Religion in the Public Sphere (20 credits)
These modules consolidate learning about politics, religion and philosophy gained in the first year and continues to bring their concerns, insights and methods into dialogue by focussing on issues and regions of concern in the contemporary world. A main aim of the module is to ensure that students leaving the Politics, Religion and Philosophy programme can offer analysis and advice in public arenas on religious, political and philosophical issues in an informed and robust manner and can explain the value and skills of their degree studies to prospective employers.
History of Political Ideas (20 credits)
This module introduces students to the history of political ideas, and proceeds through a critical evaluation of the major canon of political thought, from the early modern period (Machiavelli) to the late 19th Century (Nietzsche). The module allows students to consider a sequence of historical political thinkers and texts, whilst at each stage we ask: are their recommendations for political life either desirable or persuasive? Why should visions of the political differ so greatly? And are the problems of these historical thinkers still ‘our own’? In the process of introducing political theory by means of its historical development, students are provided with the capacity to begin to use a range of key concepts effectively (including sovereignty, revolution, imperialism, and exploitation; the common good, rights, liberty, racial, sexual and social justice).
Optional modules may include:
(choose at least 20 credits from at least two of the participating departments)
Group A (Theology and Religion):
Auschwitz in History and Memory (20 credits)
This interdisciplinary Holocaust studies module explores Auschwitz in history and memory. Topics covered relating to KL Auschwitz include the evolution and multi-functionality of the site; the experience of non-Jews; gendered experiences; the nature of survival and resistance in KL Auschwitz; the Auschwitz Sonderkommando; perpetrators and perpetrator texts. Study of Auschwitz in memory will focus on the ‘afterlife’ of the site, both as a physical location/memorial and as a symbol: visual representations of Auschwitz; memorialization of the site; the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum; Auschwitz as a site of mass/dark/Holocaust tourism, and a site of pilgrimage and (contested) sacred space.
Religion and the Arts (20 credits)
This module will assess the importance and significance of art – and ‘the arts’ more broadly framed – in its many different forms as a tool for communication, interpretation and critique of religious and theological ideas and ideologies. It will focus on, for example, a range of artefacts, including works of fine art, stained glass, sculpture, literature, film and music, and upon buildings and architectural features, offering and introduction to the development of religious art and seeking to read a range of works from religious and secular perspectives. Students will learn how to read and appreciate such artefacts as theological resources as well as cultural ones, and reflect upon issues such as what it is that makes art religious and how cultural outputs and artefacts can have spiritual impact.
Boundaries of Truth in Christian Theologies (20 credits)
This second year module introduces students to the development and content of central Christian doctrines, with particular focus, but not limited to, Christology, Soteriology and Ecclesiology. It highlights key events and ideas that have impacted the development of Christian thought, such as church councils, heresies and schisms.
Dharmic Religions and Traditions (20 credits)
Dharmic traditions such as – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism – cannot be confined under the Western construct of “religion” and this module will encourage students to look beyond Western perspectives. This module will introduce students to one or more Indic dharmic traditions, exploring the concept of dharma through that tradition. Students will study key concepts, ideas and practices such as attitudes towards the afterlife, reincarnation, liberation, and concepts such as compassion, selfless service, environment to understand notions of duty, doing good deeds, religious practice, and achieving fulfilment. By addressing the ‘central and fundamental’ beliefs of a tradition students will learn the distinctive features of how dharma has been understood and developed in that tradition. There will also be opportunity to consider some and connect the common features and differences by a comparative focus with on Indic encounters and engagement with key Dharmic concepts, through another tradition, such as Indic Sufism. It will also encourage students to see how these religions and their communities have influenced, engaged with, and adapted through encounters with, and by living in, the ‘West’.
Global Islam (20 credits)
This module explores the global diversity of contemporary Islam. By investigating the place of Islam in a variety of cultures and societies, the module questions the perception of Islam as being primarily a religion of the Middle East and illustrates Islam’s global reach. The module has two elements: (1) it includes a number of case studies of how is Islam is lived and practised in different geographical, social and cultural settings. Case studies cover contexts in which Muslims constitute majorities but also minority contexts in the West. The aim is to illustrate Islam’s contemporary diversity while also exploring unifying features of Muslim communities and societies across its varied cultural and social manifestations. (2) The module also engages with core analytical concepts such as transnationalism, diaspora, postcolonialism and gender and their relevance in understanding global dynamics in contemporary Islam.
