First Year

Compulsory modules: 

Ethics: How should we live? (10 credits)

This module is an introductory course on moral philosophy. It will introduce some of the most important views and debates in moral philosophy, focusing on normative ethics and ethical theories. The module addresses the basic questions of moral philosophy, for example:

  • How should we live?
  • Which actions are right and wrong?
  • What makes actions good or bad?
  • What is a good life?
  • What kind of a person should I be?

Introduction to the Study of Religion (20)

This module surveys wider theories and debates in sociology, cultural studies and anthropology as a basis for the study of religion, focussing especially on the social and cultural analysis of religion.

Philosophy of Religion (10)

Philosophy of religion is the rigorous philosophical study of religious beliefs, doctrines and arguments. In this module we will discuss such central questions in the field as:

  • Are there successful arguments for the existence of God?
  • Are there successful arguments against the existence of God?
  • What attributes does/should God have?
  • Is it rational to believe in God without evidence?
  • Are religious doctrines coherent?
  • Is there life after death?
  • Is religion compatible with science?
  • Can there be miracles?

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.

Example optional modules may include: 

Defining Jews, Jewishness and Judaism(s) (10)

This module introduces and explores a number of different and competing narratives (or accounts/explanations) of ‘who is a Jew?’, Jewishness, and the nature of Judaism(s), how they have developed over time and how they relate to each other. Considerable attention is paid throughout the module to questions of definition and methodology, paying particular attention to key moments in Jewish history, such as Second Temple Judaism, Haskalah (the Jewish Enlightenment ) and the contemporary period.

Introduction to Islam (20)

This module introduces students to the core elements of Islamic faith and practice with reference to the key Islamic sources and methods of religious thought. It summarises the development of Islamic thought, and the current state of Islam in majority and minority situations.

Introduction to the Study of the Holocaust (10)

The module explores contemporary debates about how to define, describe and account for the Holocaust, including the nature of non-Jewish victimhood and whether or not this should be understood as part of ‘the Holocaust’, and how events were written about and understood differently from the perspective of victims and perpetrators.

Themes in Christian Theology (10)

This module will consider some major doctrinal and/or thematic aspects of Christian theology. Such doctrines/themes may include Creation, the Human Person, Word of God, Sin, Trinity, Ecclesiology, Christology, Soteriology, Eschatology to mention a few. In critically reviewing such themes, students will study different theological perspectives and viewpoints offered by figures selected from Christian history (and from different regions).

Widening Horizons Module (20)

You will need to choose a module that is of interest to you from outside Theology and Religion. There will be a fair at the beginning of the academic year, which you attend in order to make your choice of a module.