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Introduction to Philosophical Methodology


Module Code: TBC

  • ECTS Weighting: 10
  • Semester/Term Taught: Michaelmas Term
  • Contact Hours: 11 x 2-hour seminars; 4 supervision hours; 174 hours of independent study
  • Module Personnel: Professor Paul O'Grady (email)

Module Content

What do we do when we 'do' philosophy? There are many different views on this and it is itself an important philosophical question. This course is intended to stimulate students to think critically about this question and will proceed via a close reading of a number of important texts on the question. Aquinas presents a classical account of the nature of metaphysics and how it differs from natural science, mathematics and theology. We examine the genre of his writing, how it emerges from the medieval university and associated social context. Then Hume's account of 'the science of man' offers a radically different approach, which ultimately rejects much of what Aquinas defends as 'sophistry and illusion'. Russell follows in Hume's empiricism, yet can rehabilitate certain kinds of metaphysical views, especially about causation and universals. Wittgenstein offers a radically different view of the nature of philosophy, where it offers no truths, but is a form of therapy again different kinds of intellectual neurosis. Finally Quine also rejects traditional philosophy, but advocates instead a version of naturalized philosophy, where science and philosophy have no methodological distinction. This seminar will include close textual reading with presentations and debate on the topics arising.

Learning Outcomes

The aim of this module is to provide students with subject specific knowledge and to equip them with the necessary skills for independent research. On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:

  1. Critically articulate and assess Aquinas's metaphysical conception of philosophy
  2. Evaluate Hume's 'science of man' and judge its success or failure
  3. Articulate and assess how Russell tries to develop an empiricist metaphysics
  4. Explain and critique Wittgenstein's therapeutic conception of philosophy
  5. Assess and evaluate Quine's naturalistic philosophy
  6. Critically evaluate competing conceptions of philosophical method

Assessment Details

The basis for the assessment of this module will consist of four reflective pieces of writing at 750 words, each of which will consist 25% of the mark.