Compulsory module (choose one of the following):
Dissertation (Theology and Religion) (40 credits)
This is a major piece of independent work for which a topic is identified and research is carried out with supervisory help to produce a 12,000-word essay.
6,000-word Dissertation (Theology and Religion) (20 credits)
The 6,000-word dissertation is a piece of substantial independent research on a subject in Theology and/or Religion chosen by the individual student, but subject to approval by the Department.
Placement-based Dissertation (Theology and Religion) (40 credits)
The placement-based dissertation is an extended piece of substantial independent research (9,000 words) on a topic in Theology and/or Religion linked to a specific placement context chosen by the individual student. Students negotiate a placement involving a minimum of 100 hours in a setting of their own choice, subject to approval from the Department.
Philosophical Project (40 credits)
This module allows you to conduct independent research into and write on a particular philosophical issue of your choice, with assistance from a project supervisor with expertise in your chosen topic.
Optional modules may include:
(choose at least 20 credits in each group)
Group A (Theology and Religion):
Gender, Sexualities and Religion (20 credits)
This module explores the complicated and often heated relationship between LGBTQ movements, feminist movements and religion/spirituality. It investigates how social and political constructions of gender and sexuality are challenged, both by those who attempt to reform religious traditions from within and those who break away to invent new forms of spirituality.
God Beyond Borders: Building Interfaith Bridges and Dialogue (20 credits)
The meeting of religions is one of the most pressing issues that face humankind. It is a challenge for religions themselves and for theologians and philosophers who seek to formulate theories about religion. Interfaith and Interreligious encounters, collaboration and dialogue occur in a variety of ways and diverse contexts. How can we understand faith and dogma, dialogue and comparison, texts and reasoning, ethics and politics in the context of religious pluralism? How have world religions come to terms with diversity and pluralism? What are the different models that are used to account for difference and commonality?This module will seek to address these questions on a theological/philosophical and textual level in addition to a study of key practical, ethical and contextual issues found in the latest scholarship and practice.
Ethics of Character (20 credits)
Ideals of character occupy a central—if sometimes underrated—place in our ethical life. Some of the most important moral judgements we make revolve not simply around the things people do, but around the qualities of character they manifest. This has been reflected in a long history of philosophical and theological engagement with conceptions of character, or the virtues and the vices. This module will investigate the concept of character using a variety of perspectives and approaches, focusing chiefly on philosophical accounts of character while also introducing religious perspectives on the subject. It will explore a number of core questions, such as: What is character, and why does it matter? What constitutes good character? Do ideals of character vary across different cultural, historical and religious contexts? Are we responsible for our character? Can character be changed, and if so, how? The module will familiarise students with contemporary discussions of character while also selectively engaging historical approaches to the topic.
Christmas and Ethical Consuming (20 credits)
The module introduces key ideas and themes of ethical consuming within a framework of investigation of the practices of Christmas. Specifically, the module addresses the complexity of debates over the religious character of Christmas, as well as the commercialization of Christmas and other religious festivals. This complexity is enhanced by the wider cultural concern with sustainability, fair trade, environmental impact and other aspects of an ethical approach to consumption. There is a focus on the overlap between consumer society and capitalism, ethical consumption, popular culture, and religious belief and practice.
Historical and Contemporary Debates on the Holocaust (20 credits)
The module introduces students to a range of historical and contemporary debates on the Holocaust. The focus is methodological, focusing on how this historical period is conceptualized, interpreted and studied, both as events were unfolding and subsequently.Examples of the debates and controversies studied will vary from year to year, but could include the emergence of different national approaches to the history and commemoration of the Holocaust; the adequacy and possible overlap between categories such as ‘victim’, ‘bystander’ and ‘perpetrator’; complicity, ‘privilege, the ‘grey zone’ and ‘choiceless choices’; approaches to survivor testimony; the nature of resistance during the Holocaust; Holocaust education; representing the Holocaust on film.
Islamic Philosophy (20 credits)
The module traces the major developments in philosophical thinking through the classical period of Islamic thought. It may include such topics as the emergence of Islamic philosophy and its connection with Greek and Hellenistic learning, the flowering of a distinctive systematic discipline in the Islamic world, the relationship between philosophy and theology, and the transmission of philosophical method from the Islamic world to Europe. Emphasis will be placed upon central themes in the Islamic philosophical tradition, and discussion will revolve around the works of key masters as well as critics of philosophy.
Law and Ethics as Theology in Christian and Muslim Thought and Practice (20 credits)
This module will introduce students to conceptions of law and ethics in Christian and Muslim thought and practice. It will consider these conceptions through attention to everyday practices and scholarly discourse. This specialist module allows for students to develop and apply learning in years one and two, towards building knowledge of emerging models in comparative and multi-disciplinary approaches to theology and ethics.
