MA Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science

On this programme you will explore issues in philosophy of mind and the cognitive sciences, such as the nature of intentionality, physicalism, philosophical issues concerning rationality and interpretation, and consciousness.

You will be taught by a vibrant community of philosophers, who pursue original research on a wide range of topics giving you expert supervision for your dissertation.

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You will study six modules in total, three of which are core Philosophy modules:

  • Philosophy of Cognitive Science or Philosophy and Mental Health
  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Research Skills and Methods

Your remaining three modules are optional, and can be chosen from a range of modules in Philosophy. Up to 40 credits can be taken from outside the discipline, e.g. from the School of Psychology or the School of Computer Science. You will also complete a 15,000-word dissertation.

Why study this course

  • Taught by experts – you will study alongside some of the finest minds in Philosophy. We are ranked second among all Philosophy departments in the UK in the Research Excellence Framework 2014.
  • Friendly and relaxed atmosphere – Staff within the Department of Philosophy are very approachable and happy to offer additional advice on academic performance.
  • Small classes – teaching on the masters-level modules involve mainly small-group seminars allowing you to really get to grips with the learning material. Experience of engagement with staff at an equal level
  • Be a part of an active postgraduate community – you will join a lively and stimulating Department where you can contribute to on-going research activities, including research seminars and events such as our weekly speaker series and various workshops, reading groups and conferences throughout the year.
  • Access to a wide range of services – as a postgraduate student you will have access to services such as the Academic Writing Advisory Service and the Bank of Assessed Work which will aid your transition from undergraduate to postgraduate level, or back into academia after a time away. 

Modules

You will study three core modules as follows: 

Both of:   

Research Skills and Methods

This module is an introduction to the methods of contemporary philosophy. It identifies key philosophical reasoning tools and styles of argument, providing opportunity to apply these to classical philosophical debates. It also highlights the great variety of philosophical theorising on offer by contrasting so-called 'armchair' and empirically-informed philosophy, as well as theoretical and applied philosophy. Throughout there will be an emphasis on honing essential practical skills, namely reading and writing philosophy at postgraduate level. This module will also be useful as a basic refresher course for those who have studied some philosophy already. 

Philosophy of Mind

What is the place of consciousness in nature? Will we ever understand it in a ‘scientific’ way? What about thinking in general? Are human minds, essentially, grey wet computers, or do we need altogether distinctive conceptual resources to understand them? These kinds of questions have concerned philosophers of mind for centuries, and in this module we’ll address a range that are central to contemporary debates. We begin with the metaphysical question of whether consciousness can be accommodated in a ‘physicalist’ world view, examining the difficulties faced by various different attempts to analyse it in physical (‘scientific’) terms. We then move to some fundamental questions about mental states in general: Are they located inside people’s heads? Can they be understood in purely descriptive terms, or are they (like moral and other evaluative properties are often held to be) in some sense essentially ‘normative’?     

Plus one of:   

Philosophy of Cognitive Science

This module covers key topics in the Philosophy of Cognitive Science. Representative topics include traditional topics which provide insight into the conceptual foundations of cognitive science (e.g. the distinction between personal and sub-personal levels of explanation, the computational theory of mind, modularity and, connectionism). More contemporary topics include the scientific study of consciousness, delusions and rationality, the use of double dissociation arguments in cognitive neuropsychology, and the question of what fMRI can tell us about the mind.  

Philosophy and Mental Health

This module provides an overview of contemporary debates in philosophy and mental health. In each seminar a new issue will be investigated, but there will be three interrelated threads throughout the module. The first is about the nature of psychiatry. The second is about the sense in which psychiatric disorders are disorders of the self. The third is about how we should respond to people with psychiatric disorders, considered from a wide range of perspectives, including interpersonal, clinical, ethical, legal and public health policy. These themes will be addressed by reference to different aspects of psychiatry (e.g. classification, diagnosis, aetiology, research, treatment), different psychiatric disorders (e.g. addiction, anorexia, dementia, dissociation, schizophrenia, personality disorders, psychopathy), and different disciplinary frameworks.  

You will also choose up to three optional modules. These can be chosen from a range in Philosophy; for details see our Philosophy postgraduate modules. However, up to 40 credits can also be taken from outside the discipline, such as from the School of Psychology or the School of Computer Science.


Please note that the optional modules listed on the website for this programme are intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2017/18 are as follows:

  • Home / EU: £7,290 full-time; £3,645 part-time
  • Overseas: £15,660 full-time

The above fees quoted are for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition 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.

Entry requirements

The programme allows for multi-disciplinary entry. You need an upper second-class Honours degree, or equivalent, in Philosophy or another relevant subject (e.g. Psychology, Linguistics, Neuroscience, Computer Science, Mathematics) or a Joint Honours degree of which Philosophy or another relevant subject 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

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, including the philosophy of mind and cognitive science. 

You are encouraged to participate in our weekly Postgraduate Seminar and in the regular meetings of PhilSoc and the Staff Seminar.

You will also become part of, and contribute to, the lively 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.

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support for English Language development and skills through the Birmingham International Academy (BIA).

The University has been recognised for its impressive graduate employment, being named ‘University of the Year for Graduate Employment’ in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016.

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. The University also offers a wide range of activities and services to give our students the edge in the job market, including: career planning designed to meet the needs of postgraduates; opportunities to meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs, employer presentations and skills workshops; individual guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique; and access to comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

University of the Year for employability

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 94% 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 teaching and lecturing to publishing. Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include: BBC; Friends of the Earth; Birmingham Children?s Hospital; Highways England; and University of Birmingham.

Birmingham has been transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Get involved

In addition to the student groups hosted by the Guild of Students, each school runs its own social activities, research fora, seminars and groups for postgraduates.

Accommodation

Coming to Birmingham to study might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and cultures, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work. Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.