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Junior Fresh Year Single Honors Philosophy
Module Outlines
Hilary Term 2020

All modules consist of two components with 11 lectures each (over five and a half weeks) in each semester. There are two hours of lectures per week. Each module component covers a single coherent theme or topic (e.g. Ethics, or 17th Century Philosophy) and is usually taught by the same lecturer. Students also meet for weekly tutorials with departmental teaching assistants.

Part of the assessment for each module will be by means of essays that are marked by the module teaching assistants. For guidance please consult the list of JF essay titles, distributed to students during the semester. Essay titles are made available by lecturers on Blackboard. Students are required to submit their essay through Blackboard. No hard copies of essays are required. Students are advised not to use the Safari browser when submitting assignments through Blackboard. Students must attach a cover sheet to all Philosophy essays.

The examination for each module takes place at the end of the semester in which the module takes place. The examination paper will contain questions that reflect each of the components that make up the module. Material already assessed in essays may not be used again in examinations. To do so is to be liable to be penalised by 10 marks for the examination question attempted.

Wordcount for Essays

Essays must not exceed 1,500 words in length. The word count includes footnotes but it does not include the bibliography. Essays that go over the limit will be liable for a 5 mark deduction.

Late Submission of Essays and Extensions

There will be a 5 mark deduction for each week an essay is late.

Essay extensions, may be requested on medical or ad misericordiam grounds from your programme coordinator Professor Lilian Alweiss (Single Honors Philosophy) but only via your College Tutor. Extensions must be arranged prior to the submission date.

Tutorial Attendance

It is mandatory for Fresher students to attend tutorials for Philosophy. If a student misses six or more tutorials in a term, then they are penalised by ten marks being deducted from one of their essays for the modules covered by that tutorial in that term.

PIU11014: Topics in Philosophy I B

Module Outline

Component 1: Ethics (Dr Lizzy Ventham)

Lives can go well or poorly for their subjects. What makes this so? In this module, we will examine the main answers philosophers have given to this question. The course begins by looking at what it might mean for experiences to be pleasurable or painful to their subjects. Next, we’ll turn to what role (if any) the pleasurableness or painfulness of life contributes to how well that life goes for its subject. We’ll then look at alternative things that might contribute to a person’s well-being, such as a subject’s achievements, capabilities or virtues.

Learning Aims

  • To learn and understand some of the major positions in the philosophy of well-being.
  • To be able to clearly explain the arguments of key authors.
  • To be able to form and argue for your own critical insights.

Learning Outcomes

Students will learn to read, evaluate and contribute to contemporary debates in the philosophy of well-being.

Recommended Reading List

As advised/circulated by lecturer during the lecture series.

Component 2: Asian Philosophy (Mr Takaharu Oda)

The course begins with a general survey of the major movements in Indian and Chinese thought and with a particular emphasis on Japanese Zen schools, before focusing on Buddhist philosophy as the core topic of this course. The Indian background to Buddhism is explored, characterizing what Buddhist thought was rejecting and exploring the life of the Buddha, as a fundamental aspect of Buddhism. Core teachings of Buddhism such as the four noble truths and the noble eightfold path are explored, alongside the ethical and metaphysical implications of such teachings. We examine the growth of different schools of Buddhist philosophy and concentrate on the Madhyamika school and the foremost philosopher of this school, Nagarjuna. We examine his classic work, the Mulamadhyamikakarika and explore its relationship to skepticism and antirealism, while acknowledging its religious intent.

Learning Outcomes

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

  • Distinguish the main strands of Asian philosophy
  • Critically asses the core philosophical claims of Buddhism
  • Evaluate Nagarjuna’s version of Mahayana Buddhism

Recommended Reading List

As advised/circulated by lecturer during the lecture series.

Assessment for PIU11014 Topics in Philosophy I B (5 ECTS)

Annual and Reassessment are the same:*

  • Coursework: 1 essay from EITHER Component 1 OR Component 2 - 50%
  • Examination: 1 examination question (1 hour) for the component for which an essay was not submitted - 50%

Important Note: For this module, students must not attempt to answer an examination question for the same component as that for which they have submitted an essay. To do so is to be liable to be penalised by 10 marks for the examination question attempted.

