Philosophy and Sociology, MA

Philosophy and Sociology, MA


Philosophy and Sociology takes you on a fascinating exploration of argument and how we apply it to the Big Questions of fundamental importance to us as humans and adds the study of how we as individuals are shaped in so many ways by the societies we live in. Top-rated teaching and a culture of dynamic research will give you the skills to be a sought-after graduate by employers in many sectors and especially in roles with strong focus on people and society.

Study Information

At a Glance

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
48 months
Study Mode
Full Time
Start Month
Pathway Programme Available
Undergraduate Foundation Programme

Philosophy attempts to answer questions such as: What is knowledge? What is the nature of truth? Why should we act morally? Philosophy is just as much the study of reasoning and argument as it is the application of thought to specific problems.

What makes Philosophy at Aberdeen especially attractive is the breadth of courses, the user-friendly materials you will use and the experts who will teach you. In your first year alone, you can study topics such as How Should One Live? Controversial Questions and Experience, Knowledge and Reality.

Sociology at Aberdeen will add a deeper dimension, as you explore how society shapes us as individuals in all sorts of ways, and study sociology of the family, work-life balance, religion and society.

You will be taught by experts in social movements, conflict and peace, religion and secularisation and global political sociology and become skilled in the social research methods used to gather the evidence to better understand aspects of society – such as observation, interviews, large-scale surveys or analysing the content of documents and videos.

This subject combination will develop your skills in thinking critically and posing probing questions – which have tremendous value to employers, for example in journalism, marketing and advertising, social and market research, teaching, health and social services, charities and human resources.

What You'll Study

Year 1

Compulsory Courses

Introduction to Sociology I: Self, Identity & Society (SO1007)

15 Credit Points

Sociology is the study of human social groups. It particularly focuses on modern societies, analysing how they work and how the major social institutions in them (such as religion, the media, government and the economy) operate. The course provides students with a general introduction to the unique manner in which sociologists seek to understand contemporary societies. Students are presented with current and classical approaches to understanding the social processes that underlie self-construction, group formation and social interaction, within urbanizing and globalizing social contexts.

Introduction to Sociology II: Systems of Power (SO1509)

15 Credit Points

This course is an introduction to macro-sociology, which analyses the ways that people’s lives are shaped by large-scale forces, structures, and institutions. Students are introduced to the particular ways in which classical and contemporary sociologists understand social forces in the modern domestic and global environment and learn to think critically about those social forces that impact their everyday lives using the sociological imagination. Substantive topics likely to be covered in this course include the media, politics, religion, surveillance, education, class stratification, international inequalities, and the relationship between humans and other animals.

Academic Writing for Divinity, History & Philosophy (AW1007)

This compulsory evaluation is designed to find out if your academic writing is of a sufficient standard to enable you to succeed at university and, if you need it, to provide support to improve. It is completed on-line via MyAberdeen with clear instructions to guide you through it. If you pass the evaluation at the first assessment it will not take much of your time. If you do not, you will be provided with resources to help you improve. This evaluation does not carry credits but if you do not complete it this will be recorded on your degree transcript.

Getting Started at the University of Aberdeen (PD1002)

This course, which is prescribed for level 1 undergraduate students (and articulating students who are in their first year at the University), is studied entirely online, takes approximately 5-6 hours to complete and can be taken in one sitting, or spread across a number of weeks.

Topics include orientation overview, equality and diversity, health, safety and cyber security and how to make the most of your time at university in relation to careers and employability.

Successful completion of this course will be recorded on your Enhanced Transcript as ‘Achieved’.

Experience, Knowledge and Reality (PH1523)

15 Credit Points

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.

Optional Courses

Select ONE from the following courses:

  • (PH1027) Controversial Questions
  • (PH1522) How Should One Live?
  • (PH1034) Logic and Argument

Plus further courses of choice to make up 120 credit points.

Controversial Questions (PH1027)

15 Credit Points

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?

How Should One Live? (PH1522)

15 Credit Points

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.

