MRes Philosophy

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The MRes degree is a research programme with some provision for taught modules. It is aimed at those who wish to move beyond undergraduate work and to engage in research in depth for a postgraduate thesis, but who also wish to take modules that help develop research and related skills. You take a Philosophical Research module and then choose two modules from: Philosophy of Language; Philosophy of Cognitive Science; Philosophy of Mind; Metaphysics; Epistemology; God, Freedom, and the Meaning of Life; Philosophy of Health and Happiness; and the Value of Life.

Course fact file

Type of Course: Combined research and taught

Study Options: Full time, part time

Duration: 1 year full-time; 2 years part-time

Start date: September

Details

The MRes is a self-standing research programme; however many students treat it as preparatory for the PhD.

Modules

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

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?

Metaphysics

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. 

Human Rights

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. 

Global Bioethics

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.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2015/16 are currently as follows:

  • Home / EU £4,090 full-time; £2,045 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.

University of Birmingham graduates may be entitled to a fee reduction through the College of Arts and Law Alumni Bursary scheme.

Entry requirements

Candidates are normally required to have at least an upper second-class Honours degree in Philosophy (or a Joint Honours degree of which Philosophy is a component).

Learn more about entry requirements

International students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

How to apply

Before you make your application

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Making your application

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

Apply now

Learning and teaching

You will be taught by a vibrant community of philosophers, pursuing original research on a wide range of topics on which expert supervision is available. Topics include: ethics, metaethics and global ethics; epistemology and metaphysics; philosophy of mind and cognitive science; philosophy of language; philosophy of religion; and the philosophy of health and happiness.

You will also be assigned a supervisor, an academic advisor and a mentor to support you in your studies, and will be strongly encouraged to participate in the weekly Postgraduate Seminar and the regular meetings of PhilSoc and the Staff Seminar.

You will also become part of, and contribute to, the vibrant international community of the College of Arts and Law Graduate School, which offers dedicated research resources and a supportive working environment. Our team of academic and operational staff are on hand to offer support and advice to all postgraduate students within the College.

Employability

The University of Birmingham has been ranked 8th in the UK and 60th in the world for post-qualification employability in the latest global survey of universities commissioned by the International Herald Tribune.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by the employability skills training offered through the College of Arts and Law Graduate School.

Birmingham?s Philosophy postgraduates develop a range of skills that are highly desirable in the job market, including: articulacy; precise analytical thought; clarity; rigour in formulating complex problems; and the ability to analyse and construct sound arguments.

Over the past five years, over 93% of Philosophy postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Due to the transferable nature of their skills, Philosophy postgraduates traditionally enter a wide range of employment areas, from the Civil Service to finance. Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include: Afrikids (child rights organisation); Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust; Muslim Scout Fellowship; Rights and Humanity; University of Birmingham; and University of Edinburgh.