Students preparing for their graduation ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral

Religious Studies and Philosophy - BA (Hons)

UCAS code VV56

2018

The joint honours Religious Studies and Philosophy 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.

2018

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.

Independent rankings

Religious Studies and Theology at Kent was ranked 14th in The Guardian University Guide 2017 and 19th in The Complete University Guide 2017. In the National Student Survey 2016, 89% of our Religious Studies students were satisfied with the overall quality of their course.

Religious Studies students who graduated from Kent in 2015 were the most successful in the UK in finding work or further study opportunities (DLHE).

Philosophy at Kent was ranked 14th in The Guardian University Guide 2017. In the National Student Survey 2016, 90% of our Philosophy students were satisfied with the quality of teaching on their course.

Philosophy students who graduated from Kent in 2015 were the most successful in the UK at finding work or further study opportunities (DLHE).

Teaching Excellence Framework

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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Course structure

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 ‘wild’ modules from other programmes so you can customise your programme and explore other subjects that interest you.

Stage 1

Modules may include Credits

Can I know that I am not dreaming? Am I the same person I was when I was ten years old? Do I have an immaterial mind or immortal soul? Am I a mere machine or do I have a free will? What are the fundamental properties of the world? Does God exist? This module is meant to be an introduction to these and other fundamental problems of philosophy. The module begins with an examination of some themes in Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy, and moves on to discuss the arguments of other classical philosophers, such as Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, and also of contemporary thinkers. Among the themes addressed are: the nature of knowledge, scepticism, personal identity, the mind-body problem, free will and determinism, primary and secondary qualities, causation, induction, God.

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Students studying on this module will be introduced 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 her 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 judgements 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.

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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 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 selected philosophical topics; 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.It will be taught through a combination of lectures and seminars in the first half of the term, and seminars only in the second half of the term.

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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.

Some of the questions we will discuss this year include: 'Why is Hume's fork so important in the history of philosophy?’, 'What is the difference between evaluative and descriptive judgements in aesthetics?’ and ‘What is the difference between ‘is’ and ‘ought’?’ We will also think about questions of more general philosophical import, such as: ‘What it is to presuppose something?’, ‘What is it to argue in a vicious circle?’, and ‘What does a philosophical definition look like?’

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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.

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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.

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This module will introduce students to discussions about the definition of religion and to some of the disciplines in which religion is studied, with special reference to the differences between Theology and Religious Studies. Particular consideration will be given in the initial weeks to the phenomenological approach and to the efficacy of Ninian Smart’s dimensions of religion. In the following weeks, the module will be focused on the comparative study of religion (with reference to Eliade), the sociology of religion (with reference to Durkheim, Weber and Marx) and the psychology of religion (with reference to Otto, James, Freud and Jung). The module will also host a study skills session to be run in conjunction with the Student Learning Advisory Service, the aim of which is to equip students with key study skills in the areas of writing essays, referencing and plagiarism-prevention.

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The Bible is not a single book, but ta biblia, the library. At the most modest estimate, the literatures of the Bible span a period of over eight hundred years. If we think of the metaphor of a library, the books in the Bible would not just be shelved in the Religion/Theology section, but also, say, Philosophy, Politics and Cultural History/Myth. The influence of these books on ‘Western’ culture has been immense. This is a course for those seeking basic biblical ‘literacy’, which is profoundly useful for studies in other disciplines (e.g. History, or Literature), as well as for students in Religious Studies. It is a course for those who think they already know the Bible (this course will help you read the Bible in different ways, with new questions) and those who have never read a Bible at all. The course gives a basic overview of the story and contexts of the books of the Bible (Old Testament/Hebrew Bible and New Testament) from Genesis to the Apocalypse of John, or from Eden to the End of the World.

This course provides a basic introduction to different sections of the biblical ‘library’, combining a general overview with in-depth study of selected passages and books.

NB: As with all Biblical Studies courses at the University of Kent, ‘Bible’ is defined in the broadest sense: the Christian and Jewish canons (73 or 66 books, though we won’t be studying all of them!) apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, and also all the ancient and modern intertexts, poems, films and novels, that inform and draw on biblical traditions.

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The aim of this module is to introduce students to the study of Christianity, through a consideration of key ideas, texts, symbols, stories, rituals, conflicts and continuities, across contemporary and historical contexts. The course will offer a broad overview of two thousand years of Christian history, and seek to address the question of how the cult surrounding an obscure spiritual teacher from first century Nazareth became the world's largest religion, currently estimated at over two billion adherents. It will address the early church, eastern and western traditions, the medieval church, the Reformation and the relations between Christianity and modernity, as well as focusing on contemporary forms of Christianity, and the rapid growth since the 1970s of churches in the global South. By examining key concepts and practices across a range of historical and contemporary settings, the course will explore how the meaning and significance of these have often been subject to violent contestation, both amongst Christians and in their encounters with other religions. It will therefore encourage students to appreciate how the ideas and convictions that are often used to defend or attack Christianity have themselves been shaped by this history.

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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.

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You have the opportunity to select wild modules in this stage

Stage 2

Modules may include Credits

This module will enable students to analyze 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 demythologization; 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.

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The purpose of this module is to survey some of the most significant 20th century trends in the dialogue between psychology and religion through the writings of depth-psychologists, philosophers, theologians, anthropologists and phenomenologists of religion. The module begins by exploring the varieties of religious experience, especially through the work of William James and Rudolf Otto, after which it examines the contributions of psychoanalysis and analytical psychology to the study of religion, particularly in the work of Freud, Jung and Hillman. This material provides the basis for subsequent discussion of the interdisciplinary literature comparing religious altered states of consciousness (mystical, visionary and paranormal experiences) with other altered states of consciousness (madness, drug induced experiences etc.). The module concludes by discussing the principle issues addressed by transpersonal psychology (particularly in the work of Wilber and Grof): the relationship between western psychotherapies and eastern religious disciplines of spiritual emancipation; competing models of spiritual transformation.

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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. secularization, subjectivization), 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, individualization, 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.

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The primary aims of this module are to give you a critical grounding in Islamic sources, thinkers and theories relevant to the development of Islamic liberal and fundamentalist perspectives, and it also explores the ways in which these perspectives bear upon contemporary debates and events. It will equip you with the ability to situate current views within their historical and theological context, critically assess them, and constructively apply them to current phenomena. The module will introduce you to key Islamic debates such as those which address textual interpretation, the relation between revelation and human reason, and the nature of political authority. It will familiarise you with key sources such as the Qur'an, Hadith and treatises of key Islamic theologians and jurists, and it will introduce you to classical and modern theorists from Ibn Taymiyyah to Tariq Ramadan. A range of case studies will allow you to apply these sources and theories to contemporary situations. The module draws lessons for critical thinking about the way in which social context and religious premises affect both religious and political theories. These sources and skills will provide a basis for the analytical work that you undertake in your assessed work.

