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Senior Sophister Philosophy, Political Science, Economics, and Sociology
Module Outlines
Hilary Term 2019

PPES Philosophy (Single): The work for this year consists of seminars, a thesis, and a general paper. Students are required to choose TWO seminars at 10 ECTS (one in each term) and FOUR seminars at 5 ECTS (two in each term), for a total of 40 ECTS. The thesis is worth 15 ECTS, and the General Paper is worth 5 ECTS. Thus there are a total of 60 ECTS for the year.

PPES Philosophy (Joint): Students choose TWO seminars for Michaelmas Term and ONE seminar for Hilary Term. Each seminar is worth 5 ECTS, so the seminars are with 15 ECTS overall. The thesis is worth 15 ECTS. Thus there are a total of 30 ECTS for the year.

Students select their modules by submitting a module choice form to the PPES Course Administrator in the School Office.

Each philosophy seminar takes place once a week over a single term. Students taking a seminar are expected to prepare work in advance and to take an active role in discussion (including, for some seminars, being prepared to read out a discussion-starting paper during the seminar).

Part of the assessment for each philosophy module will be by means of essays that are marked by the module lecturer. Students submit one essay for 5 ECTS modules, and two essays for 10 ECTS modules. For guidance please consult the module instructor. The examination for each module takes place at the end of the semester in which the module takes place, and consists of one one-hour examination (for 5 ECTS modules) or one two-hour examination (for 10 ECTS modules).

 

PI4026/PI4126: Political Philosophy (5/10 ECTS)

  • Contact Hours: 22 hours of lectures
  • Lecturer: Dr Brian Carey (email)
  • ECTS: 5/10
  • Semester 2

Module Outline for Semester 2

Political philosophy is sometimes criticized on the basis that it is too abstract, that it misrepresents real people and real political institutions, and that it fails to provide action-guiding recommendations that can be applied to the world in which we live. In this module, students will explore and critically examine some of the ways that political theorists have responded (or failed to respond) to these challenges. We will begin by considering recent debates in the methodology of political philosophy, before considering ways in which a philosopher may themselves be affected by bias or prejudice. The remainder of this module focuses on some of those subjects who have often been ignored or under-examined by political theorists in the past, including children, people of colour, people with disabilities, and migrants.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this component students will be able to:
• Explain several important challenges that political theorists must face if we aim to produce action-guiding recommendations for the real world.
• Understand the key ideas and concepts used by theorists who focus on some of the lesser-studied subjects in political theory.
• Develop the oral and written skills necessary to analyse philosophical arguments and to present their own philosophical ideas in a clear, coherent, and compelling fashion.

PI4041/PI4141: Post Kantian Philosophy (5/10 ECTS)

  • Contact Hours: 22 hours of lectures
  • Lecturer: Prof. Lilian Alweiss (email)
  • ECTS: 5/10
  • Semester 2

Module Outline for Semester 2

When we speak or think we cannot avoid making use of the personal pronoun. We say 'I think', 'I am in pain', 'I am hungry' or 'I was born in the last century'. In all these instances reference to a bearer of thought seems inevitable. Yet there are many who wish to convince us that what seems inevitable in everyday speech, is nothing other than a linguistic convention.The words ‘I’ and ‘my’ are mere adornments of speech. There is a ‘necessity of syntax’, which compels us to speak of a positional self, however as soon as we have a closer look we come to realise that the pronoun ‘I’ is not a place-holder for anything in particular. Indeed, without much trouble we can replace  ‘I was thinking’ with ‘there was thinking going on’, and ‘I am in pain’ with ‘there is pain’ since there is no self separable from the thought or the sensation of pain. Proof of this is that we cannot perceive such a self but only objects of thoughts, feelings, sensations or impressions. Versions of such a no-ownership theory of consciousness are presented by (Hume, Anscombe, Wittgenstein, the early Husserl and the early Sartre). Against this view this course wishes to show why we need to hold fast to the claim that there is something distinctive about the use of the first person pronoun. No description, not even one containing indexicals (other than the first person pronouns themselves) can be substituted for 'I'.  We shall do this by focusing, in particular, on the writings of Descartes, Kant and Husserl.