Politics in the Name of God: From Democratization to Holy War (20 credits)
This module reviews and evaluates the significance of religion in global politics and international relations and its intersection with domestic politics and public policy. Whilst recent analysis of religion and politics has generally focussed principally on Islam, this module recognizes the role of the major religions (defined as those faiths with a ‘world-wide’ presence) in the shaping of the politics of nation-states and the development of the international system. The module will survey the approach to religion adopted by major theories of international relations and discuss their most relevant insights, in order to understand contemporary political challenges, which include those of democratization, political development, political violence, gender, the environment, economic affairs, humanitarian intervention, globalization and other concerns that can intersect both with religious groups and ideas. The module will also look at the role of religion in various aspects of politics: institutions and structures, political parties, civil society and social movements, and economic development.
Understanding and Countering Radical Islamic Thought and Practice (20 credits)
Jihad is a complex religious, socio-political and ethical concept. However its use by modern political Islamic movements to attempt to justify their violence has tarnished public understanding. Jihad is broadly a 'struggle’ and we will look at how that encompasses both violent, militaristic conflict and also the inner, spiritual struggle of an individual to follow Allah, and how Muslims have interpreted this dual tradition in diverse historical and cultural contexts. Regardless of our personal religious backgrounds, Jihadist thinking and political groups appropriation of it affects all of us, and a better understanding can assist in combatting the glorification of violence, gain a better understanding of these movements, and challenge stereotypes that feed into Islamophobia. This module takes a critical look at the theory and practice of jihad by radical groups. The course focuses on the interplay between jihad as a set of ideas and jihad as a set of practices in a variety of historical and geographical contexts. The first section of the module will examine key types of radical Islamic movements. These are Imperial Jihad, anti-colonial and nationalist jihad, and global jihadi movements. When examining each type we will evaluate key thinkers who inspired them, such as Abu ala al-Mawdudi, Sayyid Jamaluddin al-Afghani, Ayatollah Khomeini and Sayyid Qutb. Students will present on one movement’s use and thinking of jihad. The next section of the course will investigate the alternatives to contemporary radical interpretations of jihad and counter-radicalisation efforts.
Group B (Philosophy):
Global Bioethics (20 credits)
This module introduces students to the increasing number of dilemmas in bioethics that cross national boundaries and transcend domestic regulation. Bioethical dilemmas, whether arising from scientific and technological developments or from the research practices of pharmaceutical companies, raise issues which cannot be effectively addressed at national or regional levels. Bioethics clearly calls for global solutions to what are global dilemmas and students will be introduced to some of the key bioethical issues which arise in the contemporary global context. Key bioethical concerns are: genetic justice; eugenics; reproductive choice and procreational autonomy; the `10/90 disequilibrium' (90% of the global burden of premature morality is attributable to diseases of the developing world while 90% of global expenditure on health research is directed towards disease problems of the developed countries); issues of medical tourism and the trafficking of body parts, where the rich purchase `spare' body parts from the poor; issues of who owns genetic material (for instance, whether or not the human genome is `common to all humanity'); concerns about the power of pharmaceutical companies, biopiracy and the global Intellectual Property regime; and issues of environmental ethics. Conceptual themes and concerns will enhance the analysis of such practical dilemmas and key focal concepts include justice, autonomy, commodification, commercialisation and consent.
It's About Time! (20 credits)
This module covers the contemporary issues in the metaphysics of time. Topics which will be covered will include topics such as:
- The Ontology of Time: Does the past exist? Does the future? Is it only the present which exists?
- Tense: Is the present moment metaphysically special?
- Timelessness: Might there be no time, contrary to what we see around us?
- Persistence: How do objects go from one time to another?
- Time Travel: Can anything go back in time? What would the world be like if it did?
- Other Disciplines: How does physics bear on the metaphysics of time? How does the philosophy of time bear on issues in the philosophy of religion?
Philosophy of Mathematics (20 credits)
This module is an introduction to the central concepts, themes, and figures in philosophy of mathematics. We begin with a survey of the logical and mathematical notions presupposed in the main debates. We then study the most influential “isms” in this field: logicism, formalism, intuitionism, structuralism, realism, empiricism, and nominalism. The last lecture of the module provides an overview of recent controversies, focusing on the philosophy of set theory. The reading of primary sources will also give us the opportunity to become familiar with key historical thinkers such as Frege, Hilbert, Carnap, Gödel, and Dummett.
Social Justice (20 credits)
This module explores different aspects of one of the most important debates in the contemporary political philosophy: social and distributive justice. Socio-economic inequality is among the most pressing moral and political issues of our time. Its relevance has been sharply highlighted by the effects of the current pandemic. In this module, we investigate what forms of socio-economic inequality are (un)justifiable and why. The module begins with John Rawls’s seminal account of social justice, which understands justice as fairness. After this, students will read some of the most relevant direct critiques of Rawls’s theory. In the second part, the module will cover a number of debates on particular issues that evolved from philosopher’s engagement with Rawls’s work. Topics covered here include issues such as relational vs distributive equality, the idea of a basic income, race and distributive justice, gender and distributive justice, and the idea of a meritocracy.