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This module will be divided into two parts. First, it will familiarise students with how Continental philosophy has developed in response to methodological and historical questions. Second, it will then show how Continental philosophy applies to the philosophy of religion by discussing traditional religious problems—e.g., the existence of God, the problem of theodicy, the conception of the good life—and seeing how seminal Continental thinkers engage with these issues in diverse ways. The first part of the module will discuss critical, historical-based methodologies in: philosophical hermeneutics (Gadamer and Ricoeur), phenomenology (Dupré and Marion) and geneaology (Foucault). The second part of the module will utilise contemporary scholarship consisting in contemporary philosophers applying the aforementioned methodological approaches to religious problems.

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The aim of the course is to provide students with an understanding of the history and practice of the anthropology of religion through the past 150 years. Students will explore the ‘anthropology of religion’ to provide an historical and contemporary understanding of how anthropological studies of religion enrich knowledge of what it means to be religious. The course will examine and students will practise the anthropological method of rich participant observation and comparative analysis. Course content focuses on foundational and contemporary issues of religious definition, ritual, belief, embodiment, rationality and relationships in both Western and non-western contexts.

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This module will explore the theme of ‘Biblical Codes’ from two angles:

1) How has the Bible been read as code?

2) How can we read/ ‘decode’ biblical mysteries (prophecy, apocalyptic, or ‘wisdom’)

Under heading 1) we will be exploring how different writers and groups (some of them inside the Bible, some of them outside it) have read the Bible as temporal or political code. For example, the biblical book of Daniel attempts to decode the book of Jeremiah, which had already become deeply mysterious to ancient readers. Similarly, the New Testament ‘deciphers’ biblical prophecy and motifs by applying them to Jesus or the Roman Empire. At the other end of the time spectrum, we find bestsellers like Michael Drosnin’s The Bible Code (1997), Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye’s attempts to decrypt biblical visions of the end of time by way of contemporary global politics, or recent readings of the book of Ezekiel as prophecies about UFO’s. Techniques of decryption are also built into central developments within Jewish and Christian traditions. In fact, what is often called the history of ‘hermeneutics’ could also be described as the history of ‘How not to read literally’. We will be looking at a range of examples of such developments by focusing on readers like Philo of Alexandria, Augustine of Hippo, or Jewish Kabbalah.

Under heading 2, we will undertake some in-depth readings of prophecy, apocalyptic, or wisdom texts—the ones that readers of the Bible find most difficult to ‘decode’. Texts to be studied will be taken from the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Pseudepigrapha. We will be exploring the contexts that produced these literatures and thinking about how to read (decipher?) them across the abyss of time.

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Recent cultural and political theories have been haunted by the question of religion, its definitions and functions, its emancipatory capacities, its relation to violence, and its relationship to the history and future of the concept of the secular. The centrality of religion as a topic for these recent interdisciplinary discussions has emerged in relationship to a growing unease about earlier, modern modes of distinguishing public and private life; a ‘return’ of religion as an internationally significant political force in recent decades; and surprising appropriations of religion as a figure for secular Western democracy. Theorists (particularly in the area of postcolonial theory) are questioning naturalized or ahistorical distinctions between religion and the secular (e.g., Talal Asad, Tomoko Masuzawa, Saba Mahmood). Many contemporary thinkers attempt to short-circuit the distinction between ‘religion’ and ‘politics’, making possible surprising paradoxes of a “materialist theology” (Slavoj Žižek), an “emptied” religiosity (Gianni Vattimo), or what Hent de Vries calls simply a “political theology”. Once we get down beneath the easily-rehearsed stereotypes, we find that the old religious archives (like the Bible) model competing forms of politics: from messianic anarchism to theocracy. In our political histories—and presents—these have been used (and now are being re-used) in surprising ways.

This course considers important moments in the Western history of political theology in order to understand modern and contemporary discussions of secular politics. These moments will be considered in relation to comparable instances of politically imagined theology (or theologically imagined politics) from other religious traditions as well. Students will:

- examine key topics in the modern formation of these discussions (e.g., distinctions between public and private; secular spheres; religion as extra-political ideal; fanaticism; politicized evaluations of Western religion as exceptional in relation to the ‘others’; religion and political revolution)

- map important similarities and differences between Western and non-Western modelling of the relationship between religion and politics

- critically evaluate recent presentations of the inherent violence of religions, the inevitability of the clash of civilizations, and the usefulness of religion in ‘making globalization work’

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This course explores the central teachings, practices and sacred texts of Mahåyåna Buddhism and will focus upon the first 500 years of its history in India. It will examine the rise and development of Mahåyåna Buddhism in India through analysis of its key sacred literature and philosophical schools as well as its subsequent spread to East and North Asia.

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This module will examine the theme 'Global Christianities' through the lenses of the anthropology of Christianity and the sociology of religion. We will explore the ways in which we can see Christianity as a cultural product, and how Christianity has shaped different cultures and societies globally, as well as how the religion has been shaped by and through encounters in different local settings. We will look at the history of the globalization of Christianity, and consider the historical, political and economic effects of local missionary encounters. The course will examine the processes of conversion to Christianity in different contexts, both at the level of individual and broader social group, and how these have been understood in relation to concepts of ‘modernity’.

The course will draw attention to the relatively recent emergence of the anthropology of Christianity in relation to the broader disciplines of anthropology as a discrete area of study and how this relates to the study of Christianity as a global phenomenon within sociology. We will consider the ways in which these disciplines have constructed and objectified ‘religion’ as an object of study in ways that has historically occluded the social scientific study of Christianity in different global contexts.

The course will address some of the main debates in the anthropology of Christianity, deepening understanding of global Christianities through exploring studies of Christian cultures in diverse ethnographic contexts. The topics addressed will include: culture and conversion; globalization and localisation; interrelations between Christianity, subjectivity and language; embodied and emotional forms of different Christianities; concepts and experiences of God; mediation, immanence and transcendence; coherence and fragmentation; gender, sexuality and the family. Through engaging with readings on these areas, we will explore the socio-religious power-dynamics of Christianity in relation to both culturally dominant and marginal traditions.