Logic and Argument (PH1034)

15 Credit Points

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.

Year 2

Compulsory Courses

Sociology of Everyday Life i: the Embodied Self (SO2006)

30 Credit Points

This follows on from level-one sociology. It is designed to highlight the ways that sociological theory informs the research endeavour, not only the questions sociologists raise, but also the particular modes through which we go about investigating them. The module examines these points in relation to a range of micro-level topics – the body, food and feeding, health and illness, the emotions, group behaviour, sex and gender, the life course and death and dying – all of which emphasise the nature of human interaction and sociological efforts to understand it.

Sociology of Everyday Life II: Global Issues in the 21st Century (SO2509)

30 Credit Points

This macro-sociology course extends students’ understanding of large-scale social, as well as political and economic, processes and institutions. Particular focus is on the sociological analysis of global issues and socio-political controversies, many of which are subject to topical and, at times, contentious debate at the beginning of the 21st century. The substantive topics include areas of social and political concern such as globalisation; the changing nature of economy, work and leisure; risk and insecurity; multiculturalism; food production and security; social movements; nationalism and identities.

Optional Courses

Select further courses of choice to make up 120 credits, of which 45 must be level 2 Philosophy courses.

Level 2 Philosophy courses available:

  • Ethics of Artificial Intelligence (PH2512) 15 credits
  • Metaphysics and Epistemology (PH2540) 15 credits
  • Philosophy and Society (PH2512) 15 credits Political
  • Philosophy (PH201C) 15 credits
Year 3

Optional Courses

Select ONE from EACH of the following options:

  • Thinking Sociologically (SO3066) OR Sociology of Religion (SO3070)
  • Social Research Methods (SO3524) OR Ten Sociological Studies (SO3568)

Plus select a further 60 credit points from level 3 courses in Philosophy.

A selection of the following Philosophy courses will be available at level 3:

  • Free Will and Moral Responsibility (30 credits)
  • The Metaphysics of Possibility (30 credits)
  • Genes, Brains and Evolution (30 credits)
  • Philosophy of Medicine (30 credits)
  • Knowledge, Power and Society (30 credits)
  • Global Justice (30 credits)
  • Contemporary Topics in Philosophy (30 credits)
  • Theories of Democracy (30 credits)
  • Honours Research Project in Philosophy (30 credits)
Thinking Sociologically (SO3066)

30 Credit Points

Thinking Sociologically is the department's core sociological theory module. The course offers our students an introduction to a range of key sociological thinkers and bodies of thought, both classical and contemporary, that inform sociological analysis of social life and social institutions. As such, this course is intended to provide our honours students with a conceptual 'toolkit', that can be applied to facilitate understanding, insight and informed critique with respect to a broad range of historical and contemporary social, political and economic phenomena.

Sociology of Religion (SO3070)

30 Credit Points

This course provides students with an introduction to the sociological imagination as applied to the topic of religion. While the focus is on religion, it uses religion as means of thinking about core sociological concepts and key social processes, as well as the challenges to studying the world sociologically. We will discuss the key dimensions of religious belief, practice and institutions, and what we can learn from these that can be adapted and applied to other kinds of beliefs, practices and institutions.

Social Research Methods (SO3524)

30 Credit Points

Sociologists use a range of methods and techniques to explore and test sociological theory. This module introduces many of these methods and techniques. It aims to ground students’ theoretical understanding of society through the practical analysis of a variety of data. It starts by introducing the varying philosophical starting points of research and goes on to provide foundation level critical analysis skills in the key quantitative and qualitative methods that sociologists have deployed to understand and ‘capture’ the social world.

Ten Sociological Studies (SO3568)

30 Credit Points

This course bridges the theoretical emphasis of SO3066 and the methodological elements of SO3524. It presents sociology as a social science by having students examine and discuss in detail ten reports of sociological research. The goal of the course is to highlight the different ways sociological research combines theory and methods to examine and explain specific phenomena, events, or experiences of the world. Each of the ten studies will be chosen by one of the Sociology staff and present theoretical and methodological ideas and approaches that staff members use in their own work or believe to be pivotal to sociological research. Students will be required to read all ten of the chosen publications in preparation for the course each week.

