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Central Problems in Philosophy A

Module Code: PI1010

Module Name: Central Problems in Philosophy A

Module Content

This is a problem-based course, comprising the following components:

Component 1: Philosophy of ReligionProfessor Paul O'Grady (email)

This course offers an introduction to some of the main topics in philosophy of religion. It analyses how philosophical approaches to religion differ from other kinds of approach. The two traditional arguments for God's existence are explored in some detail. The cosmological argument is one which seeks to argue from certain phenomena in the world to the existence of a non– spatio– temporal cause of these. The general features of such arguments are explored as well as standard objections to them. Then a classical and a modern version of this argument are examined. The argument to design is another traditional argument for God's existence. A famous version of this from William Paley is examined along with important objections to it from evolutionary theory and from the great Scottish philosopher, David Hume. Then a modern version of this argument developed by Richard Swinburn is assessed. Finally the problem of evil is examined. This is the supposed incompatibility of the existence of an all good and all powerful God with the existence of evil. Different versions of the argument are explored and the free will defense in the version devised by Alvin Plantinga is assessed.

Component 2: Philosophy of MindDr. James Miller (email)

This component will consider some central concepts and debates in the philosophy of mind. We will focus on the mind-body problem. This problem concerns the relationship between the mental (beliefs, thoughts, desires) and the physical (neural patterns), and how the two might interact in order to cause our behaviour. Are our minds separate from our brains, or are our thoughts only particular patterns of neurons firing? We will consider various theories that seek to solve the mind-body problem including dualism, behaviourism, identity theory, and functionalism. Each of these theories differs on whether they accept the existence and role of mental states. An understanding of the problem will allow us to consider related topics such as consciousness, whether we could survive our minds being uploaded to a computer, and intentionality.

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module, students will be able to:

  • explain what is distinctive about a philosophical approach to religion
  • show an understanding of important concepts in the philosophy of mind, and knowledge of the arguments for and against the main positions on the mind-body question.

Assessment Details

For PI1010 (10 ECTS) students are required to submit two essays from the set list of essay titles for this module (one from each component) and sit a two hour exam (answering two questions, one for each component, from a list of questions for that module) during the annual examination period.

Module Code: PI1011

Module Name: Central Problems in Philosophy B

Component 1: MetaphysicsDr. James Miller (email)

Metaphysics is sometimes described as the most general philosophical investigation into what there is. This component will provide an introduction to various concepts and ideas in modern metaphysics and ontology (such as properties, identity, substance, necessity). In order to illuminate these notions, this component will focus on two main topics: first, the problem of identity and change is it possible for an object to change its properties yet remain numerically the same? How much can an object change yet remain the same? Is this amount the same for different sorts of objects? And second, a debate over the existence of a disputed category of entities, universals. Universals are properties or relations that reoccur in many objects yet remain singular. For example, the colour blue reoccurs in many blue things being taller than reoccurs as a relation between many different objects. We will consider the arguments for and against accepting the existence of universals. These problems provide paradigmatic examples of metaphysical disputes that potentially cause tensions with our natural intuitions. They also illustrate the special nature of philosophical, and in particular metaphysical, argument, as well as providing a terminological and knowledge basis to approach other issues within metaphysics.

Component 2: Introduction to Moral Philosophy Dr. Ben Bramble (email)

We will start this module by looking at some of the key questions in ethics: What makes an action morally wrong? What makes the world go better? (And does anything really matter?) What do I have a reason to do (if anything)? Here, we will consider what these questions are really asking, and how they might relate to each other. Having set the scene, we will turn to some of the main answers that have been given to these questions. In particular, we will be interested in utilitarianism, and the arguments for and against it. Finally, we will take a brief look at how the answers to these questions might be applied to real world problems.Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism.

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module, students will be able to:

  • show an understanding of important foundational concepts within metaphysics, such as identity, property, substance, and necessity
  • learn to analyse and interpret historical texts in Moral Philosophy

Assessment Details

For PI1011 (5 ECTS) students are required to submit one essay from the set list of essay titles for this module and sit a one hour exam (answering one question, from a list of questions for that module, which must be from the component for which the essay was NOT submitted) during the annual examination period.