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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.

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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 conceptualize 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 realized 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, with specific reference to Conrad Ostwalt’s work on the desacralization of the apocalypse in Jewish and Christian thought in a range of 1990s Hollywood science fiction movies, and the impact that such attempts have had on the way questions of life after death have conventionally been approached.

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This module will examine the main doctrines and practices of early Indian Buddhism as seen through the Theravada Buddhist literature of the Pali canon (in translation). The module will examine what we might know about the figure of the historical Buddha and the central concepts and doctrinal themes in his teachings as represented in these materials, with particular attention paid to their historical and social context and the philosophical, soteriological, ethical and socio-political ideas expressed within early Buddhist literature in the period 500 BCE to 500 CE. The module will also consider the rise of "Theravada" and modern developments within this tradition of Buddhism.

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This module will introduce students to philosophical theories of causality and philosophical theories of probability. The module will provide a broad background to the range of available interpretations of causality and probability. 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. Students will gain a good understanding of the complementary and in some cases conflicting perspectives and methodologies on causality and probability. The module will enable students to evaluate contemporary issues in a manner that's informed by a comprehensive set of relevant traditions.

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This course brings together a range of theories of love from the history of philosophy and from various traditions, including analytical philosophy, feminism, pragmatism and continental thought. It will explore questions of love, beauty and friendship in Plato, religious models in Aquinas, ars erotica in ancient Indian and Chinese philosophies of love, Romantic traditions of love, the logic of love in Peirce and James, feminist politics of love and maternity, and cognitive models of love. The course will also examine a range of analytical questions of love, including debates about the different types of love (eros, agape and philia), the problems of talking about love in philosophical language, distinctions between self-love and relational love, the relation of love to literature and poetry, love as embodied instinct and mental idea, the relation between love and sex, and connections between love, compassion and caring. The aim of the course is to combine a philosophical history of love with critical analytical skills to think about love as a dynamic feature of human relationships.

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This module has an ambitious but hopefully not ridiculous goal: to teach you something about how to live well. It will do so by introducing you to some of the most prominent philosophical traditions that have tried to offer practical advice on how to live, such as that of the Stoics and the Epicureans, but also the religiously inspired traditions of Buddhists, Confucians and Jesuit philosophers.* Of course, you can't learn to live well simply by reading a few books—not even really good ones. That’s why, as part of the module, you’ll also spend three days living in accordance with one of the traditions covered, and then reporting back your experience to the rest of the class, either through a traditional presentation, or by making a short video about your experience. You might not come out a Stoic sage at the other end of this module (although who knows?), but you’ll have learned quite a few things about what some very interesting people thought about how to live well, some of which you’ll be able to incorporate into your daily life.

* Topics covered will likely vary from year to year. The variations will be guided by the expertise of whichever person happens to be convening the module any given year, and by student feedback on previous years.

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The module will cover some of the major topics of the theory of reasoning, with a focus on presenting students with new and exciting research. The syllabus will vary from year to year. The approach will be philosophical and critical, and may 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.

As an indication of the kind of topics covered, the following are three potential syllabi, one of which might operate in any particular year:

1. Probability and probabilistic reasoning. This syllabus will present the major interpretations of probability and their connection with the various kinds of probabilistic reasoning. Topics covered might include: the classical interpretation; the logical interpretation; the subjective interpretation; the frequency interpretation; the propensity interpretation; the objective Bayesian interpretation. The key text will be D.A.Gillies (2000): Philosophical theories of probability, Routledge.

2. Causality and causal reasoning. This syllabus will present the major theories of causality, including difference-making theories (probabilistic theories, counterfactual theories, agency theories), mechanistic theories (process theories, complex systems theories) and pluralist theories. It will go on to consider methods of causal reasoning in the sciences and the implications of such methods for the metaphysics of causality. In the absence of a comprehensive text, this syllabus will appeal to papers, especially those in the Oxford Handbook of Causation (OUP 2009), and Causality in the Sciences (OUP 2011).

3. Invalid arguments. This syllabus will look in detail at methods of assessing the cogency of deductively invalid arguments. In particular it will present the methods of inductive logic for assessing the plausibility of arguments. It will provide an introduction to probabilistic logics and their semantics, as well as to methods of inference in probabilistic logics, with a focus on elementary methods that can be readily acquired by students with little prior training in logic and no prior knowledge of probability theory. In the absence of a text at a suitable level, this syllabus will be accompanied by a set of detailed lecture notes.

Convenor: Jon Williamson

Jon Williamson works on various topics connected with reasoning, inference and scientific method, including causal reasoning in the sciences, inductive reasoning, and the nature of probability. The aim of this module is to introduce students to cutting-edge research on topics such as these. Jon is editor of the gazette The Reasoner, co-director of the Centre for Reasoning, and author of books on reasoning such as Bayesian nets and causality (OUP 2005), In defence of objective Bayesianism (OUP 2010) and Probabilistic logics and probabilistic networks (Springer 2011).

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The curriculum is intended to introduce students to some of the key arguments and debates in contemporary continental political philosophy through the focussed reading and discussion of the works of a number of central thinkers (Charles Taylor, Iris Marion Young, Foucualt, Derrida, Butler) in this field. It is also the aim of this module to consider the works and ideas of philosophers that are often overlooked on undergraduate political philosophy courses e.g. feminist thinkers and Queer theorists.

The curriculum should not be regarded as written in stone but responsive to new publications and developments in this field of research and to events in the wider world.

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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 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 masterwork The World as Will and Representation 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.

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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. In all of this, the course will be examining these theories by starting with their historical roots, particularly focussing on the work of J. S. Mill, Immanuel Kant and Aristotle.

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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 begins by drawing attention to the diversity of feminist thought, highlighting three theoretical strands: liberal feminism, radical feminism and Marxist feminism. We go on to apply these strands of feminist thought to the following topics: First, we look at some topics in legal and political philosophy, including justice and the family; discrimination law and freedom of speech. Second, we look at some topics in applied ethics, including reproductive ethics and sexual ethics. Third, we look at some feminist perspectives in epistemology and metaphysics. We also discuss the underlying question of whether feminism discriminates against men, and whether the notion of ‘gender-inclusive’ feminism is a plausible one.

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The present 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. That said, the relevant variations will be constrained by considerations ensuring that one cohort will not be disadvantaged compared to the next, and are likely to consistently include some sub-set of the following:

• Authoritarianism

• Behavioural economics

• Collective action

• Federal and non-federal unions

• Game theory

• Liberalism, illiberalism, and paternalism

• Markets and trade

• Money and finance

• Philosophy of Power

• Property

• Public choice

• Rational choice

• States and corporations

• Terrorism

• Theocracy

• Voting

• Work and capital

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.

