JH Philosophy Modules Year 1

Year 1

Compulsory modules:

Problems of Philosophy A and B (10 credits and 10 credits)

This module introduces a range of key philosophical problems most of which practically everyone with a philosophical temperament has puzzled over before:

  • Scepticism (how can I know anything at all about the world?)
  • Free will (how can I think and act freely, if all my thoughts and actions are determined by the laws that govern the Universe?)
  • The existence of God (does S/He exist?)
  • Realism vs. antirealism (to what extent is reality distinct from how it appears?)
  • The mind/body problem (is the mind just the brain?)
  • Personal identity (what is it about you that makes you the same person as you were years ago?)
  • Utilitarianism vs. Deontology (are actions morally right and wrong ‘in themselves’, or are they so just because of the effects they have on people’s happiness etc?)
  • Ethical obligation (do we have obligations to others?)
  • Moral relativism (are moral values absolute or do they vary from one culture/person to others?)
  • The requirements of justice (who should have what?)

The Philosopher's Toolkit A or B (20 credits)

This module will equip you with the tools you need to understand, analyse and respond to different kinds of philosophical argument. In the first half of the module, we will investigate topics such as critical thinking, probability, interdisciplinarity, necessity & analyticity and the nature of explanation. In the second half of the module, it splits into two pathways. Students on one pathway will learn symbolic logic - the formal study of argument, which concentrates on proving things using abstract formulas such as ‘"x[Gx → Fx]’. The other pathway avoids formal proofs, but aims to use ordinary language to introduce students to the logical concepts they will need to understand the more technical philosophy they will encounter later in their degree.

*Formal Logic is a compulsory module for Mathematics and Philosophy students.

Moral and Political Philosophy (20 credits)

One half of this module is mainly concerned with normative ethical theories about what is the right thing to do, and what it is to be a good person. Theories covered in the module are likely to include consequentialist theories including utilitarianism, deontological theories including Kantianism and virtue-based approaches to ethics. The other half is concerned with the question of political obligation: whether there is such a thing as legitimate state power. This question will be approached by studying some of the major philosophers who have tried to provide a justification for state power, such as Plato, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau. It will also look at some critiques of political obligation based on anarchism and/or feminism.

Reasons to Believe (20 credits)

How should we decide what to believe, and what does it take for our beliefs to constitute knowledge? These questions belong primarily to epistemology, and the module covers some quintessential epistemological topics such as the characterisation of knowledge; scepticism, internalism vs. externalism, coherentism vs. foundationalism, perception, testimony and a priority. Another place to look for insights into knowledge is the philosophy of science, and so the module also includes a cursory introduction to the philosophical theory of scientific methodology.

One important category of beliefs that is especially difficult to understand in traditional epistemological (or philosophy of science) terms is religious beliefs. Some theists propose theoretical arguments for the existence of god; others maintain that religious belief is a matter not of argument but of faith. The module incorporates critical introductions to both of these approaches to religious belief.