELIGION AND SECULARISM

30 credits

Level 4

Second Sub Session

Debates about living together in diverse societies often include questions about race, religion and secularism. Should religion and politics be separated? Do we need a shared national culture? How do we prevent exclusion based on race or religion? In the first half of the course, we interrogate the history and contemporary meaning of ‘race’, ‘religion’ and ‘the secular’. In the second half, we turn to how these concepts are used in contemporary debates in political philosophy, for example on multiculturalism, integration, religion in the public sphere, and Islamophobia.

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