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30

William James (1842-1910) has arguably had a profound impact in the shaping of three contemporary disciplines: philosophy, psychology and the study of religion. This course aims to examine the life and work of William James in depth. It will examine the life of William James and the James family and show how this relates to his work. The course will examine his key texts: Principles of Psychology (1890), The Will to Believe (1897), The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) and his studies of pragmatism, including Pragmatism (1907), The Pluralistic Universe (1909) and The Meaning of Truth (1909). It will also explore his long term and frustrated attempt to set up a scientific study of psychical phenomena.

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30

We typically value justified belief more than simple belief, for very good reasons: a justified belief is more likely to be true than a randomly selected one. Indeed, we value knowledge even more than justified belief, since, arguably, a belief that qualifies as knowledge is true. But when is a belief justified? And what is knowledge? Is any of our beliefs justified? Do we know anything at all? Do we know that it's 8 o’ clock if at 8 o’ clock we see a broken watch indicating 8 o’ clock? Do we know that our cat is sleeping on the sofa, if we don’t know that we’re not brains in a vat? This module investigates these and other epistemological questions, mostly by looking at some deeply puzzling sceptical arguments, some of which areas old as Philosophy is, and all of which have sprung very lively debates in the recent philosophical literature.

This module is designed to introduce students to some key philosophical notions – such as belief, justification and knowledge – and to some of the most exciting and interesting literature on the subject. The module begins with a brief overview of the literature on the analysis of knowledge – this will introduce students to the main philosophical approaches to justification and knowledge: internalism and externalism. The module will then move on to consider two influential forms of Skepticism: Pyrronian skepticism and Cartesian skepticism. Students will be introduced to the main views on the structure of justification – foundationalism, coherentism and entitlement approaches – as well as to the main semantic accounts of 'know’ – contextualism, dogmatism and relevant alternatives/tracking theories. Some epistemic principles, such as the so-called KK principle, will be introduced via the presentation of epistemic paradoxes, such as the Surprise Examination Paradox.

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15

We often make claims about the world, whether in Ethics, Aesthetics, Metaphysics, History or Science. These claims might be thought to involve a correspondence between how we think about the world and how the world 'really is'. This course aims to examine questions of realism and anti-realism: does the world outrun our ability to talk about it? Do some ways of talking about the world capture how the world really is? Can we even make sense of there being a world independent of how we think about it?

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15

What makes it the case that certain actions, such as stealing and sharing, have ethical value? Are ethical values such as goodness and badness, compassion and cruelty, mind-independent ethical properties, properties that exist no matter what anyone thinks, desires, aims at and the like? Or are there no such ethical properties at all and when we call something good we are just expressing our emotions and feelings about a nonethical world? Are there any other positions available?

This course is designed to introduce you to some of the most exciting and interesting philosophical literature in recent years, which brings together ethics and metaphysics with a little epistemology and philosophy of language. The first half of this course will examine (what are often called) "metaethical" questions such as those above. We will then move on to discuss debates concerning moral psychology and motivation. When one says 'charity-giving is good' is it a matter of necessity that one will be motivated to some extent to give to charity? Or is it possible for one to make such a judgement and have no motivation at all (and for such a judgement to count as a legitimate moral judgement)? At the end we will see how these questions concerning psychology are integral to the earlier debates of metaphysics. Throughout, we will be examining these questions and issues by looking at work by authors from the start of the twentieth century (e.g. G. E. Moore) and by more recent writers (e.g. Simon Blackburn, Allan Gibbard, J. L. Mackie, John McDowell and Michael Smith).

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30

This course is designed to introduce students to a number of philosophical issues arising from medical research and medical practice. Students will consider attempts to define the following terms – health, illness, and disease – and discuss what rests on their definition. Much medical practice proceeds as though medicine were a natural science. This module will probe the limitations of this conception. The placebo effect demonstrates the powerful influence of suggestion on the body and students will consider its relevance to philosophical ideas of the mind-body relation. Finally, students will consider ethical issues arising in medical practice, such as 'medically assisted death'.

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Please note: all Module Handbook information is subject to change pending faculty approval.

Wittgenstein is widely thought to have been the greatest philosopher of the 20th Century. This module will concentrate in depth on some of Wittgenstein’s work by focusing on selected passages of his writings. The actual passages or texts focused on from year to year may vary.

Wittgenstein

Julia Tanney’s interest in Wittgenstein began as an undergraduate when she was introduced to the ideas of Wittgenstein through the teachings of Philippa Foot, David Pears, and Rogers Albritton, and, as a graduate student, of Crispin Wright. She has taught the Philosophical Investigations for over 20 years in England and in France. She has produced several articles, including “Real Rules”, “Reason-Explanation and the Contents of the Mind”, “On the Conceptual, Psychological, and Moral Status of Zombies, Swamp-Beings, and other ‘Behaviorally Indistinguishable’ Creatures”, and “Self-Knowledge, Normativity, and Construction”, reprinted in Rules, Reason, and Self-Knowledge (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2012) which bring to bear Wittgenstein’s later philosophy on today’s theorizing in the philosophy of mind and action. This module uses the virtual world of Second Life to bring Wittgenstein’s primitive language games to life and to help students reflect on questions such as what it is to understand, think, intend, act for reasons, and to mean what we say.

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30

This module studies some central questions in philosophy of religion, drawing on topics in metaphysics, ethics, epistemology, philosophy of language and philosophy of mind. It begins by studying and critically assessing three of the 'classical' arguments for the existence of God—the ontological argument, the cosmological argument and the argument from design —which consider respectively whether reason, science or experience can show us that God exists. It goes on to consider the relationship between religion and morality, examining Kant’s moral argument, which appears to support a case for the existence of God, and Plato’s Euthyphro Dilemma, which appears to tell against it. Finally, it considers some central topics in religious epistemology, language and philosophy of mind, including: miracles, the nature of religious experience, religious language and personal identity. One underlying question the module considers is whether the above arguments and topics could be used to support or tell against an argument for the overall rationality of religious belief.

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30

Language is a wonderful thing. 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 don't 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? How is it that learning a second language can be so frustrating and time consuming, whereas we learn our first language with no trouble at all? The questions keep coming. In this module we shall try to find some answers.

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30

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.

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30

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.

