Philosophy and Religious Studies - BA (Hons)

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The Philosophy and Religious Studies programme offers you the opportunity to examine key questions related to the meaning of life, ethics, truth and beliefs in ancient and modern culture, taught by some of the top scholars in the field.

Overview

Religion is a vital element in human culture, and today religious issues are everywhere – from current affairs and international events, to the history of ideas, art and literature, and our own immediate experience and environment. Studying Religious Studies involves investigating and discussing these ideas, experiences, practices and institutions, through texts, films, historical data and directly observing the world today.

As a student of Philosophy at Kent you do not so much learn about philosophy as learn to do it yourself. This includes not only studying major philosophies and philosophers, but also contributing your own ideas to an ongoing dialogue. You develop the ability to connect the most abstract ideas to the most concrete things in our experience.

Students of both disciplines can compare and contrast themes in religion and philosophy using critical and logical skills. There is also an opportunity in Religious Studies to study other methods, including psychology, sociology, and anthropology of religion, and non-western traditions.

This is an ideal programme for those wishing to understand the complexities and contradictions between thought and faith today.

Entry requirements

You are more than your grades

At Kent we look at your circumstances as a whole before deciding whether to make you an offer to study here. Find out more about how we offer flexibility and support before and during your degree.

Entry requirements

The University will consider applications from students offering a wide range of qualifications. Some typical requirements are listed below. Students offering alternative qualifications should contact us for further advice. Please also see our general entry requirements.

If you are an international student, visit our International Student website for further information about entry requirements for your country, including details of the International Foundation Programmes. Please note that international fee-paying students who require a Student visa cannot undertake a part-time programme due to visa restrictions.

Please note that meeting the typical offer/minimum requirement does not guarantee that you will receive an offer.

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    A level

    BBB

  • medal-empty Access to HE Diploma

    The University will not necessarily make conditional offers to all Access candidates but will continue to assess them on an individual basis. 

    If we make you an offer, you will need to obtain/pass the overall Access to Higher Education Diploma and may also be required to obtain a proportion of the total level 3 credits and/or credits in particular subjects at merit grade or above.

  • medal-empty BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma (formerly BTEC National Diploma)

    The University will consider applicants holding BTEC National Diploma and Extended National Diploma Qualifications (QCF; NQF; OCR) on a case-by-case basis. Please contact us for further advice on your individual circumstances. A typical offer would be to achieve DDM.

  • medal-empty International Baccalaureate

    34 points overall or 15 points at HL

  • International Foundation Programme

    Pass all components of the University of Kent International Foundation Programme with a 60% overall average including 60% in Academic Skills Development.

English Language Requirements

Please see our English language entry requirements web page.

If you need to improve your English language standard as a condition of your offer, you can attend one of our pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes before starting your degree programme. You attend these courses before starting your degree programme.

Because it’s a small department, you get to know the staff quite well and they’re all very approachable.

Helena Phillips - Religious Studies and Philosophy BA

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Course structure

Duration: 3 years full-time, 6 years part-time

Modules

The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This listing is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  

On most programmes, you study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also be able to take ‘elective’ modules from other programmes so you can customise your programme and explore other subjects that interest you.

Stage 1

Compulsory modules currently include

This module will cover classic and contemporary philosophical topics concerning what reality is like, and whether (and how) we come to know about it. A variety of topics will be covered, such as problems of scepticism, sources of knowledge, the relation between mind and body, identity of people over time, and whether there is more to reality than is discussed in natural science.

Find out more about PHIL3020

This module will introduce students to a number of big questions in ethics. The questions may include the following: What makes a life good? Is it happiness? Or is it something else? Another big question is: What makes actions right or wrong? Is it God demanding or forbidding them? Or are actions perhaps right to the extent that they serve to make lives better off, and wrong to the extent that they make lives worse off? Some philosophers have thought so. Others wonder: What if I steal money from someone so rich that my act in no way makes their life go any worse. Might it still be the case that I have acted wrongly—even if I haven't made anyone worse off? A third bit question is this: What’s the status of morality? Is it, for example, the case that what’s right for me might be wrong for you? Does it make any sense at all to talk about moral claims being true or false, even relative to moral communities? Might moral judgments be nothing but expressions of sentiments? Throughout the course, students will be examining these and similar questions from the point of view of a variety of philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle, John Stuart Mill, Immanuel Kant, and David Hume.

Find out more about PHIL3030

Since Plato's Dialogues, it has been part of philosophical enquiry to consider philosophical questions using logic and common sense alone. This module aims to train students to continue in that tradition. In the first part students will be introduced to basic themes in introductory formal logic and critical thinking. In the second part students will be presented with a problem each week in the form of a short argument, question, or philosophical puzzle and will be asked to think about it without consulting the literature. The problem, and students’ responses to it, will then form the basis of a structured discussion. By the end of the module, students (a) will have acquired a basic logical vocabulary and techniques for the evaluation of arguments; (b) will have practised applying these techniques to short passages of philosophical argument; and (c) will have acquired the ability to look at new claims or problems and to apply their newly acquired argumentative and critical skills in order to generate philosophical discussions of them.

Find out more about PHIL3100

What do philosophers do? How do they think? What do they typically think about? How do philosophers write? What sorts of writing are acceptable in philosophy? How should you write? How should philosophy best be read in order to be understood and assessed?'

In this module we will introduce you to some of the most interesting questions in philosophy, both from its history and from current debates. As we do this we will show you how to think, read and write as a philosopher.

Find out more about PHIL3150

Optional modules may include

This module provides an historical introduction to the philosophical, religious and cultural traditions of East Asia. It will provide a foundation for understanding the historical development, key concepts and important practices of the major worldviews of East Asia with specific reference to traditions such as Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Shinto and other animist traditions.

Find out more about ASIA3002

The purpose of this module is to introduce students to the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, through a consideration of their key concepts, ideas, texts and practices (such as bhakti, moksha, yoga, dharma). The first half of the module will examine some of the most interesting features of the Vedic and post-Vedic tradition: the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the polytheism of the Mahabharata. The second half will examine the contrasting philosophical positions of the Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist traditions using materials from the Pali canon and several Sanskrit Sutras. Particular attention will be given to the variety of interpretations of the Buddhist 'No-self' doctrine and concept of enlightenment as well as the meaning and function of the Buddha’s career.

Find out more about RSST3310

This course investigates the beliefs and practices of Jews and Muslims in the world today. Topics in Judaism include the life and work of the Patriarchs, the concept of the 'chosen people', the Promised Land, the Torah, synagogue, Jewish festivals and the Jewish home. In the case of Islam, topics include the life and work of Muhammad, the Five Pillars, the Qur'an and Hadith, Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims, Sufism, the Shariah and the Islamic contribution to the arts and sciences.

Find out more about RSST3400

The curriculum will be structured to introduce students to a range of key theories and debates which provide a basic framework for the social and cultural study of contemporary religion. Each session will introduce students to a particular theory or debate, using panel presentations in the seminars to get a small group to present their initial understanding and questions of relevant introductory literature. Throughout the module, students will be helped to see possible connections between these various theories and debates, as well as think about current issues to which these theories and debates might be relevant.

Find out more about RSST3420

This module provides a cross-cultural introduction and exploration of philosophical, religious and cultural traditions which have shaped and informed historical and contemporary ethical judgements and notions of the good life. From ancient Asian, Greek, Jewish, Christian and Islamic philosophies inspired by thinkers such as the Buddha, Plato, Jesus and Mohammed, to modern secular philosophies such as humanism and Marxism, humans have articulated a variety of approaches to ethics, politics, spirituality, and the relationship of the individual to society, in many cases developing legal frameworks for the regulation of issues of ethical concern in areas such as human rights, wealth distribution, medical ethics, the environment and human sexuality.

Find out more about RSST3490

This module provides a thematic introduction to selected topics and debates that span global philosophical, religious and cultural traditions. It will explore issues such as the nature of reality, of the self, and of goodness or value, the foundations of ethics and the ideal society, and the goals of life in a variety of worldviews. Cross-referencing cultural traditions with broader theoretical and philosophical debates, it seeks to provide a foundation for understanding key concepts and themes found within the world's traditions of philosophy and religion, and exploring their implications for fundamental debates about truth, society, psychology and the good life.

Find out more about RSST3500

This module will introduce students to atheist and nonreligious worldview traditions, through an appreciation of the key concepts and debates (including distinctions between nonreligious atheism and 'atheist religions'), and the diverse manifestation of atheism in political and communal life. It traces the historic reasons why atheism has been differentiated from religion and other worldviews, and the competing interests that undergird the idea of a religion/atheism dichotomy, as well as the key reasons that contemporary scholars have challenged this idea. The second part of this module explores atheist traditions from around the world, including humanism in Europe, Communist atheism in Eastern Europe and Asia, and agnosticism in Europe and Japan. Across these case studies, students will explore how nonreligious worldviews manifest as lived traditions – in the beliefs, ritual and practices, art and culture, and social lives of so-called ‘non-believers’ – as well as locating these traditions in social and political context. The module also introduces the ways in which religious and nonreligious traditions shape one another, and the significant, sometimes violent tensions that have also marked religious-nonreligious relations.

Find out more about RSST3510

You have the opportunity to select elective modules in this stage.

Stage 2

Optional modules may include

This module explores the cultural specificity and diversity of Asian cultures, traditions, social and political systems and literature from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. The topic of Asia will be approached on a thematic basis but with particular emphasis on an understanding of the historical and interpretive challenges to inter-cultural understanding between Asia and Europe/the West.

Find out more about ASIA6001

This module introduces some of the major works in ancient philosophy in relation to ethics, aesthetics, political theory, ontology and metaphysics. Students will study substantial portions of primary texts by the Presocratics, Plato, Aristotle the Epicureans, Stoics and/or the Skeptics. The emphasis throughout will be on the philosophical significance of the ideas studied. The module will concentrate on understanding key philosophical arguments and concepts within the context of the ancient intellectual tradition. This means that students will gain a critical distance from normative and modern definitions of philosophical terms in order to understand how ancient philosophy generally approached questions and problems with different suppositions and conceptions of reality, reason and the purpose of human existence.

Find out more about CLAS7080

What is knowledge? How do we arrive at knowledge? Why is knowledge more valuable than mere belief, or even true belief? Is there some level of justification that turns a belief into knowledge? Do we really have any knowledge at all? Such questions are central to philosophy. Indeed, the theory of knowledge—otherwise known as epistemology—is often taken to be one of the three main branches of philosophy, together with metaphysics and ethics.

In this module, we will investigate various epistemological questions and consider some of the answers that have been proposed by various theories of knowledge. In particular, we will consider possible responses to the sceptical claim that it is not possible to know anything. In doing so, we will consider competing theories of a priori knowledge, knowledge by perception, knowledge by introspection, and knowledge by testimony. In addition, we will look at the debate between foundationalism and coherentism, as well as the debate between internalists and externalists about justification. Lastly, we will discuss how knowledge is related to social power by considering the theory of testimonial injustice.

Find out more about PHIL5001

Groups of marks or bursts of sound are just physical entities but, when produced by a writer or a speaker, they are used to point beyond themselves. This is the property of aboutness or intentionality. Other physical entities generally do not have this property. When you hear a sentence, you hear a burst of sound, but typically you also understand a meaning conveyed by the speaker. What is the meaning of a word – some weird entity that floats alongside the word, a set of rules associating the word with objects, an intention in the mind of the speaker….? What is the difference between what your words imply and what you convey in saying them? How are words used non-literally, how do hearers catch on to the meaning of a newly minted metaphor? How can we mean and convey so much when uttering a concise sentence? When someone says something offensive, is it part of its meaning that it is offensive, or just how it is used? In this module we shall try to find some answers to the questions listed above.

Find out more about PHIL6020

How does truth relate to existence? This module looks at the connection between truths and the things that make them true. We consider questions relating to the connection between truth and ontology (or existence) concerning time, persistence, possibility, generality, composition, and causation. We will look at how these issues are discussed in contemporary analytic metaphysics. We will explore both what solutions looking at the connections between truth and ontology might offer, whether this approach to the problems is useful, and how best to communicate the problems we discuss.

Find out more about PHIL6110

Is it right that the talented profit from their (undeserved) talents? Should the government provide compensation for people who find it hard to meet that special someone? Should we think our duties to our compatriots are more important than our duties to people in other countries?

This course is divided into two parts. The first part examines classic topics in political philosophy, such as Rawls Theory of Justice, Nozick's libertarianism and the feminist and communitarian criticism of political liberalism. The second part of the course will explore issues within contemporary political philosophy, such as equality, our obligations to those in the developing world, and the politics of immigration. We will consider whether we can make sense of political obligation between states as well as within states. We will look at these issues in the context of particular recent case studies.

Find out more about PHIL6180

This course is designed to introduce students to a number of approaches in what is often referred to as "normative ethics". We face and hear about moral problems every day. These problems range from life and death matters concerning abortion, euthanasia and the like to other types of case such as whether to tell a lie to prevent hurting someone's feelings. At some point we might wonder whether there is a set of rules or principles (such as 'Do not lie') which will help us through these tricky problems; we might wonder whether there is something more simple underlying all of this 'ethical mess’ that we can discern.

Normative ethics contains a number of theories that attempt to give us such principles and to sort out the mess. In particular, different normative ethical theories are attempts to articulate reasons why a certain course of action is ethically best; they are attempts to say what types of feature we should concentrate on when thinking about ethical problems and why it is that such features are features which have ‘intrinsic moral significance’. Of course, ethical theories do not exist in a vacuum. As we shall see, our everyday intuitions about what is morally best are both the origin of normative ethical theories and the origin of thoughts raised against them.

Find out more about PHIL6400

Many people today are reluctant to identify themselves as 'feminist': either because they see feminism as a useful political movement that has essentially served its purposes; or because they view feminism as a 'single-issue', militant ideology that they cannot identify with. This module is intended to give students an opportunity to reflect philosophically on what claims like this could mean: if we live in a post-feminist era, why do women earn, on average, two thirds of what their male counterparts earn? If we live in post-feminist era, why are women still under-represented in many fields (including politics, science and academic philosophy?). If feminism is a ‘single-issue’ ideology, why is it that feminists have proposed such a variety of solutions to the above problems, and from such a wide range of political standpoints?

The module explores some key debates in contemporary feminist philosophy, with particularly emphasis on its uncomfortable relationship with liberalism. The course draws attention to feminist critiques of key liberal concepts, such as consent, the social contract, autonomy, universal rights, and the private/public distinction. We go on to apply theoretical debates in feminist thought to the following political issues: prostitution, pornography, feminine appearance, multiculturalism, and human rights.

Find out more about PHIL6420

Philosophers have conceived of their subject in a variety of ways, as rational systematisation, as a guide to the good life, as continuous with science, as dialogue, as critique, as therapy, and so on. In this module a small sample of topics will be chosen from a range of fields, for instance, ethics, politics, and science. Through team teaching, students are shown various—sometimes competing—ways to approach, discuss and respond to the chosen topics. This will include consideration of a number of techniques adopted by philosophers, such as, the use of the history of philosophy, conceptual analysis, thought experiments, formal philosophy, public philosophy and experimental philosophy.

Find out more about PHIL6700

Ancient Chinese philosophies resonate in contemporary China and in the West. Philosophers compare Confucian and Aristotelean virtue ethics, read the Daoist text Zhuangzi alongside Nietzsche and describe Mohist thought as an early example of utilitarianism. Leaders of the People's Republic of China quote from the Chinese classics in their political speeches to enhance feelings of patriotism. Daoist concepts inspire practitioners of alternative medicine and systems biologists.

This module will explore key concepts, themes and practices in ancient Chinese philosophical literature, available in English translation. We provide the historical and cultural backgrounds of the emergence of the major "schools" of thought (including Confucianism, Daoism, Mohism and Legalism) and examine how traditions interacted and transformed throughout Chinese history and how they influenced East Asian societies and became part of global culture. Hermeneutical and other methodological tools will be provided to engage with source material and answer questions about tradition and modernity, make cultural comparisons between East and West and discuss the translatability of concepts ranging from "philosophy" to "qi". The module will also examine how ancient Chinese philosophies inform East Asian business ethics and social customs, literature and popular culture (in China and in the West) and ecological thinking.

Find out more about RSST5220

This module will enable students to analyse and understand the development of Christian theology over the last two hundred years. We will be critically evaluating the significance and contribution of a number of leading twentieth century theologians from a variety of denominational backgrounds and endeavouring to understand to a sophisticated degree the changes in Christian thought and practice in a variety of situations in the twentieth century.

The module will begin by surveying the main strands of post-Enlightenment Christian theology, including the contributions of Kant, Schleiermacher and Feuerbach. There will be a detailed focus of two of the 'Death of God' theologians from the twentieth century, Thomas Altizer and William Hamilton. We will then critically evaluate the significance of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his influence (with particular reference to Harvey Cox and John A.T. Robinson); Liberal Protestantism and the rise of Neo-Orthodoxy, with particular reference to Paul Tillich and Karl Barth; Rudolf Bultmann and his programme of demythologisation; and an interrogation of the Christian understanding of 'hope' with specific reference to Jürgen Moltmann. The module also involves a study of key theological movements, in particular Liberation Theology, Black Theology and Feminist Theology.

Find out more about RSST5710

The aim of this module is to enable students to think sociologically about religious life. Whilst addressing key debates within the sociology of religion (e.g. secularisation, subjectivisation), it seeks to introduce students to core concepts and methods in sociology that will enable them to understand religious life in terms of broader social structures and processes. Examples of issues covered in the module include: the nature of sociology as a discipline, macro and micro levels of analysis, the agency/structure debate and the nature of social structure, individualisation, and sociological perspectives on gender, class, emotion, materiality and belief. The significance of intersectionality between different social structures will also be discussed, and useful sources of secondary data (e.g. BRIN) will be explored. The central assessment task for the module – a case study presenting the sociological analysis of the nature and place of religion in a particular individual's life – brings these theoretical and methodological approaches together into a micro-level analysis of lived religion in a way that is informed by broader social and cultural structures. Examples of good writing in this style of sociological research are presented and explored through the module.

Find out more about RSST6080

The primary aims of this module are to give students a critical grounding in current cultural theories of the sacred, to provide them with opportunities to explore how these concepts relate to contemporary social and cultural phenomena, and to reflect on how this process might help us to refine cultural theories of the sacred. The module will enable students to distinguish between ontological and cultural theories of the sacred, and will introduce them to key cultural theorists of the sacred such as Durkheim, Shils, Bellah, and Alexander. A range of cases will also be explored to provide students with opportunities to think about how relevant concepts might relate to specific social and cultural phenomena, and to provide a basis for the analytical work they undertake in their assessed work.

Find out more about RSST6110

This module will evaluate and critique a range of historical, philosophical, theological and secular perspectives on death and the afterlife, beginning with the way the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, the Qu'ran, the Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Upanishads conceptualise the nature and destiny of humankind, including such concepts as sheol, moksha, purgatory, eternal life, heaven and hell. This will be followed by a discussion of the interplay in western theological and philosophical traditions between competing notions of the resurrection of the flesh and the immortality of the body as well as an evaluation of what various Christian thinkers, including Augustine and Origen, believed that an eternity in heaven or hell might be like.

The module will then investigate the range of eschatological teachings that different traditions have offered, including in Christian thought the diversity of realised and future forms of eschatology, as well as the tenability of purported testimony surrounding the possibility of out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and mind-dependent worlds, and the way in which such endeavours have been sustained or critiqued in the light of scientific and historical advances.

The module will conclude with a detailed study of the way in which filmmakers and novelists have approached eschatological and apocalyptic teachings and reconceptualised them. This will be done with specific reference to Conrad Ostwalt's work on the desacralisation of the apocalypse in Jewish and Christian thought in a range of 1990's Hollywood science fiction movies, and the impact that such attempts have had on the way questions of life after death have conventionally been approached.

Find out more about RSST6410

You have the opportunity to select elective modules in this stage.

Year abroad

Going abroad as part of your degree is an amazing experience and a chance to develop personally, academically and professionally. You experience a different culture, gain a new academic perspective, establish international contacts and enhance your employability.

You can apply to add a year abroad to your degree programme from your arrival at Kent until the autumn term of your second year. The year abroad takes place between Stages 2 and 3 at one of our partner universities. Places and destination are subject to availability, language and degree programme.  For a full list, please see Go Abroad.

You are expected to adhere to any academic progression requirements in Stages 1 and 2 to proceed to the year abroad. The year abroad is assessed on a pass/fail basis and will not count towards your final degree classification.

Stage 3

Optional modules may include

What is knowledge? How do we arrive at knowledge? Why is knowledge more valuable than mere belief, or even true belief? Is there some level of justification that turns a belief into knowledge? Do we really have any knowledge at all? Such questions are central to philosophy. Indeed, the theory of knowledge—otherwise known as epistemology—is often taken to be one of the three main branches of philosophy, together with metaphysics and ethics.

In this module, we will investigate various epistemological questions and consider some of the answers that have been proposed by various theories of knowledge. In particular, we will consider possible responses to the sceptical claim that it is not possible to know anything. In doing so, we will consider competing theories of a priori knowledge, knowledge by perception, knowledge by introspection, and knowledge by testimony. In addition, we will look at the debate between foundationalism and coherentism, as well as the debate between internalists and externalists about justification. Lastly, we will discuss how knowledge is related to social power by considering the theory of testimonial injustice.

Find out more about PHIL5001

The module will enable students to acquire knowledge and understanding of Wittgenstein's approach to philosophy, and to acquire familiarity with major themes especially in the areas of epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language. The module will give students practice in deploying their critical philosophical skills.

Find out more about PHIL5730

The aim of this course is to engage in the study of specific topics in the philosophy of mind, language, or action and to engage with the criticism of contemporary approaches as it is found in the works of Wittgenstein, Ryle, Anscombe, and/or Austin.

Find out more about PHIL5780

Logic is the study of the methods and principles used to distinguish correct reasoning from incorrect reasoning and, as such, it is a crucial component of any philosophy course. Moreover, logic has applications other than the testing of arguments for cogency: it is also a widely used and useful tool for clarifying the problematic concepts that have traditionally troubled philosophers, e.g., deductive consequence, rational degree of belief, knowledge, necessary truth, identity, etc. Indeed, much contemporary philosophy cannot be understood without a working knowledge of logic. Given this, logic is an important subject for philosophy students to master.

The module will primarily cover propositional and predicate logic. Regarding propositional and predicate logic, the focus will be on methods for testing the validity of an argument. These methods will allow students to distinguish correct from incorrect reasoning. The module will also cover inductive and modal logics. Regarding inductive and modal logics, the focus will be on clarifying epistemological concepts through the use of these logics.

Find out more about PHIL5790

The module will study some of the major works in the history of modern philosophy of cognitive science and artificial intelligence. An indicative list of topics is: The Turing test; the Chinese Room argument; the frame problem; connectionism; extended and embodied cognition; artificial consciousness. The approach will be philosophical and critical, and will involve the close reading of texts. Students will be expected to engage critically with the works being studied and to formulate and argue for their own views on the issues covered.

Find out more about PHIL5830

Groups of marks or bursts of sound are just physical entities but, when produced by a writer or a speaker, they are used to point beyond themselves. This is the property of aboutness or intentionality. Other physical entities generally do not have this property. When you hear a sentence, you hear a burst of sound, but typically you also understand a meaning conveyed by the speaker. What is the meaning of a word – some weird entity that floats alongside the word, a set of rules associating the word with objects, an intention in the mind of the speaker….? What is the difference between what your words imply and what you convey in saying them? How are words used non-literally, how do hearers catch on to the meaning of a newly minted metaphor? How can we mean and convey so much when uttering a concise sentence? When someone says something offensive, is it part of its meaning that it is offensive, or just how it is used? In this module we shall try to find some answers to the questions listed above.

Find out more about PHIL6020

How does truth relate to existence? This module looks at the connection between truths and the things that make them true. We consider questions relating to the connection between truth and ontology (or existence) concerning time, persistence, possibility, generality, composition, and causation. We will look at how these issues are discussed in contemporary analytic metaphysics. We will explore both what solutions looking at the connections between truth and ontology might offer, whether this approach to the problems is useful, and how best to communicate the problems we discuss.

Find out more about PHIL6110

Is it right that the talented profit from their (undeserved) talents? Should the government provide compensation for people who find it hard to meet that special someone? Should we think our duties to our compatriots are more important than our duties to people in other countries?

This course is divided into two parts. The first part examines classic topics in political philosophy, such as Rawls Theory of Justice, Nozick's libertarianism and the feminist and communitarian criticism of political liberalism. The second part of the course will explore issues within contemporary political philosophy, such as equality, our obligations to those in the developing world, and the politics of immigration. We will consider whether we can make sense of political obligation between states as well as within states. We will look at these issues in the context of particular recent case studies.

Find out more about PHIL6180

The curriculum will focus on an important classic texts on reason and metaphysics in the European tradition. The relation between reason and metaphysics has been a focus of philosophy ever since Plato. This includes questions concerning the nature of the mind, the scope and limits only knowledge, the essence of reality, of space, time and existence, and the possible existence of the soul, free will and God. Students will be expected to read such classic texts (for example, Kant's Critique of Pure Reason), but also contemporary critical commentaries.

Find out more about PHIL6240

This module concerns ideas of two of the most interesting of Western philosophers: Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche. Both thinkers developed ideas that transformed much of the intellectual landscape of the twentieth century, and both wrote books that prove fruitful for successive generations. They wrote on many themes: ethics, religion, aesthetics, metaphysics, and epistemology. Both take their starting point from those thinkers that came before, notably Kant and Hegel. However, they are interesting to compare because they have such different views on philosophical thought and various themes. In particular, some of Nietzsche's thought is framed explicitly in opposition to Schopenhauer's, with the former casting the latter as the great pessimist. An appreciation of their ideas is an important part of the education of many philosophy students. However, both Schopenhauer and Nietzsche can be hard writers to read and understand. This module is designed both to introduce some of their ideas and develop a student’s appreciation of them such that he or she can discuss them with confidence and critical insight.

The module will not cover all of the writings of either or both thinkers. Students will typically read selections from Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation, and his essays, and then selections from a variety of Nietzsche’s works, or one work in full. These will be read on their own, with ideas from both thinkers compared. Modern writers and commentators will be read in addition to help reveal the importance of Schopenhauer’s and Nietzsche’s ideas.

Find out more about PHIL6390

This course is designed to introduce students to a number of approaches in what is often referred to as "normative ethics". We face and hear about moral problems every day. These problems range from life and death matters concerning abortion, euthanasia and the like to other types of case such as whether to tell a lie to prevent hurting someone's feelings. At some point we might wonder whether there is a set of rules or principles (such as 'Do not lie') which will help us through these tricky problems; we might wonder whether there is something more simple underlying all of this 'ethical mess’ that we can discern.

Normative ethics contains a number of theories that attempt to give us such principles and to sort out the mess. In particular, different normative ethical theories are attempts to articulate reasons why a certain course of action is ethically best; they are attempts to say what types of feature we should concentrate on when thinking about ethical problems and why it is that such features are features which have ‘intrinsic moral significance’. Of course, ethical theories do not exist in a vacuum. As we shall see, our everyday intuitions about what is morally best are both the origin of normative ethical theories and the origin of thoughts raised against them.

Find out more about PHIL6400

Many people today are reluctant to identify themselves as 'feminist': either because they see feminism as a useful political movement that has essentially served its purposes; or because they view feminism as a 'single-issue', militant ideology that they cannot identify with. This module is intended to give students an opportunity to reflect philosophically on what claims like this could mean: if we live in a post-feminist era, why do women earn, on average, two thirds of what their male counterparts earn? If we live in post-feminist era, why are women still under-represented in many fields (including politics, science and academic philosophy?). If feminism is a ‘single-issue’ ideology, why is it that feminists have proposed such a variety of solutions to the above problems, and from such a wide range of political standpoints?

The module explores some key debates in contemporary feminist philosophy, with particularly emphasis on its uncomfortable relationship with liberalism. The course draws attention to feminist critiques of key liberal concepts, such as consent, the social contract, autonomy, universal rights, and the private/public distinction. We go on to apply theoretical debates in feminist thought to the following political issues: prostitution, pornography, feminine appearance, multiculturalism, and human rights.

Find out more about PHIL6420

This module will introduce students to classical as well as contemporary discussions in the intersection between politics, philosophy, and economics. Topics to be covered will vary from year to year, in light of the expertise of the person convening it and student feedback from previous years. Topics that may be covered include Authoritarianism, Behavioural economics, Rational Choice Theory, Game Theory, Libertarianism and Paternalism, Markets and Trade, Private Property and the Legitimacy of Organ Sale.

Through these and related topics, students will gain a good understanding of the complementary and in some cases conflicting perspectives and methodologies contained in politics, philosophy, and economics, and enable them to evaluate contemporary issues in a manner that's informed by a comprehensive set of relevant traditions.

Find out more about PHIL6530

In this module we consider what it is that history studies—individual actions, social structures, states, empires, religious movements, social classes, periods and regions, civilizations, large causal or law-governed processes. We explore whether history as a whole has meaning, structure, or direction, beyond the individual events and actions that make it up and the nature of causal influence among historical events or structures that underwrites historical explanations.

We continue by examining what is involved in our knowing, representing, and explaining history by asking what role is played by the interpretation of the "lived experience" of past actors in our historical understanding, and how the historian arrives at justified statements about this lived experience. Can we arrive at justified and objective interpretations of long-dead actors, their mentalities and their actions, or does all historical knowledge remain permanently questionable?

Finally, we consider the extent to which human history is constitutive of the human present. Can historical understanding of events in the past inform our policies and actions in current situations judged in important respects to be sufficiently similar?