Learning Outcomes

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

  • To encourage students to reflect upon the problem of the self
  • To familiarise students with the problem of self-consciousness, self-reference and the unity of consciousness.
  • To learn how these problems have been addressed by Hume, Descartes, Kant, Anscombe, Wittgenstein, Evans and Husserl
  • To show how these problems are still relevant today.

PI4048/4148: Neurophilosophy (5/10 ECTS)

  • Contact Hours: 22 hours of lectures
  • Lecturer: Dr Tom Farrell (email)
  • ECTS: 5/10
  • Semester 2

Module Outline for Semester 2

Perhaps since Plato, and certainly since Descartes, there has been a thesis in philosophy that there are two substances, the one mental (the mind) and the other physical (the body).  This view arose in response to certain difficulties in philosophy, but has raised more problems such as how these substances interact and whether one can exist without the other. These problems have proved so intractable that philosophers have been disposed to respond to them by rejecting one or other substance, or less dramatically by 'reducing' one to the other. None of the attempts to grapple with the 'mind-body' problem have found universal acceptance, although an ultimate reduction of the mental to the physical has been widely, if tacitly, accepted by scientists. The rapid development of neuroscience and artificial intelligence has been considered to support this view. In these seminars we will explore that apparent support.

Learning Outcomes

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

  •    Discuss the main theoretical positions on questions in the philosophy of mind.
  •    Present arguments for and against these positions
  •    Assess the contribution which neuroscience may make to these discussions
  •    Discuss the concepts of identity, reduction, causality, and explanation as these relate to the mind-body problem.

PI4051/PI4151: Ethics, The Limits of Morality (5/10 ECTS)

Ethics and Moral Motivation

  • Contact Hours: 22 hours of lectures
  • Lecturer: Dr Lizzy Ventham (email)
  • ECTS: 5/10
  • Semester 2

Module Outline for Semester 2

Suppose a person is presented by a choice: to spend their time doing some good for others at a cost to themselves, or to spend their time on other personal pursuits. Sometimes they’ll choose to do the former, sometimes they’ll choose to do the latter. What’s behind these choices? What makes people do what they judge to be the right thing to do?
This module will introduce students to a number of advanced and active debates in ethics and moral psychology. Students will learn theories and arguments about our mental lives, and the role they play in our moral action. The course will cover some of the following issues:
- What it is for an experience to be a pleasant or unpleasant one.
- Under what conditions an agent has a reason to act.
- The relationship between what we have reason to do and what we desire.
- The relationship between our moral obligations and our desires.
- How demanding morality can be of us.
As well as learning to analyse and answer questions on these topics, students will learn about the answers and arguments given to these questions from important contemporary and historical figures.

Module Learning Aims

Suppose a person is presented by a choice: to spend their time doing some good for others at a cost to themselves, or to spend their time on other personal pursuits. Sometimes they’ll choose to do the former, sometimes they’ll choose to do the latter. What’s behind these choices? What makes people do what they judge to be the right thing to do?
This module will introduce students to a number of advanced and active debates in ethics and moral psychology. Students will learn theories and arguments about our mental lives, and the role they play in our moral action. The course will cover some of the following issues:
- What it is for an experience to be a pleasant, unpleasant or painful one.
- Under what conditions an agent has a reason to act.
- The relationship between what we have reason to do and what we desire.
- The relationship between our moral obligations and our desires.
- How demanding morality can be of us.
As well as learning to analyse and answer questions on these topics, students will learn about the answers and arguments given to these questions from important contemporary and historical figures.

Learning Outcomes

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

  • Think critically about issues in normative ethics, meta-ethics and moral psychology.
  • Better understand current debates in normative ethics, meta-ethics and moral psychology.
  • Critically assess the merits of different positions in contemporary debates.
  • Clearly articulate objections to theories and principles.
  • Construct ethical arguments orally and in writing.

PI4200: Philosophy Dissertation (15 ECTS)

Students are required to write a dissertation (8,000 words) (15 ECTS) during the year on a philosophically acceptable topic for which a supervisor is available.

PI4201: Philosophy General Paper (5 ECTS)

Students are required to sit one 3-hour general paper (5 ECTS). This paper is a general test of a candidate’s philosophical ability, rather than an examination of knowledge of a particular segment of the syllabus.

This paper is not aimed at testing the knowledge and understanding of any specific module, but at testing the range and depth of your reading and thinking in philosophy over your four years in College, and your ability to write clearly, cogently and imaginatively.