The Human Condition (20 credits)
This module will address issues and questions that occur at the ‘borderlands’ between Philosophy and Theology/Religion. The module will focus on: a) the human predicament as described in a number of selected religious and philosophical traditions; and b) the meaning and goal of human life, again, as understood in a number of selected religious or philosophical traditions.
Islamic Ethics (20 credits)
How should human beings live? What are the standards that should govern their behaviour? Ethical concerns lie at the heart of the Islamic tradition. Scriptural texts such as the Qur’an and the hadith provide the foundations of the Islamic moral outlook, but historically this outlook has been articulated and refined in a variety of ways across different disciplines including law and legal theory, Sufism, and speculative theology (kalām). Within this broader tradition, practical questions about how human beings should live have often been intertwined with higher-level theological and philosophical questions about the foundations of ethical value, the relationship between reason and revelation, and the moral nature of God. The purpose of this module is to introduce this rich tradition of ethical reflection in both its practical and reflective dimensions. Having explored the different genres and sources of Islamic ethics, part of the module will focus on selective questions of applied ethics, such as sexual ethics, environmental ethics, or the ethics of life and death.
Critical Issues in Theology, Religion and Education (20 credits)
This module introduces students to key, critical issues in British Religious Education and orients them to the current climate and significant debates defining the subject area. Students will gain insight into educational theory and practice alongside engagement with disciplinary research in Theology and Religion and its applicability in the classroom. The module allows students to examine closely areas of current curriculum focus with guided insight into the challenges and potential impact of exploring these in classroom settings. Throughout the module, students will gain an appreciation of teaching and learning in religion that is closely integrated with educational perspectives, asking what is meant by the ‘religious’ aspect of Religious Education in contemporary, multifaith society.
Group B (Politics):
Comparative Politics (20 credits)
This module will compare politics and society across Europe and around the world, with a focus on key topics such as democracies, empire, identity, voters, elections, and political parties. It also analyses contemporary issues such as populism, technocracy, and policies to address important issues such as climate change and migration. Students will become familiar with different conceptual and methodological approaches and study a variety of countries to understand similarities and differences across political systems and cultures.
Global Governance (20 credits)
Global Governance is a very salient issue on the international agenda: it refers to the rule making efforts to sustain cooperation in order to address global problems or concerns. Increasingly the world has to deal with security threats, financial breakdown, development concerns and deteriorating environmental conditions. States try to coordinate their efforts to respond to these challenges through the establishment of international institutions like the UN, the WTO and the treaties governing environmental change. However, states have enjoyed a varying degree of success in setting up institutions to govern common problems, and therefore non-state actors have increasingly been involved in providing intellectual and financial resources to deal with international problems.
International Relations Theory (20 credits)
This module deepens students' understanding of International Relations theory, and introduces them to some of the discipline's most debated issues. Through in-depth discussions of problems and themes of past and current international relations, students are invited to stand critical of different theoretical approaches, their claims and methods, and the impact they have on knowledge of practice of international relations.
Feminist Political Ideas (20 credits)
Feminist political ideas are hugely diverse, critical, and necessarily engaged: they seek to change our thinking, how we look at the world and the way we live. This module explores the development, richness, and diversity of western feminist political ideas in their own terms. The module concentrates on the way in which feminist ideas (1) challenge and revise traditional political thinking, (2) have made rich contributions to our understanding of political concepts, knowledge and the nature of oppression, and (3) can inform how we live and do things.
Race, Identity and Belonging (20 credits)
The experience of ethnic minorities today is rooted in the colonial past. This module seeks to explore the societal dissonance that exists within modern democratic states. This dissonance centres on the fear of the ‘other’ and co-constitutes the ‘self’, resulting in consequences such as xenophobia and populism. This module explores the impact of colonial structures and provides a historical overview of the progression from race relations to identity politics.
The Politics of Sustainable Development (20 credits)
Sustainable development is a concept suggesting that it is possible to achieve environmental sustainability in our current market-based and growth-focussed society. This module interrogates the introduction of the concept, its quick ascent to the forefront of politics, and its critiques. We will consider how sustainable development shapes environmental politics across local, national and international scales, and interrogate sustainable development strategies and programmes developed by different ‘actor constellations’, such as for example states, the private sector, non-governmental organisations and individuals.
