Second year

Compulsory modules:

Analysing Political Worlds (20)

This module uses classic and contemporary research about substantive political issues to introduce you to a range of key theories, concepts and debates within Political Science. The module thus allows you to consider a range of approaches to political analysis, to the nature and distribution of power, and to state-societal relations in the contemporary world. 

Religion in the Public Sphere (20)

This module is a compulsory second year module for all students on the BA Politics, Religion and Philosophy programme. It consolidates learning about the three subjects gained in the first year and continues to bring their concerns, insights and methods into dialogue by focussing on issues and regions of concern in the contemporary world. A main aim of the module is to ensure that students leaving the Politics, Religion and Philosophy programme can offer analysis and advice in public arenas on religious, political and philosophical issues in an informed and robust manner and can explain the value and skills of their degree studies to prospective employers. 

The Ethics and Politics of Climate Change (20)

Climate change is one of the greatest ethical challenges faced by humans today. Most of the issues surrounding climate change are also highly controversial. This module will begin with a brief introduction to the most up-to-date science and economics of climate change.  We will then explore the following sorts of ethical and political questions raised by climate change:

  • What should we do as individuals about climate change?
  • What should governments do?
  • How should we react to uncertainty and controversy about the future course of climate change?
  • Who should compensate the victims of climate change? 

Example optional modules may include (choose 20 credits in each group):

Group A (Theology and Religion)

Dissertation Preparation (20 credits)

This module provides a structured framework enabling you to gain professional skills in presentation and teamwork, as well as identifying an appropriate dissertation area, research question and supervisor, and completing the initial planning and research for your dissertation.

Placement (20)

The placement module allows you to spend time in a school, charity, or other situation in the UK or abroad for about two weeks and then to reflect critically on this in a written report in the light of your studies in Theology and Religion and your career aspirations.

Religion and the Arts (10)

This module will assess the importance and significance of art in its many different forms as a tool for the communication, interpretation and critique of religious and theological ideas and ideologies. It will focus on a range of artefacts, including works of fine art, stained glass, sculpture, literature, film and music, and upon buildings and architectural features, offering an introduction to the development of religious art and seeking to read a range of works from the perspectives of Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. Students will learn how to read and appreciate such artefacts as theological resources as well as cultural ones, and reflect upon issues such as what it is that makes art religious and how cultural outputs and artefacts can have spiritual impact.

Religion in Contemporary Society (20)

This module aims to introduce students to current debates within the sociology of religion as they relate to religion and lived faith in the context of contemporary global society in general and British culture in particular, focussing most specifically on urban contexts. It will examine the broader contemporary social context in which religion and the construction of meaning takes place, as well as how religious groups are responding to contemporary social trends and pressures. The module will look at religious culture and traditions from a range of major UK faiths and explore how those faiths interact with each other, considering issues such as:

  • the growth and ‘settlement’ of non-Christian religious communities
  • transnational and translocal religious communities
  • the spread and diversification of alternative spiritualities
  • religion in welfare, education, media, politics and law
  • theoretical perspectives on religious change

The module will focus on faith issues such as fundamentalism, identity and the nature of religious community, and engage with the exploration of cultural heritage across several religions and beliefs and cross-cultural comparisons of their practices, traditions and beliefs.

Theological Ethics (20)

This module will introduce you to the nature, methods, insights, and contested dynamics of contemporary theological ethics. For example, is there anything distinctive about theological, as opposed to other kinds of ethics? What are some of the norms and principles that might inform such ethics? Why do members of the same faith communities, using the same sources seem to come to very different conclusions about ethical issues? How does theological ethical thinking and practice relate to other kinds of moral reasoning and practice in the contemporary world? After looking at some main theories and methods in ethical thinking you will apply your theoretical knowledge by evaluating and analysing the place of theological ethical approaches and insights in relation to a variety of social and personal issues in contemporary Western society. 

Group B (Politics)

British Politics (20)

The first term introduces major theoretical approaches to the understanding of British politics and unpacks the core components of the British political system, such as the Constitution, Parliament, the Executive, Civil Service, Whitehall, voting and devolution.

The second term applies these fundamental understandings to issues and periods in British politics from the turn of the twentieth century onwards. In 2014-15 there will be special sessions on the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and the 2015 General Election. 

Students will be given the opportunity to act in The Audience, a play about the role of the Monarch and her Prime Ministers. Attached to the module is a British Politics Forum, in which the students are given the opportunity to invite guest speakers to speak on topics relevant to the module.

There will be a number of relevant British Politics-themed film screenings throughout the course of this module. These usually take place on a Wednesday afternoon. There is also to the opportunity for the group to watch Prime Minister’s Questions (when parliament is in session) on Wednesdays 12.00-13:15, followed by a discussion lead by the module convenor.