Year 4

Optional Courses

Select ONE of the following dissertation options:

  • Philosophy Dissertation (PH402D)
  • Research Project Part 1 (SO4068) AND Research Project Part 2 (SO4568) [Sociology]

Plus, select TWO level 4 courses in Sociology from the options below and level 4 courses in Philosophy to gain a total of 60 credits in each discipline.

A selection of the following Philosophy courses will be available at level 4:

  • Ancient Chinese Philosophy (30 credits)
  • Philosophy of Games and Sports (30 credits)
  • Scepticism (30 credits)
  • Creativity (30 credits)
  • Philosophy of Time (30 credits)
  • Scientific Revolutions and Scientific Rationality (30 credits)
  • Effective Altruism (30 credits)
  • The Open Future (30 credits)
  • Social Epistemology (30 credits)
  • Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (30 credits)

SO4058 Sociology of Religion & Culture

SO4070 Peace, Conflict and Society

SO 4554 Political Sociology

SO 4565 Sex, Death and the Afterlife

SO 4571 Contemporary Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity

Dissertation (PH402D)

30 Credit Points

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

Research Project Part 1 (SO4068)

30 Credit Points

This course is the first of two courses that comprise the Dissertation in Sociology. This first course affords students an opportunity to apply their sociological knowledge and research skills to an individual piece of research, focusing on a topic selected by the student and ethically approved by their Supervisor. Over the course of SO4068, with guidance from a member of staff, the project student will formulate an appropriate research question(s), conduct a critical literature review of relevant material, select appropriate research methods and prepare appropriate data collection tool(s) in order to commence their (online) research by the end of this course. Students will also get the opportunity to reflect on their presentation skills and prepare a 5-minute Panopto video on their project design for peer review. Particular emphasis will be given to helping students develop time management skills, a key transferable skill.

Research Project Part 2 (SO4568)

30 Credit Points

In this course, project students, guided by regular staff supervision, build on the foundations developed in SO4068 to conduct their original research and deliver their conclusions in two formats. All students will present their developing work to peers in a multi-day student conference early in the semester and submit a final report of their work (i.e. project dissertation) at the end of the course.

European Societies (SO4051)

30 Credit Points

The course aims to give an overview of European issues and current debates. It provides a deeper insight into how European issues affect our lives and why this matters. It addresses current issues of concern such as Brexit, migration, Coronavirus, family and work in comparative perspective. In doing so it blends together sociological and social policy approaches.

Animals and Society (SO4548)

30 Credit Points

This course introduces students to Human-Animal Studies (HAS) and the ‘animal turn’ in the social sciences. It also explores the sociological significance and political implications of human-animal issues in contemporary modern societies and the academy. To develop a more critical and nuanced understanding of interspecies interactions/contexts students will consider the contested nature of the human/animal boundary, changing attitudes towards animals in modern postmodern societies, and the ambiguous status of animals, especially in practice. By drawing on perspectives such as ecofeminism, symbolic interactionism, actor-network theory and Critical Animal Studies this will further contextualise current debates about humans and other animals.

Sexualities and Gender Diversity (SO4072)

30 Credit Points

This course provides students with theoretical and empirical understanding of sexualities and gender diversity in contemporary societies, paying particular attention to the historical conditions that have shaped how we conceptualise and experience sexualities and genders today. By mapping interconnections between wider power relations, and individual identities and bodies, it examines the intersectional ways in which sexualities and gender diversity are expressed, represented, and regulated.

Politics and Religion (SO4557)

30 Credit Points

Religion inspires political action, pervades national identities, and shapes political regimes. Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine, Nigeria, Mali, Syria; the conflicts in these countries all involve religious differences. Religion may be in decline in the West but even in Europe there are arguments about the proper place of religion and about religious exemptions from general laws. In the USA religious conservatives use the courts, state legislatures and Congress to fight against abortion and gay rights. Taking a very broad view of politics, this course examines the links between religion and politics.