Globalisation, Capitalism and Welfare (20 credits)
This module will be at the intersection of comparative politics and comparative political economy. It will employ the comparative method and theories of analysing and classifying advanced economies (varieties of capitalism) and public policy (welfare models). The module will be of interest mainly for comparative politics and political economy students. Its focus will be global by focusing on advanced economies of the West (USA and EU) and non-western economies such as Latin American countries and Asian countries.
International Security (20 credits)
The module examines a variety of theoretical and empirical material, providing students with a basis for analysing pressing questions relating to security issues in the world today. The topics explored in the module include: different theoretical approaches to ‘security’; ‘types’ of security; the management of international security; and major security issues, such as WMD proliferation, terrorism, ethnic conflict and state failure.
Group C (Philosophy):
Aesthetics Through History (20 credits)
The first half of the module will introduce philosophical aesthetics through the lens of a number of key historical thinkers. The topics of this part of the module may include topics such as Plato's account and critical evaluation of art focused on the notion of imitation, Aristotle's description of the craft of poetry and his theory the role which tragedy can play in good human life, Hume's pragmatic account of judgments of taste, and Kant's aesthetics focusing on the beautiful and the sublime. The second half of the module will focus recent developments in aesthetics. The topics investigated at this part of the module may include questions such as whether fakes and forgeries have the same amount of aesthetic value as genuine works of art, whether photography is a genuine art form, in what way does music express emotion, can we have genuine emotions when we are immersed with fictions, and what it is for things to be true in fiction.
Science and Nature (20 credits)
Our day-to-day lives rely in large measure on knowledge acquired from doing science. Science has brought us rockets, solar panels, and medicine. It leads to an ever increasing body of knowledge about the world. But what is science, and how and why does it work so well? Is science very different from history and archaeology? Is homeopathy a science? Does science tell us really about nature independently of us? What must nature be like if science is to be possible? Is science objective in any significant sense? This module explores metaphysical and epistemological questions that arise in general philosophy of science and in the philosophy of the special sciences. Topics will include some of the following: science and pseudoscience, the influence of logical positivism, realism and explanation, laws of nature, chance and determinism, natural kinds, causation, the relationship between science and philosophy, the unity of science, feminist critiques of the objectivity of science.
Speaking of Things (20 credits)
When you speak, write, or think, your sentences or thoughts are about particular things in the world. This aboutness in thought and in speech is the phenomenon of reference, and this module examines the most important attempts by philosophers to explain it. 20th century authors tended to regard this as primarily a question about the relation between certain words (nouns) and the objects they refer to, and so the topic forms the most natural introduction you could hope for to philosophy of language. But we also connect to objects in thought, so aboutness is an issue for the philosophy of mind as well as one for philosophy of language.
The Elements of Metaphysics (20 credits)
Metaphysical questions arise in all areas of philosophy, but they can be slippery and require careful handling. This module aims to equip students with a solid grasp of the core concepts of metaphysics, and an understanding of their logical basis. The goal is to provide a 'metaphysical toolkit' to use when students encounter metaphysical concepts and questions elsewhere in their studies. The exact topics covered will vary from year to year, but may include: the basic concepts of ontology (existence, properties, and identity), modal concepts (possibility, necessity, conditionals, essence, causation and grounding), the nature of logical consequence and necessity, negation and negative facts, and the radical dialetheist position that permits true contradictions.
The Ethics of Killing (20 credits)
One of the Ten Commandments is ‘Thou shall not kill’. But the Bible doesn’t, of course, forbid all killing. And few of us, whether we have religious commitments or not, are strict absolutists about the wrongness of killing (people, in other words, who believe that taking a life is categorically never morally permissible). Indeed, most of us believe, at the very least, that it is permissible to kill a culpably wrongful attacker in self-defence to avoid being killed oneself. Someone might say that, while killing is not always wrong, it is always wrong to kill the innocent. But is even thistrue? What, for instance, of the woman who wants to end her pregnancy, thereby killing her fetus? Or the doctor tending to a terminally ill patient who desperately wants to die, but cannot self-administer the lethal dose of morphine that would end his suffering? Or the pilot sent on a bombing raid to destroy an enemy military target, who knows that, if he completes his mission, nearby civilians will unavoidably be caught in the blast? This module examines when killing is wrong, why it is wrong when it is wrong, and how far these moral judgments can and ought to be taken into account in law and policy-making. Topics on which we are likely to focus include abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide, self-defence, capital punishment, and war.