International Political Economy (20)

A key purpose of university education and the study of political economy is to equip you to question and challenge what is often taken-for-granted. This purpose is often lost when courses are structured so as to simply pass on information from lecturer to student. Instead, this course is structured around a series of 'big questions' about the world. In the lectures we will draw on a range of theoretical approaches and real life examples to help answer these questions. Our central aim however, is not to give you the right answer – as if there were such a thing – but to help you engage with and reflect upon the structures of power in the global political economy. In doing this, the course draws upon some of the most recent debates and shifts within the field of international political economy – as well as drawing on more traditional strands of classical political economy.

Politics and Policy (20)

This module is interested in studying the 'how' in Lasswell's well-known definition of politics as being ‘who gets what, when, how’. Policy can be understood as the product or output of politics. Contemporary examples of (public) policy-making include the Labour party’s decision to cut spending on Higher Education; their  decision to bail out banks; the decision to spend around £100 million per annum on elite sport. From education policy, fiscal policy and environmental policy to sport and health policy – all are the result of politics.

The module introduces students to ways of understanding how and why such policy is developed by both the traditional institutions of government and more widely, in the era of governance, the wide range of actors influencing the policy decision making process. Indeed, the shift from ‘big’ government to ‘new’ governance by and through networks and partnerships is a key theme throughout the module.

Public Choice Theory (20)

This module is a basic introduction to public choice theory. It provides an economic analysis of the reasons for the existence of the public sector, and uses a few elementary economic concepts to analyse some key questions concerning central and local government action. Why might it be rational to be ignorant of parties’ policies in an election? How instructive is it to regard politicians as being akin to firms, but maximising votes instead of profits? Why does income redistribution often flow from the poor to the rich instead of the other way? What motivates bureaucrats? How can the relationship between collective and individual interests be analysed through game theory?

Group C (Philosophy)

Sex, Ethics and Philosophy (20)

This module covers issues in the Philosophy and Ethics of sex, including some of: liberal versus ‘traditional’ understandings of the function of sex; the harm principle; consent and competence to give it; what laws the state should/may impose relating to sex; the permissibility of contraception, homosexuality, pornography and prostitution.  The module employs the topic of sex as a route into fundamental issues in ethics and philosophy concerning liberalism, the law, the nature of ethics and related issues.

Speaking of Things (20)

When you speak, write or think, your sentences or thoughts are about particular constituents of the world. This phenomenon is reference and this module examines the most important attempts that philosophers have made to explain it. 20th century authors tended to regard this as primarily a question about the relationship between certain words (nouns) and the objects they pick out, and so the topic forms the most natural introduction you could hope for to philosophy of language (an area you’re likely to pursue in Third Year, even if only indirectly through modules in metaphysics, meta-ethics, etc.). But we also refer to objects in thought, so reference is an issue for the philosophy of mind (and further, to epistemology, meta-ethics, etc.) as well as one for philosophy of language. 

The Ethics of Killing (20)

One of the Ten Commandments is ‘Thou shall not kill’. But the Bible doesn’t, of course, forbid all killing. And few of us, whether we have religious commitments or not, are strict absolutists about killing (people, in other words, who believe that taking a life is categorically never morally permissible). Indeed, most of us believe, at the very least, that it is permissible to kill a villainous attacker in self-defence to avoid being killed oneself. Someone might say that, while killing is not always wrong, it is always wrong to kill the innocent. But is even this true? What, for instance, of the woman who wants to end her pregnancy, thereby killing her innocent fetus? Or the doctor tending to a terminally ill patient who desperately wants to die, but cannot self-administer the lethal dose of morphine that would end his suffering? Or the pilot sent on a bombing raid to destroy an enemy military target, who knows that, if he completes his mission, nearby civilians will unavoidably be caught in the blast? This module examines when killing is wrong, why it is wrong when it is wrong, and how far these moral judgments can and ought to be taken into account in law and policy-making. Topics on which we are likely to focus include abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide, self-defence, terrorism, and war.

The Mind-Body Problem (20)

This module introduces central issues in contemporary philosophy of mind, focusing on the problem of whether our mental experience, especially its subjective character, can be incorporated into the naturalistic, scientific picture of the world. The first part of the course will survey such philosophical theories of the mind as dualism, behaviourism, the identity theory, and functionalism. The second half of the course will discuss some more specific issues in philosophy of mind and cognitive science: Can we solve the mystery of consciousness? Can the contents of our thoughts depend on external factors about which we do not have authoritative knowledge? What is the nature of intentionality? Can computers think?