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30

The module will study some of the major works in the history of modern philosophy of science. Texts to be studied will be drawn from a list which includes major works by philosophers such as Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, Salmon, etc. 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.

Themes to be studied will include: the nature of scientific theory change, the status of scientific claims, the methodology of scientific reasoning, the prospects for automating scientific reasoning.

The course will cover a range of topics such as:

Inductivism versus falsificationism

Research Programmes

Incommensurability

Realism

Instrumentalism

Probabilistic Reasoning

Causal Reasoning

Mathematical Reasoning

Confirmation

Explanation

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30

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.

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30

What is art? What is an artwork? Do all types and examples of (what are traditionally classed as) artworks have identifying features in common? If so, what are they? Or, are there such interesting differences between works of literature, pieces of sculpture and the like, that searching for a definition of art is a futile task and this type of question misguided? Do avant-garde works count as art? Can anything count as art, such as food, if it’s presented in the right way or made with the right sort of intention? What does all of this tell us about the nature of definition generally?

These are some of the questions that we will explore at the start of this course. After that we will consider other issues and questions. What is the relation of art to beauty and other aesthetic qualities? What is it for a performance to be ‘authentic’ and is this sort of performance to be privileged in any way? Why is rock music such a part of our lives? Is there anything aesthetically wrong with a forgery? What is the nature of aesthetic experience and of our emotional responses to art? Why do we care so much about the fate of fictional characters? Is there any difference between pornography and erotica? Are artists subject to a different moral code? And what on earth is the point of public art? What is public art?

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15

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.

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30

This module provides an introduction to some of the major works in ancient Greek philosophy in relation to ethics, aesthetics, political theory, ontology and metaphysics. Students will study substantial portions of primary texts by the Pre-Socratics, Plato and Aristotle. 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 Greek intellectual tradition. This means that students will gain a critical distance from normative and modern definitions of philosophical terms in order to understand how Greek philosophy generally approached questions and problems with different suppositions and conceptions of reality, reason and the purpose of human existence.

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30

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? Is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation a benevolent charity, or an unelected, unaccountable group wielding enormous political power?

This course is divided into two parts. The first part examines classic topics in political philosophy, such as the sources and scope of political authority, and the ideals of equality and freedom. The second part of the course will explore issues within contemporary political philosophy, such as our obligations to those in the developing world, the circumstances under which one might legitimately employ civil disobedience, 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 case studies, such as the recent debate over the showing of an anti-Islam film in the House of Lords, and the West's failure to intervene in Rwanda.

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30

Under what circumstances might it be permissible to use violence to further political goals? What distinguishes different sorts of political violence? Ought the state to have a monopoly on political violence? Are there some methods that should never be used to further political goals? In this course, we will look at the various forms of political violence, and consider how political and legal theorists have tried to regulate violent interaction between states and within states. We will examine the conceptual difficulties that arise when postulating international laws, and consider the role of the United Nations as international mediator and law enforcer. We will also look at the rights of self-determination amongst sub-national groups, and at the obligations of the international community to intervene to prevent humanitarian abuses.

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30

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

Modules may include Credits

This module will examine the main doctrines and practices of early Indian Buddhism as seen through the Theravada Buddhist literature of the Pali canon (in translation). The module will examine what we might know about the figure of the historical Buddha and the central concepts and doctrinal themes in his teachings as represented in these materials, with particular attention paid to their historical and social context and the philosophical, soteriological, ethical and socio-political ideas expressed within early Buddhist literature in the period 500 BCE to 500 CE. The module will also consider the rise of "Theravada" and modern developments within this tradition of Buddhism.

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30

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 conceptualize 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 realized 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, with specific reference to Conrad Ostwalt’s work on the desacralization of the apocalypse in Jewish and Christian thought in a range of 1990s Hollywood science fiction movies, and the impact that such attempts have had on the way questions of life after death have conventionally been approached.

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30

This module is aimed at those students who would like to follow a career as Primary or Secondary School teachers, but is also suitable to those who would like to combine an academic course with work experience. Placements in a school environment will enhance the students' employment opportunities as they will acquire a range of skills. It will also provide the students with the opportunity to develop their knowledge and understanding of Religious Education and Philosophy in the primary or secondary school context. The university sessions and weekly school work will complement each other. Therefore, attendance to university sessions is crucial as it will also give the students the opportunity to discuss aspects related to their weekly placement and receive guidance. The student will spend one half-day per week for ten weeks in a school where each student will have a designated teacher-mentor who will guide their work in school. They will observe sessions taught by their designated teacher and possibly other teachers. Initially, for these sessions the students will concentrate on specific aspects of the teachers’ tasks, and their approach to teaching a whole class. As they progress, their role will be as teaching assistants, by helping individual pupils who are having difficulties or by working with small groups. They may teach brief or whole sessions with the whole class or with a small group of students where they explain a topic related to the school syllabus. They may also talk about aspects of University life. They must keep a weekly journal reflecting on their activities at their designated school.

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30

This module will examine the theme 'Global Christianities' through the lenses of the anthropology of Christianity and the sociology of religion. We will explore the ways in which we can see Christianity as a cultural product, and how Christianity has shaped different cultures and societies globally, as well as how the religion has been shaped by and through encounters in different local settings. We will look at the history of the globalization of Christianity, and consider the historical, political and economic effects of local missionary encounters. The course will examine the processes of conversion to Christianity in different contexts, both at the level of individual and broader social group, and how these have been understood in relation to concepts of ‘modernity’.

The course will draw attention to the relatively recent emergence of the anthropology of Christianity in relation to the broader disciplines of anthropology as a discrete area of study and how this relates to the study of Christianity as a global phenomenon within sociology. We will consider the ways in which these disciplines have constructed and objectified ‘religion’ as an object of study in ways that has historically occluded the social scientific study of Christianity in different global contexts.

The course will address some of the main debates in the anthropology of Christianity, deepening understanding of global Christianities through exploring studies of Christian cultures in diverse ethnographic contexts. The topics addressed will include: culture and conversion; globalization and localisation; interrelations between Christianity, subjectivity and language; embodied and emotional forms of different Christianities; concepts and experiences of God; mediation, immanence and transcendence; coherence and fragmentation; gender, sexuality and the family. Through engaging with readings on these areas, we will explore the socio-religious power-dynamics of Christianity in relation to both culturally dominant and marginal traditions.

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30

This course explores the central teachings, practices and sacred texts of Mahåyåna Buddhism and will focus upon the first 500 years of its history in India. It will examine the rise and development of Mahåyåna Buddhism in India through analysis of its key sacred literature and philosophical schools as well as its subsequent spread to East and North Asia.