Social Inequality (SO4569)

30 Credit Points

Inequality permeates all aspects of social life and structure. This course focuses on the major sociological approaches to the study of social inequality. Emphasising historical, social, and political processes, it utilises social science data and theory to explore key patterns and consequences of inequality in Scotland and beyond. In addition to examining distribution of income, it also focuses on occupational and class hierarchies, power conflicts, racial, ethnic, and gender inequality, poverty, social mobility, and inequality of educational opportunities.

Gendered Approaches to Conflict and Society (SO4074)

30 Credit Points

This course will introduce you to the gendered dimensions of conflict and post-conflict societies. This will include the semantic and symbolic roles of gender during wars and occupations, how gender shapes experiences and narratives of conflict, and the discourse around gendered approaches to peacebuilding and humanitarian aid. Upon completing the course, you will have developed an inclusive sociological understanding of how conflict unfolds and the challenges that shape post-conflict recovery.

We will endeavour to make all course options available. However, these may be subject to change - see our Student Terms and Conditions page.

How You'll Study

Learning Methods

  • Individual Projects
  • Lectures
  • Research
  • Tutorials

Assessment Methods

Students are assessed by any combination of three assessment methods:

  • Coursework such as essays and reports completed throughout the course.
  • Practical assessments of the skills and competencies they learn on the course.
  • Written examinations at the end of each course.

The exact mix of these methods differs between subject areas, years of study and individual courses.

Honours projects are typically assessed on the basis of a written dissertation.

Why Study Philosophy and Sociology?

Why Philosophy

  • Famous philosophers who worked at the University include Thomas Reid, founder of the 18th century Scottish School of Common Sense Philosophy, and Alexander Bain, who helped lay the foundations for modern scientific psychology.
  • The Aberdeen Philosophy in Education Group (APEG), which is unique in Scotland, trains students to discuss philosophical questions with local primary and secondary school pupils.
  • Café Philosophique brings philosophers and the local community together, using popular films and novels to explore philosophical puzzles in an informal atmosphere.
  • The Centre for the History and Philosophy of Science, Technology and Medicine acts as the focus for research, teaching and engagement in the history, philosophy, ethics, literature and museology of science, technology and medicine.
  • The spectacular, award-winning Sir Duncan Rice Library offers superb collections, including early printed works of natural philosophy and medicine, the archives of Thomas Reid, and records of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society.
  • We offer a packed programme of public events, lectures and debates, including the annual WayWORD literary festival, which attracts high-profile scientists, scholars, authors, actors and broadcasters to discuss and debate the big issues of today.
  • The skills you learn in Philosophy—for example, to think and write clearly, to explain complex ideas, to challenge orthodoxy—lend themselves to many careers.
  • Studying Philosophy will change how you think about things and how you approach life's challenges.
  • Philosophy is interesting! Students from all disciplines often report that studying Philosophy was the most rewarding experience of their studies.

Why Sociology

  • An international reputation for our sociology research, and recognised by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as a centre for research training and supervision for postgraduate students.
  • Teaching with a top rating of ‘Excellent’ in the most recent Teaching Quality Assessment.
  • Consistently rated very highly, including by students in the National Student Survey (NSS) from whom we get great feedback.
  • Sociology at Aberdeen is ranked 3rd in Scotland in the Complete University Guide 2024.
  • The spectacular, award-winning Sir Duncan Rice Library with its top-class study environment, state-of-the-art technology, and extensive collection of sociology publications and resources for your study.
  • A packed programme of student and public events, lectures, exhibitions, seminars, invited speakers, plus the annual May Festival, British Science Week and Being Human Festival regularly featuring Aberdeen research in social sciences.
  • Participation in the European Social Survey, one of the largest and most reliable sources of data about Europeans’ attitudes, behaviours and experiences, with data from more than 350,000 individuals across 36 countries since 2002.

Entry Requirements


The information below is provided as a guide only and does not guarantee entry to the University of Aberdeen.