Find out more about PHIL6690

Students are required to identify a viable research focus or question for their project which they will then pursue, with supervisory support, in order to submit their final dissertation. In the summer before joining the module, students will be given advice on how to identify their research focus, and by the start of the autumn term in which the module begins they will be expected to have produced a single side of A4 summarising key literature or other sources relevant to their specific project. Individual supervision will begin from the autumn term onwards. Initially this is likely to focus on clarifying the research focus or question, and situating it more deeply in existing literature and debates. Following this a clearer outline plan for conducting the research will be developed, with students then undertaking work necessary to meet each phase of this plan. If the project involves original fieldwork, the student will be expected to submit a research ethics application form for Faculty approval. As the project develops, chapter drafts will be submitted for review and discussion with the supervisor. Supervision contact time is likely to vary according to the project and student need, but will not exceed a total of 6 hours per student (including face to face supervision or time spent writing written feedback to electronically-submitted drafts). Supervisors will provide feedback on chapter drafts, which will need to be submitted to supervisors in good time before supervision meetings, but will not provide feedback on whole draft manuscripts once chapters are completed.

Supervisors will only provide supervisory support during term-time. Once the project has been agreed and a supervisor allocated in the autumn term, students will not normally be allowed to change their fundamental focus of their project (although their specific questions are likely to change as the project develops) or change their supervisor unless in highly exceptional circumstances.

Find out more about RSST5150

Ancient Chinese philosophies resonate in contemporary China and in the West. Philosophers compare Confucian and Aristotelean virtue ethics, read the Daoist text Zhuangzi alongside Nietzsche and describe Mohist thought as an early example of utilitarianism. Leaders of the People's Republic of China quote from the Chinese classics in their political speeches to enhance feelings of patriotism. Daoist concepts inspire practitioners of alternative medicine and systems biologists.

This module will explore key concepts, themes and practices in ancient Chinese philosophical literature, available in English translation. We provide the historical and cultural backgrounds of the emergence of the major "schools" of thought (including Confucianism, Daoism, Mohism and Legalism) and examine how traditions interacted and transformed throughout Chinese history and how they influenced East Asian societies and became part of global culture. Hermeneutical and other methodological tools will be provided to engage with source material and answer questions about tradition and modernity, make cultural comparisons between East and West and discuss the translatability of concepts ranging from "philosophy" to "qi". The module will also examine how ancient Chinese philosophies inform East Asian business ethics and social customs, literature and popular culture (in China and in the West) and ecological thinking.

Find out more about RSST5220

The aim of this module is to enable students to understand and evaluate the range of models by which film and religion may be employed as conversation partners and to provide them with the tools necessary for exploring critical links between theology/religious studies and the medium of film. The course will begin with an examination of the methodological, conceptual and disciplinary issues that arise before exploring in critical depth the historical relationship between religion and film, with specific reference to the reception (ranging from prohibition to utilisation) of film by different religious groups. There will be a focus on particular categories of film and categories and models of religious and theological understanding, allowing students taking this module to develop the critical skills helpful for film interpretation and for exploring possible religious and theological approaches to film criticism.

Find out more about RSST5740

This module explores the cultural specificity and diversity of Japanese culture, traditions, social and political systems and literature from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. The topic of Japan will be approached on a thematic basis but with particular emphasis on an understanding of the historical and interpretive challenges to inter-cultural understanding between Japan and Europe/the West.

Find out more about RSST6490

Traditional Chinese Medicine and other forms East Asian medicine have become available to patients everywhere in the world as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), but their cultural backgrounds are mostly misunderstood by patients, providers and adversaries. This module explores the historical emergence of East Asian medical systems, their relations to philosophical and religious worldviews and practices, their trajectories from the East to the West, and their relations, interactions and clashes with bio-medicine.

In this module, we read passages from foundational literature such as the Inner Classic of the Yellow Emperor (in English translation) and discuss key texts in which Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese doctors argue about the nature of health and medical ethics. We also compare different views of the body, illnesses and therapeutic intervention, and examine the importance of "tradition" in East Asian medicine, Early Modern exchanges with Western medicine and the transformation and globalisation of East Asian medical systems in the twentieth and twenty-first century. Applying comparative and genealogical methods, we discuss East Asian medicines in terms of efficacy, culture, politics and economics and reflect on healthcare, in general, from (multi)cultural perspectives.

Find out more about RSST6530

One of the defining features of public life in many countries is the critical re-evaluation of the role of nation-states and other social institutions in historic injustice and abuse of rights. Alongside the critical re-appraisal of the past in societies moving from totalitarian to democratic systems of government, and beyond past violent conflict, there has also been an increasing interest in questions of redressing past wrongs in 'established democracies'.

This module is designed to explore key issues in debates concerning the contemporary re-appraisal and restitution for past harms inflicted by governments and other civil society organisations. Building on a series of case examples, the module examines the role that ethical reflection, historical research and legal processes play within them, raising challenging issues about how past injustice can adequately be understood and responded to. Case topics covered in the module may vary, but would, for example, include the African slave trade and Western colonialism, systemic rights abuses under totalitarian governments in Latin America, institutional abuse in twentieth-century Ireland, child migration programmes and sexual abuse in the Christian Church.

