Year 1

Compulsory modules:

Problems of Philosophy (20 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?)

Reasoning, Propaganda and the Public Discourse (10)

Modern life bombards us with information meant to convince.  Unfortunately a great deal of it is what the philosopher Harry Frankfurt calls ‘bullsh*t’.  To a rough first approximation, bullsh*t is information meant to sway both opinion and action which is put forward independently of its relation to reality or evidence.  This module investigates the nature of bullsh*t.  And the aim is two-fold: to increase your capacity to spot bullsh*t and its propagators, but to develop intellectual tools useful in counteracting bullsh*t: avoiding it in your own work, and identifying it in the arguments of others. The end of the module will move to looking at some formal methods related to this, which will enable students to make an informed choice about whether to choose Formal Logic or Informal Logic as their second semester module.

Logic (10)

Taken in the second semester, this module bifurcates into formal and informal pathways: students who opt for the formal side learn symbolic logic - the formal study of argument which concentrates on proving things using abstract formulas such as ‘"x[Gx → Fx]’. Meanwhile the informal side, 'Logic Through Language', avoids formal symbols and proofs, but aims to introduce students in a different way to the logical concepts they will need to understand the more technical philosophy they will encounter later in their degree.

Example optional modules may include: 

  • Ancient Philosophy: Plato and Aristotle (10)

  • Epistemology: What and how do we know? (10)

  • Ethics: How should we live? (10)

  • Moral Problems: An introduction to Applied Ethics (10)

  • Philosophy of Religion (10)

  • Philosophical Traditions (10)

  • Political Philosophy: Can power be legitimate? (10)