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30

Recent cultural and political theories have been haunted by the question of religion, its definitions and functions, its emancipatory capacities, its relation to violence, and its relationship to the history and future of the concept of the secular. The centrality of religion as a topic for these recent interdisciplinary discussions has emerged in relationship to a growing unease about earlier, modern modes of distinguishing public and private life; a ‘return’ of religion as an internationally significant political force in recent decades; and surprising appropriations of religion as a figure for secular Western democracy. Theorists (particularly in the area of postcolonial theory) are questioning naturalized or ahistorical distinctions between religion and the secular (e.g., Talal Asad, Tomoko Masuzawa, Saba Mahmood). Many contemporary thinkers attempt to short-circuit the distinction between ‘religion’ and ‘politics’, making possible surprising paradoxes of a “materialist theology” (Slavoj Žižek), an “emptied” religiosity (Gianni Vattimo), or what Hent de Vries calls simply a “political theology”. Once we get down beneath the easily-rehearsed stereotypes, we find that the old religious archives (like the Bible) model competing forms of politics: from messianic anarchism to theocracy. In our political histories—and presents—these have been used (and now are being re-used) in surprising ways.

This course considers important moments in the Western history of political theology in order to understand modern and contemporary discussions of secular politics. These moments will be considered in relation to comparable instances of politically imagined theology (or theologically imagined politics) from other religious traditions as well. Students will:

- examine key topics in the modern formation of these discussions (e.g., distinctions between public and private; secular spheres; religion as extra-political ideal; fanaticism; politicized evaluations of Western religion as exceptional in relation to the ‘others’; religion and political revolution)

- map important similarities and differences between Western and non-Western modelling of the relationship between religion and politics

- critically evaluate recent presentations of the inherent violence of religions, the inevitability of the clash of civilizations, and the usefulness of religion in ‘making globalization work’

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30

This module will explore the theme of ‘Biblical Codes’ from two angles:

1) How has the Bible been read as code?

2) How can we read/ ‘decode’ biblical mysteries (prophecy, apocalyptic, or ‘wisdom’)

Under heading 1) we will be exploring how different writers and groups (some of them inside the Bible, some of them outside it) have read the Bible as temporal or political code. For example, the biblical book of Daniel attempts to decode the book of Jeremiah, which had already become deeply mysterious to ancient readers. Similarly, the New Testament ‘deciphers’ biblical prophecy and motifs by applying them to Jesus or the Roman Empire. At the other end of the time spectrum, we find bestsellers like Michael Drosnin’s The Bible Code (1997), Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye’s attempts to decrypt biblical visions of the end of time by way of contemporary global politics, or recent readings of the book of Ezekiel as prophecies about UFO’s. Techniques of decryption are also built into central developments within Jewish and Christian traditions. In fact, what is often called the history of ‘hermeneutics’ could also be described as the history of ‘How not to read literally’. We will be looking at a range of examples of such developments by focusing on readers like Philo of Alexandria, Augustine of Hippo, or Jewish Kabbalah.

Under heading 2, we will undertake some in-depth readings of prophecy, apocalyptic, or wisdom texts—the ones that readers of the Bible find most difficult to ‘decode’. Texts to be studied will be taken from the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Pseudepigrapha. We will be exploring the contexts that produced these literatures and thinking about how to read (decipher?) them across the abyss of time.

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30

The aim of the course is to provide students with an understanding of the history and practice of the anthropology of religion through the past 150 years. Students will explore the ‘anthropology of religion’ to provide an historical and contemporary understanding of how anthropological studies of religion enrich knowledge of what it means to be religious. The course will examine and students will practise the anthropological method of rich participant observation and comparative analysis. Course content focuses on foundational and contemporary issues of religious definition, ritual, belief, embodiment, rationality and relationships in both Western and non-western contexts.

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30

The primary aims of this module are to give you a critical grounding in Islamic sources, thinkers and theories relevant to the development of Islamic liberal and fundamentalist perspectives, and it also explores the ways in which these perspectives bear upon contemporary debates and events. It will equip you with the ability to situate current views within their historical and theological context, critically assess them, and constructively apply them to current phenomena. The module will introduce you to key Islamic debates such as those which address textual interpretation, the relation between revelation and human reason, and the nature of political authority. It will familiarise you with key sources such as the Qur'an, Hadith and treatises of key Islamic theologians and jurists, and it will introduce you to classical and modern theorists from Ibn Taymiyyah to Tariq Ramadan. A range of case studies will allow you to apply these sources and theories to contemporary situations. The module draws lessons for critical thinking about the way in which social context and religious premises affect both religious and political theories. These sources and skills will provide a basis for the analytical work that you undertake in your assessed work.

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30

This module will be divided into two parts. First, it will familiarise students with how Continental philosophy has developed in response to methodological and historical questions. Second, it will then show how Continental philosophy applies to the philosophy of religion by discussing traditional religious problems—e.g., the existence of God, the problem of theodicy, the conception of the good life—and seeing how seminal Continental thinkers engage with these issues in diverse ways. The first part of the module will discuss critical, historical-based methodologies in: philosophical hermeneutics (Gadamer and Ricoeur), phenomenology (Dupré and Marion) and geneaology (Foucault). The second part of the module will utilise contemporary scholarship consisting in contemporary philosophers applying the aforementioned methodological approaches to religious problems.

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30

This module will enable students to analyze 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 demythologization; 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.

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30

The purpose of this module is to survey some of the most significant 20th century trends in the dialogue between psychology and religion through the writings of depth-psychologists, philosophers, theologians, anthropologists and phenomenologists of religion. The module begins by exploring the varieties of religious experience, especially through the work of William James and Rudolf Otto, after which it examines the contributions of psychoanalysis and analytical psychology to the study of religion, particularly in the work of Freud, Jung and Hillman. This material provides the basis for subsequent discussion of the interdisciplinary literature comparing religious altered states of consciousness (mystical, visionary and paranormal experiences) with other altered states of consciousness (madness, drug induced experiences etc.). The module concludes by discussing the principle issues addressed by transpersonal psychology (particularly in the work of Wilber and Grof): the relationship between western psychotherapies and eastern religious disciplines of spiritual emancipation; competing models of spiritual transformation.

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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.

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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. secularization, subjectivization), 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, individualization, 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.

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30

Under what circumstances might it be permissible to use violence to further political goals? What distinguishes different sorts of political violence? Ought the state to have a monopoly on political violence? Are there some methods that should never be used to further political goals? In this course, we will look at the various forms of political violence, and consider how political and legal theorists have tried to regulate violent interaction between states and within states. We will examine the conceptual difficulties that arise when postulating international laws, and consider the role of the United Nations as international mediator and law enforcer. We will also look at the rights of self-determination amongst sub-national groups, and at the obligations of the international community to intervene to prevent humanitarian abuses.

Read more
30

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? Is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation a benevolent charity, or an unelected, unaccountable group wielding enormous political power?

This course is divided into two parts. The first part examines classic topics in political philosophy, such as the sources and scope of political authority, and the ideals of equality and freedom. The second part of the course will explore issues within contemporary political philosophy, such as our obligations to those in the developing world, the circumstances under which one might legitimately employ civil disobedience, 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 case studies, such as the recent debate over the showing of an anti-Islam film in the House of Lords, and the West's failure to intervene in Rwanda.

Read more
30

This module provides an introduction to some of the major works in ancient Greek philosophy in relation to ethics, aesthetics, political theory, ontology and metaphysics. Students will study substantial portions of primary texts by the Pre-Socratics, Plato and Aristotle. 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 Greek intellectual tradition. This means that students will gain a critical distance from normative and modern definitions of philosophical terms in order to understand how Greek philosophy generally approached questions and problems with different suppositions and conceptions of reality, reason and the purpose of human existence.

Read more
30

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.

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This module provides an opportunity for independent work within an area of philosophy chosen by the student. THOSE WHO WISH TO TAKE THIS MODULE MUST (1) ENSURE THAT THERE IS A MEMBER OF THE PHILOSOPHY BOARD OF STUDIES WILLING TO SUPERVISE THEIR WORK; (2) SUBMIT AN OUTLINE AND PROVISIONAL TITLE OF THE PROPOSED DISSERTATION, ENDORSED BY THE PROSPECTIVE SUPERVISOR, TO THE MODULE CONVENOR FOR APPROVAL BEFORE BEING ADMITTED ONTO THE MODULE. STUDENTS ARE STRONGLY ADVISED TO JOIN ONE OF THE READING GROUPS (TO BE ANNOUNCED) AND WORK ON THEIR ESSAY AND DISSERTATION WITHIN THAT CONTEXT.The Dissertation should normally be about 9000 (maximum 10000) words long; it may consist either of an essay on a single theme, or of two or three Essays on complementary themes in Philosophy. Please note that the Dissertation is one of the most difficult modules. You should not apply to register for it unless you have a definite project to which you are seriously committed with the support of a member of staff who is willing to supervise you.

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This module provides an opportunity for students to produce a substantial piece of independent philosophical work, and at the same time to improve their skills in essay writing by getting one-to-one supervision and feedback on a specific piece of work. It is available to Single Honours and Joint Honours Philosophy students. It cannot be taken by other students as a 'wild module'. THOSE WISHING TO TAKE THE MODULE MUST ENSURE THAT THERE IS A MEMBER OF THE PHILOSOPHY BOARD OF STUDIES WILLING TO SUPERVISE THEIR WORK. THEY MUST SUBMIT AN OUTLINE OF THE PROPOSED AREA OF STUDY, ENDORSED BY THE PROSPECTIVE SUPERVISOR, TO THE MODULE CONVENOR FOR APPROVAL BEFORE BEING ADMITTED ONTO THE MODULE.

The Extended Essay should not be more than 5000 words long and must be submitted by the first day of the following term. Please note that the extended essay is considered a difficult module. You should not apply to register for it unless you have a definite project to which you are seriously committed with the support of a member of staff who is willing to supervise you.

Note: you can not take PL520 in conjunction with PL507 Philosophy Dissertation

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What is art? What is an artwork? Do all types and examples of (what are traditionally classed as) artworks have identifying features in common? If so, what are they? Or, are there such interesting differences between works of literature, pieces of sculpture and the like, that searching for a definition of art is a futile task and this type of question misguided? Do avant-garde works count as art? Can anything count as art, such as food, if it’s presented in the right way or made with the right sort of intention? What does all of this tell us about the nature of definition generally?

These are some of the questions that we will explore at the start of this course. After that we will consider other issues and questions. What is the relation of art to beauty and other aesthetic qualities? What is it for a performance to be ‘authentic’ and is this sort of performance to be privileged in any way? Why is rock music such a part of our lives? Is there anything aesthetically wrong with a forgery? What is the nature of aesthetic experience and of our emotional responses to art? Why do we care so much about the fate of fictional characters? Is there any difference between pornography and erotica? Are artists subject to a different moral code? And what on earth is the point of public art? What is public art?

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We typically value justified belief more than simple belief, for very good reasons: a justified belief is more likely to be true than a randomly selected one. Indeed, we value knowledge even more than justified belief, since, arguably, a belief that qualifies as knowledge is true. But when is a belief justified? And what is knowledge? Is any of our beliefs justified? Do we know anything at all? Do we know that it's 8 o’ clock if at 8 o’ clock we see a broken watch indicating 8 o’ clock? Do we know that our cat is sleeping on the sofa, if we don’t know that we’re not brains in a vat? This module investigates these and other epistemological questions, mostly by looking at some deeply puzzling sceptical arguments, some of which areas old as Philosophy is, and all of which have sprung very lively debates in the recent philosophical literature.

This module is designed to introduce students to some key philosophical notions – such as belief, justification and knowledge – and to some of the most exciting and interesting literature on the subject. The module begins with a brief overview of the literature on the analysis of knowledge – this will introduce students to the main philosophical approaches to justification and knowledge: internalism and externalism. The module will then move on to consider two influential forms of Skepticism: Pyrronian skepticism and Cartesian skepticism. Students will be introduced to the main views on the structure of justification – foundationalism, coherentism and entitlement approaches – as well as to the main semantic accounts of 'know’ – contextualism, dogmatism and relevant alternatives/tracking theories. Some epistemic principles, such as the so-called KK principle, will be introduced via the presentation of epistemic paradoxes, such as the Surprise Examination Paradox.

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We often make claims about the world, whether in Ethics, Aesthetics, Metaphysics, History or Science. These claims might be thought to involve a correspondence between how we think about the world and how the world 'really is'. This course aims to examine questions of realism and anti-realism: does the world outrun our ability to talk about it? Do some ways of talking about the world capture how the world really is? Can we even make sense of there being a world independent of how we think about it?

