The first module you will study, Philosophical Research, investigates key questions concerning philosophical methods and thereby helps you to plan and manage the preparation of your thesis. It also facilitates the sharpening of key bibliographic, critical, interpretive, and presentational skills.
You then choose two further modules from the following options before completing a 20,000 word thesis:
Epistemology is the philosophical study of knowledge. In this module you will examine a number of fundamental issues which have been especially prominent in recent debates on the subject, including: a priori knowledge (is there any, and if so, what is distinctive about it?); internalism vs. externalism (to know something, does a subject have to be aware of its justification?); and epistemic contextualism.
God, Freedom and the Meaning of Life
The module provides an introduction to a number of philosophical issues that have a relevance to the philosophy of religion, such as: Are there sound arguments for/against the existence of God? Is freedom compatible with God's foreknowledge? Why is there something rather than nothing? Is life meaningless without God? Can there be morality without God?
In this module you will investigate a range of advanced topics in contemporary metaphysics. We will begin by looking at metaphysical issues relating to ourselves: personal identity and free will. We’ll then move to a more fundamental metaphysical debate, realism versus anti-realism, before looking at two specific topics which have become very popular in recent years: the metaphysics of possibility and the metaphysics of persistence through time.
Philosophy of Cognitive Science
This module covers a range of advanced topics in empirically-informed philosophy of mind. In any given year, some of the following topics will be addressed in detail: theories of intentionality; differences between human and animal cognition; pathologies of belief such as delusions and self-deception; theories of emotion; accounts of cognitive rationality; the relationship between ownership and authorship of thoughts; the narrative view of the self; the psychology of wisdom and expertise.
Philosophy of Health and Happiness
The module will examine debates at the forefront of current research in the philosophy of health and happiness. You will explore conceptual problems (e.g. what ‘health’ and ‘disease’ are) and question contemporary lifestyle issues (for instance, regarding how health, happiness and meaning relate, as well as whether there is a correlation between income and life satisfaction). You will also be asked to consider how technological advances (such as those in genetics) are changing these understandings.
Philosophy of Language
This module covers a range of advanced topics in analytic philosophy of language and its overlap with the realism/antirealism debate in metaphysics. In any given year, some of the following topics will be addressed in detail: Frege's distinction between sense and reference; Russell's theory of definite descriptions; logical positivism and the verification principle; Quine on analyticity and translation; Kripke's Wittgenstein on rule-following; Grice's theory of meaning; Davidson's programme; Dummett's attack on realism.
Philosophy of Mind
This module is mainly devoted to issues in the metaphysics of mind, looking at questions of what the mind is (if, indeed, we even have one) and the status of mental properties. The course will focus on contemporary debates in that area, looking at the contemporary view of: the Identity Theory of Mind; the Conceivability argument, supervenience and zombies; the recent resurgence of substance dualism; contemporary panpsychism; and eliminative materialism and computational views.
Value of Life
This module is intended to provide scope for an assessment of that brand of extreme philosophical pessimism according to which life not only has no positive value but is something we should be better off without – that, to echo the title of a recent book by David Benatar, it is “better never to have been”. The initial focus will be on the arguments for this view put forward recently by Benatar himself and before him by Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860). The focus will then shift to the more affirmative approaches of thinkers like Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) and William James (1842-1910). An important subsidiary theme will be the nature of pleasure, pain, happiness and suffering.
Additional optional modules offered by the Centre for the Study of Global Ethics include:
Global Ethics I
This module introduces you to key concepts and debates in global ethics. It explores the nature of ethics and provides the theoretical tools necessary for you to analyse the arguments of others and create robust ethical arguments of your own.
Global Ethics II
This module develops your understanding of key global ethical issues, in particular human rights, poverty, distributive justice, cosmopolitan democracy, governance and humanitarian intervention.
This module introduces you to the contemporary philosophical debates about human rights. It focuses more on human rights understood as moral rights, rather than as legal rights written in international law. We will begin from the very basic question of what human rights are. We will also consider questions such as ‘What kind of human rights are there?’, ‘Which beings can have human rights?’, 'Are human rights inalienable?', and ‘What happens when human rights conflict?’. The first half of the module focuses on exploring different philosophical justifications for human rights; we will cover justifications based on the dignity of human agency, international politics, and human flourishing. The second half of the module will focus on philosophical debates about the nature of specific human rights - looking first at some general rights, for autonomy, liberty and wellbeing, and then at more concrete rights to life and privacy. We will also consider objections to human rights based on relativist and utilitarian views in ethics.
This module introduces you to the increasing number of dilemmas in bioethics that cross national boundaries and transcend domestic regulation. Bioethical dilemmas, whether arising from scientific and technological developments or from the research practices of pharmaceutical companies, raise issues which cannot be effectively addressed at national or regional levels. Bioethics clearly calls for global solutions to what are global dilemmas and you will be introduced to some of the key bioethical issues which arise in the contemporary global context.
We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2015/16 are currently as follows:
Home / EU £4,052 full-time; £2,026 part-time
Overseas: £13,195 full-time; £6,597.50 part-time
For part-time students, the above fee quoted is for year one only and tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.
Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments.
Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.
Learn more about postgraduate tuituion fees and funding.
Scholarships and studentships
Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.
International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.
Birmingham Masters Scholarship Scheme
For 2015 entry the University has 224 new £10,000 scholarships available for Masters students from under-represented groups. These scholarships have been jointly funded by the British Government; the allocation of the awards, which is the fourth highest in the UK, further cements Birmingham?s place amongst the very best higher education institutions for postgraduate study. The application deadline is 31 July 2015.
Before you make your application
Please refer to our
six step process
on applying for PhD, MA by Research and MRes opportunities for Arts subject areas.
For applicants to the PhD Distance Learning study mode only:
As part of the application process for the distance learning study mode, we will ask you to provide evidence to demonstrate that you have the time, commitment, facilities and experience to study for a PhD by Distance Learning. Please be prepared to provide evidence, and details, of the following:
Examples of your postgraduate research experience and ability to work independently e.g. papers/presentations at professional and academic conferences or publications in professional journals or previous completion of an independent research project, etc.
Full reasons (academic and personal) for registering for the distance learning mode of study rather than by standard full or part-time on-campus options. In particular, how you will be able to carry out your project in your chosen location.
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When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages