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PI106B: Central Problems in Philosophy

  • Contact Hours: 11 hours of lectures and 5 hours of tutorials per semester
  • Lecturers: Dr Kenneth Pearce, Dr Ben White
  • ECTS: 5
  • Semester 2

Module Outline for Semester 1

Component 1: Philosophy of Religion (Dr Kenneth Pearce)

This component provides an introduction to philosophical reflection on religious belief and practice. We will focus on three questions:

  • What is the relationship between faith and reason? Religious believers sometimes claim that their beliefs are a matter of faith and therefore do not need to be supported by reasons. Is this claim plausible? Should rational arguments against articles of faith be taken seriously? If it’s acceptable for someone to believe by faith (without evidence) that God exists, is it also acceptable for someone to believe by faith that 2+2=5?
  • Can belief in God be rational? Philosophers have offered a variety of arguments for and against the existence of God. We will discuss a few of the arguments that have been most influential in the Western tradition.
  • What is the nature of religious practice? Religions typically involve not only beliefs but also ritual practices. What is the point of these practices? Why do people engage in them? How is religious practice related to religious belief?

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

  • Describe some main philosophical questions related to religious belief and practice.
  • Critically evaluate philosophical arguments concerning religious belief and practice.

Component 2: Philosophy of Mind (Dr Ben White)

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 mental states (e.g. sensations, thoughts, beliefs, desires) and physical states (e.g. neural patterns), and how the two might interact in order to cause our behaviour. Are our minds distinct from our brains, or are our sensations, thoughts, beliefs, and desires only particular patterns of neural activity? 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 in how they conceive the nature and role of mental states. An understanding of the problem will allow us to consider related topics in the philosophy of mind, such as consciousness, intentionality, and personal identity.

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

  • Demonstrate an understanding of important concepts in the philosophy of mind.
  • Critically assess prominent arguments for and against the main positions on the mind-body question.