General Entry Requirements

2024 Entry

SQA Highers

Standard: AABB

Applicants who have achieved AABB (or better), are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/ Advanced Highers may be required.

Minimum: BBB

Applicants who have achieved BBB (or are on course to achieve this by the end of S5) are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/Advanced Highers will normally be required.

Adjusted: BB

Applicants who achieve BB over S4 and S5 and who meet one of the widening access criteria are guaranteed a conditional offer. Good performance in additional Highers/Advanced Highers will be required.

More information on our definition of Standard, Minimum and Adjusted entry qualifications.


Standard: BBB

Minimum: BBC

Adjusted: CCC

More information on our definition of Standard, Minimum and Adjusted entry qualifications.

International Baccalaureate

32 points, including 5, 5, 5 at HL.

Irish Leaving Certificate

5H with 3 at H2 AND 2 at H3.

Entry from College

Advanced entry to this degree may be possible from some HNC/HND qualifications, please see for more details.

2025 Entry

SQA Highers

Standard: BBBB

Applicants who have achieved BBBB (or better), are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/ Advanced Highers may be required.

Minimum: BBB

Applicants who have achieved BBB (or are on course to achieve this by the end of S5) are encouraged to apply and will be considered. Good performance in additional Highers/Advanced Highers will normally be required.

Adjusted: BB

Applicants who achieve BB over S4 and S5 and who meet one of the widening access criteria are guaranteed a conditional offer. Good performance in additional Highers/Advanced Highers will be required.

Foundation Apprenticeship: One FA is equivalent to a Higher at A. It cannot replace any required subjects.

More information on our definition of Standard, Minimum and Adjusted entry qualifications.


Standard: BBC

Minimum: BCC

Adjusted: CCC

More information on our definition of Standard, Minimum and Adjusted entry qualifications.

International Baccalaureate

32 points, including 5, 5, 5 at HL.

Irish Leaving Certificate

5H with 3 at H2 AND 2 at H3.

Entry from College

Advanced entry to this degree may be possible from some HNC/HND qualifications, please see for more details.

The information displayed in this section shows a shortened summary of our entry requirements. For more information, or for full entry requirements for Arts and Social Sciences degrees, see our detailed entry requirements section.

English Language Requirements

To study for an Undergraduate degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. The minimum requirements for this degree are as follows:

IELTS Academic:

OVERALL - 6.0 with: Listening - 5.5; Reading - 5.5; Speaking - 5.5; Writing - 6.0


OVERALL - 78 with: Listening - 17; Reading - 18; Speaking - 20; Writing - 21

PTE Academic:

OVERALL - 59 with: Listening - 59; Reading - 59; Speaking - 59; Writing - 59

Cambridge English B2 First, C1 Advanced or C2 Proficiency:

OVERALL - 169 with: Listening - 162; Reading - 162; Speaking - 162; Writing - 169

Read more about specific English Language requirements here.

International Applicants who do not meet the Entry Requirements

The University of Aberdeen International Study Centre offers preparation programmes for international students who do not meet the direct entry requirements for undergraduate study. Discover your foundation pathway here.

Fees and Funding

You will be classified as one of the fee categories below.

Fee information
Fee category Cost
RUK £9,250
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year
EU / International students £20,800
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year
Home Students £1,820
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year

Scholarships and Funding

Students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, who pay tuition fees may be eligible for specific scholarships allowing them to receive additional funding. These are designed to provide assistance to help students support themselves during their time at Aberdeen.

Additional Fees

  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trips. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our Tuition Fees page.

Our Funding Database

View all funding options in our Funding Database.


There are many opportunities at the University of Aberdeen to develop your knowledge, gain experience and build a competitive set of skills to enhance your employability. This is essential for your future career success. The Careers and Employability Service can help you to plan your career and support your choices throughout your time with us, from first to final year – and beyond.

Our Experts

Information About Staff Changes

You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. However, these may be subject to change - see our Student Terms and Conditions page.

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Regent Walk
AB24 3FX

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