*If students are required to complete reassessment they are required to complete each failed component of the failed module

PIU11012: Topics in Philosophy II B

Module Outline

Component 1: Intentionality (Professor Jim Levine)

The purpose of this module is to examine the nature of intentionality—of what it is to think about an entity. We will discuss such issues as: In what sense, if any, can we think of what does not exist? How much do we need to know about an entity in order to think of it? How is our ability to think about entities properly explained?

Learning Outcomes

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

  • articulate what the issue of intentionality is
  • critically evaluate competing theories of intentionality
  • identify some ways in which different views of intentionality have figured throughout the history of philosophy

Recommended Reading List

The readings, which will be available online, will include a mix of contemporary discussions and from earlier figures in the history of philosophy.

Component 2: Death (Professor Lilian Alweiss)

There is no doubt as soon ‘as we are born we are old enough to die.’ Death is something that can occur at any moment. Yet while there is no way to deny this, the question I would like to explore in this course is what we are to make of that fact. We shall examine a number of issues that arise once we reflect on our mortality. Many see death as an evil that needs to be overcome. Either it is questioned whether death really points to an absolute end or the argument is that the ultimate aim of life is to achieve immortality. The course will ask whether death is something we should try to overcome and indeed whether immortality is something desirable. We shall look – among others- at the epic of Gilgamesh and texts by Epicurus, Plato, Freud, Heidegger and Blanchot.

Learning Aims

  • To learn how to read texts and think critically about fundamental issues that inform our lives.

Learning Outcomes

  • At the end of this component students will be able to critically evaluate a number of issues that arise once we begin to reflect on our mortality.

Recommended Reading List

As advised/circulated by lecturer during the lecture series.

Assessment for PIU11012 Topics in Philosophy II B (10 ECTS)

Annual and Reassessment are the same:*

  • Coursework: 2 essays (one for each component) - 50%
  • Examination: 2 examination questions (one for each component) (2 hours total) - 50%

*If students are required to complete reassessment they are required to complete each failed component of the failed module

PIU11022: Central Problems in Philosophy B

Module Outline

Component 1: Introduction to Moral Philosophy(Dr Lizzy Ventham)

Moral philosophers aim to understand (among other things) which actions are the right actions, and what a good world would look like. This module will provide a solid foundation in ethical theory by examining three of the most important approaches to normative ethics: consequentialism, deontology and virtue ethics. Students will learn to critically evaluate arguments for and against different theories. Using that foundation, students will go on to apply what they’ve learned to some modern problems in practical ethics.

Learning Aims

  • To learn and understand some of the major positions in normative ethics.
  • To be able to clearly explain the arguments of key authors.
  • To be able to form and argue for your own critical insights.
  • To understand how to apply the theories in real world cases.

Learning Outcomes

Students will learn to read, evaluate and contribute to contemporary debates in moral philosophy.

Recommended Reading List

As advised/circulated by lecturer during the lecture series.

Component 2: Political Philosophy (Dr Brian Carey)

The state claims that it has a moral right to command, and to be obeyed. To enforce these claims, the state is able to coerce people in all sorts of ways, from fines to imprisonment, or worse. But are these claims and powers justified, and if so, what philosophical theory best explains why we ought to do what the state says? In this module we will examine what has become known as ‘the problem of political obligation’. We will consider, from a philosophical perspective, what features a state would need to have in order for it to count as a ‘legitimate’ authority. We will consider the strengths and weaknesses of a number of views, ranging from those which hold that all states are illegitimate, to those that suggest all of us have a moral obligation to create, sustain, and obey the authority of the state.

Learning Aims

  • To introduce students to the study of political philosophy by examining a foundational question of the discipline in historical and contemporary debates.
  • To demonstrate and help students to develop the core skills used by political philosophers to construct and critique arguments.
  • To provide students with an introduction to political philosophy that is suitable for studying the subject further in the course of their studies.

Learning Outcomes

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

  • Critically evaluate a number of explanations for political authority and obligation.
  • Identify key methodological approaches and tools that are used by political philosophers more generally.
  • Present their views on these subjects in the form of philosophical arguments that are clear, coherent, and compelling.

Recommended Reading List

As advised/circulated by lecturer during the lecture series.

