First Year

Compulsory modules: 

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.

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?)

Understanding Politics (20)

This is an introductory course designed to familiarise students with a broad spectrum of theories, approaches and issues related to the concept of power and contemporary political ideas.

The aim is to provide students with a solid foundation of key skills and knowledge upon which they can build their own perspectives on a number of themes and issues which they are likely to encounter over the course of their degree programme.

The course is divided into two main parts – the first part looks at different conceptions of politics and power, whilst the second half of the course examines a number of contemporary ideas and political issues.

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

Group A (Theology and Religion)

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).

Group B (Politics)

Classical Political Thought (20)

The course is an introduction to the development of Western political philosophy from Plato to Rousseau. It is concerned with an examination of the most important ideas and theories concerning the relationship between man, state and society in the political thought of the Ancient Greeks, the early Christians, the later Middle Ages, and the early modern state. 

The course is text based. It is expected that students will become familiar with the key texts of political thought. Topics covered will be selected from the following: the nature of political society and of political activity; the relationship between moral, religious and political ideas; the nature of the state, government and authority; justice, liberty and equality; human nature and politics; law and politics; political argument and political deliberation.

Introduction to International Relations (20)

In this module, you are introduced to the study of international politics and the main approaches, theories and debates in the discipline of International Relations.

The main aims of this module are both to introduce you to some of the main issues of international politics, such as war and peace, development, regional integration and security, and to make you familiar with different ways to conceptualise and analyse these issues.

This means that a substantial part of this module is devoted to the introduction of the main traditional theories of International Relations and the concepts they use.

Studying international politics is theoretical, one of the central messages throughout the course is that different theoretical approaches generate different images of the world that build on particular assumptions.

Therefore, while you may think you know what the current problems of international politics are and how to solve them, one of the aims of this course is to alert you to other ways of seeing things.

This should allow you to make a more confident decision about your own stance towards particular issues and to analyse these issues more thoroughly, but it should also make you question both your own as well as others’ representations of the world.

Introduction to Political Economy (20)

Introduction to Political Economy enables students to become acquainted with the style of analysis and the subject matter of the classical political economists. Such work is set within the context of a general introduction to the discipline.

Semester 2 enables students to understand the challenge to classical political economy of neoclassical economics, while also studying twentieth century dissenters to neoclassical orthodoxy. This broadens the students knowledge of the language and concepts of political economy, set within the context of contemporary political and policy debates.

Group C (Philosophy)

Ancient Philosophy: Plato and Aristotle (10)

Plato and Aristotle are said to be the most important philosophers of Ancient Greece. They are often also called the founding fathers of philosophy. In this module, Plato’s and Aristotle’s main philosophical ideas in both theoretical philosophy and ethics are introduced by looking in detail at reasonably short excerpts of Plato’s and Aristotle’s original texts. Working through parts of their central texts and thoughts, we will come to understand why Plato and Aristotle have played such a huge role in the development of Western philosophy and thought and why they continue to be relevant today.

Ethics: How should we live? (10)

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?

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?

Political Philosophy: Can power be legitimate? (10)

This module introduces some of the fundamental issues of Western Political Philosophy. In particular, it will discuss the nature of political authority and obligation, the role and function of the state, and the purposes and justification of government. This will pave the way for a discussion of what is arguably the central question of political philosophy: ‘Why should I obey the state?’ The module will be taught through an examination of four of the key texts of Western political thought.