Just War (20 credits)
This module is an introduction to contemporary debates about the ethics of war, addressing some fundamental questionsin applied ethics. Can war ever be morally justified? Are there moral constraints on the conduct in war? Do international laws regulating armed conflicts have moral foundations? The module focuses on just war theory as the dominant view about the ethics of war. Some of the topics covered include theories of individual self-defense and their relation to collective self-defense, the morality of preventative and humanitarian wars, the moral basis of the principle of non-combatant immunity, the moral status of terrorism, and the post-war obligations of formerly warring parties.
Neitzsche (20 credits)
This module explores Nietzsche’s views on naturalism and normativity. We will consider questions such as: Are there any facts about what is morally right, wrong, good, evil? What do our moral judgments, emotions, practices indicate about us, and what is their function? Is morality good for us? Should philosophical inquiry be continuous with the sciences, and, if so, how? How, if at all, might learning about the causal origins of our normative views affect what norms and values we should accept? The primary goal of the module will be to understand Nietzsche’s views on these questions and to assess their plausibility and implications. We will focus primarily on Nietzsche's book On the Genealogy of Morality. Selections from other works will also be considered.
Prejudice, Race and Gender (20 credits)
We take ourselves to be rational agents, going about in the world in a fairly rational manner. Even if we don’t always end up doing so, we assume that acting and judging rationally is within our reach if we try to do so. However, we also commonly recognise that our judgements and actions are sometimes prejudiced in various ways. This module is an investigation into the different faces of prejudice, its bearing on our conception of ourselves as rational agents, and its ethical and political implications. The guiding questions are whether the existence of prejudice undermines our capacity for rational judgement and action in significant ways, and what we might be morally required to do to address any shortcomings.
Reason and Belief (20 credits)
On the epistemology side, our main focus is on the concept of epistemic justification: for a belief to count as knowledge, must it be justified by a foundation, or is justification holistic or infinitist? To have knowledge must a thinker be aware of her reasons or evidence, as traditional ‘internalists’ maintain, or should we seek a more naturalistic, ‘externalist’ conception, free of that assumption? Following that, we’ll consider some issues concerning distinctive sources of knowledge: e.g. perception, thought, memory, and/or testimony.In the module, we'll examine some of the following questions: How do beliefs and other psychological states represent the world outside? How do they relate to phenomenal properties, and are the latter distinctively problematic? In predicting and explaining the beliefs and thinking of other people, do we rely on a theory of how people reason, or do we simulate their thinking by putting ourselves in their shoes? To conclude the module, we'll discuss self-knowledge, a topic that brings philosophy of mind and epistemology elegantly together: how do you know what you believe?
Being Good and Doing Right (20 credits)
What is the good life? What moral requirements are there on us? Should we aim to do whatever our moral duty is, or should we aim to be good people? Questions like these are the subject-matter of moral theory. This module will examine issues found in recent work in moral theory, including some of the following:
- Should we think that the consequences of our actions are all that matters to the morality of those actions?
- If this view (consequentialism) is true, what form does the best version of consequentialism take?
- Is there a contemporary version of Kantianism that is a more plausible moral theory?
- Are there good objections to both consequentialist and Kantian theories, such as the objection that someone who lived the way those theories require would not be a good person, or would not have a good life?
- Can a Kantian or a Consequentialist be a friend?
- What philosophical account can we give of friendship and love, and how might these relate to ethics?In looking into these issues we are likely to stumble across other topics for discussion, such as the nature of happiness and well-being, the nature and importance of love and friendship in the good life, and the nature of virtue. (In any given year, the precise issues covered may vary.)
Cross-College of Arts and Law Modules (offered in second or third year):
Sustainable Development: Climate, Culture, Society and Policy (Cross-College) (20 credits)
This is an interdisciplinary module that allows students to examine sustainability through the lens of several disciplines that fall broadly within arts, humanities and law. The students will examine some of the following topics: sustainability and interdisciplinary research; the concept of sustainable development; climate change; sustainability and environmental justice, environmental ethics; creative ecologies and environmental activity. In examining these topics, students will also examine particular polices/initiatives to understand how sustainability is implemented in practice. The module will be delivered by academics from different disciplines which will allow students to engage in an interdisciplinary discussion with some of the mentioned topics. Students will also have an opportunity to learn about sustainability initiatives at the UoB campus.
Professional Skills Module (Cross-College) (20 credits)
This module enables you to undertake a work experience placement of 70 hours/10-days – either in person, remotely, or both – in a project or role that provides a ‘graduate-level’ opportunity.The Professional Skills Module (PSM) develops transferable professional skills, knowledge and experience on which you can base an effective reflective assessment. Placements can be self-sourced, with support from the Placements Officer and Careers Network, or you can apply to exclusive roles in the PSM Placements Bank, tailored in partnership with employers from a range of sectors, including: Arts & Culture; Charity and Social Enterprise; Community and Non-Profit; SMEs/Commercial; and Education.Alternatively, if you have a freelance or business idea, you can follow the PSM Entrepreneur option, which enables you to launch your own enterprise or freelance service through your degree.