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Introduction to Philosophical Research

Module Code: PI7101

  • 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: Dr Ben White

Module Content

Philosophy is an uncommonly self-reflective discipline, as is demonstrated by the perennial interest that philosophers have displayed in questions regarding the nature of their own practice and its relation to other ways of acquiring knowledge. This module will investigate some of these questions, including but not limited to the following: Is there a distinctive philosophical methodology, and if so, what are its defining characteristics? To what extent does philosophical inquiry depend on conceptual analysis and other a priori methods? Is there any sharp dividing line between philosophy and the sciences? What is the overall purpose of philosophy? Is it to provide us with special insight into certain substantive truths about the world, or merely to help us avoid confusion, or something else entirely? After familiarizing ourselves with some of the varying schools of thought on these issues, we will consider how these different conceptions of the nature and role of philosophy might lead to different ways of addressing specific questions in the philosophy of mind, meta-ethics, and the metaphysics of colour.

Learning Aims

The primary learning aims of this component are to acquire a sophisticated understanding of foundational issues in philosophical methodology, and to develop general skills in the construction, analysis, and evaluation of philosophical positions and arguments relating to these issues.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Describe and evaluate competing conceptions of philosophical methodology.
  • Explain some of the main points of disagreement between competing views on the nature of philosophy, its methods, and its relation to other disciplines, and assess arguments bearing on these issues.
  • Articulate and defend their own views on the nature of philosophy and its methods.

Assessment Details

Students will submit a final essay. There will also be a short set of reading questions assigned each week of class, starting in Week 2. Students should send me their answers to these questions via email before class.

The weighting for these assignments is as follows:
Weekly reading questions: 15%
Final essay: 85%

There is a strict 3,000 word limit for the final essay (including footnotes but not bibliography). Essays that exceed this limit will be subject to a 5 point penalty. Students are encouraged to develop their own topics for their essays in consultation with me.
Students must also submit a 350-500 word provisional abstract of their final essays no later than 3 weeks before the essay is due. Failure to submit an abstract will result in a 5 point deduction from the final grade for the essay.

Students may request an extension by contacting the MPhil Coordinator Dr Ben White.

Recommended Reading List

- Frank Jackson. 1998. From Metaphysics to Ethics. Oxford University Press.
All other readings will be posted on Blackboard.