Find out more about RSST6560

This course considers the contested relationship between religion and the secular state, and the increasingly significant role of nonreligious identities and worldviews for understanding those states. Both religion and nonreligion have come to new prominence in the twenty-first century, prompting a re-evaluation of what role they should play in policy, law and society, and the nature and viability of political secularism itself. This course explores the key conceptual and theoretical debates shaping contemporary understandings of religion, nonreligion and the secular state, including the nature of secularity and secularism, the role of religious plurality and pluralism, multiple secularities and postsecular approaches, and the role of religion in political liberalism. The second part of the course explores case studies in detail, including differences and similarities between European (including Soviet), North American and Asian secularisms; the relationship between political secularism and the beliefs, practices and identities of local populations; and significant controversies (around blasphemy, reproductive rights and the right to wear religious clothing) and what they tell us about religion, nonreligion and political secularism in contemporary society.

Find out more about RSST6570

Fees

The 2021/22 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

  • Home full-time £9250
  • EU full-time £12600
  • International full-time £16800
  • Home part-time £4625
  • EU part-time £6300
  • International part-time £8400

For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.

For students continuing on this programme, fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* 

Your fee status

The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.

Fees for Year in Industry

Fees for Home undergraduates are £1,385.

Fees for Year Abroad

Fees for Home undergraduates are £1,385.

Students studying abroad for less than one academic year will pay full fees according to their fee status. 

Additional costs

General additional costs

Find out more about accommodation and living costs, plus general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent.

Funding

University funding

Kent offers generous financial support schemes to assist eligible undergraduate students during their studies. See our funding page for more details. 

Government funding

You may be eligible for government finance to help pay for the costs of studying. See the Government's student finance website.

Scholarships

General scholarships

Scholarships are available for excellence in academic performance, sport and music and are awarded on merit. For further information on the range of awards available and to make an application see our scholarships website.

The Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence

At Kent we recognise, encourage and reward excellence. We have created the Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence. 

The scholarship will be awarded to any applicant who achieves a minimum of A*AA over three A levels, or the equivalent qualifications (including BTEC and IB) as specified on our scholarships pages.

We have a range of subject-specific awards and scholarships for academic, sporting and musical achievement.

Search scholarships

Teaching and assessment

Philosophy

Some modules have lectures, some have seminars, and all have class discussions. Some promote ‘student active’ learning techniques which encourage you to work on individual or group research, and present your findings to the rest of the class.

Assessment of philosophy modules is by essays, in-class assignments, seminar participation or tests, or a combination of these methods.

Religious Studies

You are usually taught in small groups, with most modules involving either two or three hours per week in class, plus individual consultations with teachers as well as sessions on computing and library skills.

Stage 1 modules are normally assessed by 100% coursework. At Stages 2 and 3, some modules are assessed by 100% coursework (such as essays), others by a combination of formal examination and coursework.

Contact hours

For a student studying full time, each academic year of the programme will comprise 1200 learning hours which include both direct contact hours and private study hours.  The precise breakdown of hours will be subject dependent and will vary according to modules.  Please refer to the individual module details under Course Structure.

Methods of assessment will vary according to subject specialism and individual modules.  Please refer to the individual module details under Course Structure.

Programme aims

For programme aims and learning outcomes please see the programmes specification for each subject below. Please note that outcomes will depend on your specific module selection:

Teaching Excellence Framework

All University of Kent courses are regulated by the Office for Students.

Based on the evidence available, the TEF Panel judged that the University of Kent delivers consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It is of the highest quality found in the UK.

Please see the University of Kent's Statement of Findings for more information.

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Independent rankings

Religious Studies at Kent scored 89% overall in The Complete University Guide 2021.

Philosophy at Kent was ranked 1st for research intensity and scored 87% overall in The Complete University Guide 2021.

Careers

Graduate destinations

Recently, our graduates have gone into areas such as:

  • teaching
  • publishing
  • journalism
  • media
  • marketing
  • the civil service
  • the legal profession.

Religious Studies

Religious Studies provides you with the opportunity to develop key skills that graduate level employers want. These include the ability to manage your time effectively and work to clear deadlines, to communicate clearly in writing and orally (including experience of doing public presentations), and to absorb ideas from a wide range of different sources, organise these into a meaningful pattern, and develop your own critical discussion of them.

Philosophy

Philosophy modules are designed to give you important skills that transfer to the workplace. These modules not only improve your grasp of philosophy, but teach you how to critically evaluate ideas, think through problems and clearly communicate even complex material. We offer opportunities to discuss and defend your ideas, to give oral presentations, to work both individually and as part of a group, all of which equip you with useful instruments for your future career.

Apply for this course

If you are from the UK or Ireland, you must apply for this course through UCAS. If you are not from the UK or Ireland, you can choose to apply through UCAS or directly on our website.

Find out more about how to apply

All applicants

Apply through UCAS

International applicants

Apply now to Kent

Contact us

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United Kingdom/EU enquiries

Enquire online for full-time study

Enquire online for part-time study

T: +44 (0)1227 768896

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International student enquiries

Enquire online

T: +44 (0)1227 823254
E: internationalstudent@kent.ac.uk

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Discover Uni is designed to support prospective students in deciding whether, where and what to study. The site replaces Unistats from September 2019.

Discover Uni is jointly owned by the Office for Students, the Department for the Economy Northern Ireland, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the Scottish Funding Council.

It includes:

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Find out more about the Unistats dataset on the Higher Education Statistics Agency website.