Assessment for PIU11022 Central Problems in Philosophy B (5 ECTS)

Annual and Reassessment are the same:*

  • Coursework: 1 essay from EITHER Component 1 OR Component 2 - 50%
  • Examination: 1 examination question (1 hour) for the component for which an essay was not submitted - 50%

Important Note: For this module, students must not attempt to answer an examination question for the same component as that for which they have submitted an essay. To do so is to be liable to be penalised by 10 marks for the examination question attempted.

*If students are required to complete reassessment they are required to complete each failed component of the failed module

PIU11034 :History of Western Philosophy I B

  • Contact Hours: 22 hours of lectures and 5 hours of tutorials
  • Lecturer: Mr Peter West
  • ECTS: 10
  • Semester: 2

Module Content

Component 1: 17th Century Philosophy (Mr Peter West)

The rise of mechanism – the picture of the material universe as a 'grand machine' whose motions can be explained geometrically – in the early 17th century required new approaches to a variety of philosophical problems, including free will, the nature of the human person, the existence and nature of God, sensory perception, knowledge, and causation. One philosophical school, known as 'Cartesianism' after its founder, Rene Descartes, sought to answer these questions by defending a radical distinction between mind and body. By sharply separating mind and matter, (relatively) traditional views about the human mind and about God could be combined with a staunchly mechanistic view of the material world.
Cartesianism was the dominant philosophical school in Europe in the second half of the 17th century. However, it was not without its critics. This component will examine the philosophy of Descartes and two of his 17th century critics, Margaret Cavendish and John Locke. Cavendish’s criticisms are primarily metaphysical and scientific: she takes issue with Descartes’s account of the nature of matter. Although Locke also rejects Descartes’s theory of matter, his criticisms are primarily epistemological: he takes issue with Descartes’s account of how the human mind comes to know the material world.

Learning Outcomes

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

  • Read 17th century philosophical texts in their historical context.
  • Describe some main differences between major philosophers and schools of 17th century philosophy.
  • Critically evaluate philosophical arguments and theories found in 17th century philosophical texts.

Recommended Reading List

As advised/circulated by lecturer during the lecture series.

Component 2: 18th Century Philosophy (Mr Peter West)

Course Summary
The writings of Descartes and Locke in the seventeenth century were hugely influential on philosophers up until the end of the eighteenth century. As a result, many of the issues discussed by thinkers in the eighteenth century were very similar to those covered in component 1 (17th C). What is the relationship between the mind and the world? How do we gain knowledge of things that exist outside the mind? How do we gain knowledge of God and what he is like? This component will focus on three thinkers who tackle such issues: George Berkeley, David Hume, and Thomas Reid.

Berkeley presents a set of arguments against the view that the world is made up of ‘matter’, and that the ‘material objects’ that it is filled with cause us to experience the world in certain ways. Berkeley argues that matter does not exist; instead, Berkeley believes that only minds and ideas exist. Berkeley believed that his arguments against matter would save common sense and avoid scepticism. We will examine the reasons why Berkeley made this perhaps surprising claim, and find a way to understand why he believed only minds and ideas exist.

Hume agreed with many of Berkeley’s claims, and was particularly worried by how many philosophers understood causation in the world around us. However, Hume’s concerns lead him to be a sceptic: to argue that human reason is incapable of answering many questions about the world around us. By the end of the eighteenth century, Reid found that most of the philosophy that had preceded him (from Descartes, through Locke, Berkeley, and Hume) was based on a mistaken assumption: that we gain knowledge about the world around us by means of ideas which exist in our minds and represent the way the world is to us. Reid argued that if we follow common sense, we will realise that these ideas do not exist. In response, Reid offers an alternative, more direct account, of our knowledge of the world around us.

Learning Outcomes

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

  • Read eighteenth century texts in their historical context.
  • Understand the progress of Early Modern thought during the eighteenth century.
  • Reconstruct valid philosophical arguments.
  • Critically evaluate arguments found in historical texts.

Recommended Reading List

As advised/circulated by lecturer during the lecture series.

Assessment for PIU11034 History of Western Philosophy I B (10 ECTS)

Annual and Reassessment are the same:*

  • Coursework: 2 essays (one for each component) - 50%
  • Examination: 2 examination questions (one for each component) (2 hours total) - 50%

*If students are required to complete reassessment they are required to complete each failed component of the failed module