The Mind-Body Problem (20 credits)
This module introduces central issues in contemporary philosophy of mind. Our minds can be in different kinds of states - for example, we have experiences, beliefs, hopes, desires, and emotions - and can do certain things - for example, we can calculate, reason, change our minds, and decide to act in certain ways. How can minds be incorporated into the naturalistic, scientific picture of the world - are they things that are in the end made of the same stuff that other, material things in the world are? The module will investigate the main philosophical theories of the nature of mind such as dualism, behaviourism, type identity theory and functionalism. Along the way we will discuss various fascinating topics, such as the (apparent) mystery of consciousness, self-awareness, and the assumption that the mind can cause our bodies to perform actions. We will also discuss the key idea of intentionality, i.e. that our mental states are about things. How can we explain this fundamental feature of our mentality?
Climate and Environmental Ethics (20 credits)
Climate change, plastic pollution, biodiversity loss, disturbance of the geochemical cycles, freshwater depletion and other global environmental challenges are highly complicated challenges which face humankind in the 21st century. They raise fundamental questions about how we should live and what kinds of societies we want, what our relationship is with nature, and how we transition from our current way of life with an unsustainable impact on the environment to a societywith minimal environmental impacts (including net-zero-carbon dioxide emissions).
This module is an interdisciplinary module, starting from up-to-date scientific knowledge and including insights from economics, political theory, moral psychology to inform ethical and moral analysis of global environmental problems. We will address the political and ethical questions raised by climate change and other global environmental problems.
Experience and Reason: Early Modern Philosophy (20 credits)
This module examines the resurgence of philosophical theorizing and debate which took place in Europe in the 1600s and 1700s, alongside the 'scientific revolution'. It focuses on well-known figures from the 'Early Modern' period (Descartes, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume) as well as female philosophers whose contribution has become more visible in recent years (Elizabeth of Bohemia, Conway, Du Chatalet). We will examine their views on central topics in metaphysics and epistemology, introducing the main themes of the era – particularly those that shaped the landscape of contemporary philosophy.
Feminist Philosophy (20 credits)
This module addresses some of the key debates in feminist philosophy. It begins with a general overview of feminism, of the agenda and interests that appear to mark out feminist philosophy in general, and of the breadth and diversity of ffeminist thought. The course may cover feminist approaches to, among other things, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, ethics, and political philosophy. This is a module for anyone who wants to think more about how feminist analysis can contribute to our understanding of ourselves and the social world around us.
Logic: Its Limit and Scope (20 credits)
Is there any way to make a mathematics of reasoning? If so, what would it look like? What would be its scope, and what would be its limits? One set of questions concern the extent to which we can adequately represent the subtleties of natural language reasoning in a formal system, i.e. a regimented, mathematical language. Another is whether we can make a formal system which gives all and only the right results. We will see that we can accomplish much of what we would hope to, but not all of it.The module deals with two main formal systems, sentential logic and predicate logic. After introducing the formal languages, we characterize the logical notions of interpretation, entailment, and deducibility relative to each system. We then investigate how these notions are related, proving some fundamental metatheoretic results. In particular, we prove that both systems are sound and complete. Towards the end of the module, we will have the opportunity to discuss additional metatheoretic results, such as the incompleteness theorems.
Sex, Ethics and Philosophy (20 credits)
This module will concern issues in the Philosophy and Ethics of sex. It will cover topics including some of: liberal versus ‘traditional’ understandings of the function of sex; the harm principle; consent and competence to give it; what laws the state should/may impose relating to sex; the permissibility of contraception, homosexuality, pornography and prostitution. The module employs the topic of sex as a route into fundamental issues in ethics and philosophy concerning liberalism, the law, the nature of ethics and related issues.
The Philosophy of Mental Health (20 credits)
In Philosophy, mental health is a multi-faceted topic that can be approached from a variety of perspectives, and which is relevant to several different areas, including Philosophy of mind, Philosophy of Science, Ethics, Epistemology, and more. In this module, we aim at exploring in depth some of the main philosophical debates on the topic of mental health.
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.