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What makes it the case that certain actions, such as stealing and sharing, have ethical value? Are ethical values such as goodness and badness, compassion and cruelty, mind-independent ethical properties, properties that exist no matter what anyone thinks, desires, aims at and the like? Or are there no such ethical properties at all and when we call something good we are just expressing our emotions and feelings about a nonethical world? Are there any other positions available?

This course is designed to introduce you to some of the most exciting and interesting philosophical literature in recent years, which brings together ethics and metaphysics with a little epistemology and philosophy of language. The first half of this course will examine (what are often called) "metaethical" questions such as those above. We will then move on to discuss debates concerning moral psychology and motivation. When one says 'charity-giving is good' is it a matter of necessity that one will be motivated to some extent to give to charity? Or is it possible for one to make such a judgement and have no motivation at all (and for such a judgement to count as a legitimate moral judgement)? At the end we will see how these questions concerning psychology are integral to the earlier debates of metaphysics. Throughout, we will be examining these questions and issues by looking at work by authors from the start of the twentieth century (e.g. G. E. Moore) and by more recent writers (e.g. Simon Blackburn, Allan Gibbard, J. L. Mackie, John McDowell and Michael Smith).

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This course is designed to introduce students to a number of philosophical issues arising from medical research and medical practice. Students will consider attempts to define the following terms – health, illness, and disease – and discuss what rests on their definition. Much medical practice proceeds as though medicine were a natural science. This module will probe the limitations of this conception. The placebo effect demonstrates the powerful influence of suggestion on the body and students will consider its relevance to philosophical ideas of the mind-body relation. Finally, students will consider ethical issues arising in medical practice, such as 'medically assisted death'.

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Please note: all Module Handbook information is subject to change pending faculty approval.

Wittgenstein is widely thought to have been the greatest philosopher of the 20th Century. This module will concentrate in depth on some of Wittgenstein’s work by focusing on selected passages of his writings. The actual passages or texts focused on from year to year may vary.

Wittgenstein

Julia Tanney’s interest in Wittgenstein began as an undergraduate when she was introduced to the ideas of Wittgenstein through the teachings of Philippa Foot, David Pears, and Rogers Albritton, and, as a graduate student, of Crispin Wright. She has taught the Philosophical Investigations for over 20 years in England and in France. She has produced several articles, including “Real Rules”, “Reason-Explanation and the Contents of the Mind”, “On the Conceptual, Psychological, and Moral Status of Zombies, Swamp-Beings, and other ‘Behaviorally Indistinguishable’ Creatures”, and “Self-Knowledge, Normativity, and Construction”, reprinted in Rules, Reason, and Self-Knowledge (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2012) which bring to bear Wittgenstein’s later philosophy on today’s theorizing in the philosophy of mind and action. This module uses the virtual world of Second Life to bring Wittgenstein’s primitive language games to life and to help students reflect on questions such as what it is to understand, think, intend, act for reasons, and to mean what we say.

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This module studies some central questions in philosophy of religion, drawing on topics in metaphysics, ethics, epistemology, philosophy of language and philosophy of mind. It begins by studying and critically assessing three of the 'classical' arguments for the existence of God—the ontological argument, the cosmological argument and the argument from design —which consider respectively whether reason, science or experience can show us that God exists. It goes on to consider the relationship between religion and morality, examining Kant’s moral argument, which appears to support a case for the existence of God, and Plato’s Euthyphro Dilemma, which appears to tell against it. Finally, it considers some central topics in religious epistemology, language and philosophy of mind, including: miracles, the nature of religious experience, religious language and personal identity. One underlying question the module considers is whether the above arguments and topics could be used to support or tell against an argument for the overall rationality of religious belief.

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Language is a wonderful thing. 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 don't 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? How is it that learning a second language can be so frustrating and time consuming, whereas we learn our first language with no trouble at all? The questions keep coming. In this module we shall try to find some answers.

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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.

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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.

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The module will study some of the major works in the history of modern philosophy of science. Texts to be studied will be drawn from a list which includes major works by philosophers such as Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, Salmon, etc. 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.

Themes to be studied will include: the nature of scientific theory change, the status of scientific claims, the methodology of scientific reasoning, the prospects for automating scientific reasoning.

The course will cover a range of topics such as:

Inductivism versus falsificationism

Research Programmes

Incommensurability

Realism

Instrumentalism

Probabilistic Reasoning

Causal Reasoning

Mathematical Reasoning

Confirmation

Explanation

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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.

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William James (1842-1910) has arguably had a profound impact in the shaping of three contemporary disciplines: philosophy, psychology and the study of religion. This course aims to examine the life and work of William James in depth. It will examine the life of William James and the James family and show how this relates to his work. The course will examine his key texts: Principles of Psychology (1890), The Will to Believe (1897), The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) and his studies of pragmatism, including Pragmatism (1907), The Pluralistic Universe (1909) and The Meaning of Truth (1909). It will also explore his long term and frustrated attempt to set up a scientific study of psychical phenomena.

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The present 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. That said, the relevant variations will be constrained by considerations ensuring that one cohort will not be disadvantaged compared to the next, and are likely to consistently include some sub-set of the following:

• Authoritarianism

• Behavioural economics

• Collective action

• Federal and non-federal unions

• Game theory

• Liberalism, illiberalism, and paternalism

• Markets and trade

• Money and finance

• Philosophy of Power

• Property

• Public choice

• Rational choice

• States and corporations

• Terrorism

• Theocracy

• Voting

• Work and capital

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.

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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 begins by drawing attention to the diversity of feminist thought, highlighting three theoretical strands: liberal feminism, radical feminism and Marxist feminism. We go on to apply these strands of feminist thought to the following topics: First, we look at some topics in legal and political philosophy, including justice and the family; discrimination law and freedom of speech. Second, we look at some topics in applied ethics, including reproductive ethics and sexual ethics. Third, we look at some feminist perspectives in epistemology and metaphysics. We also discuss the underlying question of whether feminism discriminates against men, and whether the notion of ‘gender-inclusive’ feminism is a plausible one.

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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. In all of this, the course will be examining these theories by starting with their historical roots, particularly focussing on the work of J. S. Mill, Immanuel Kant and Aristotle.

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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 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 masterwork The World as Will and Representation 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.

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The curriculum is intended to introduce students to some of the key arguments and debates in contemporary continental political philosophy through the focussed reading and discussion of the works of a number of central thinkers (Charles Taylor, Iris Marion Young, Foucualt, Derrida, Butler) in this field. It is also the aim of this module to consider the works and ideas of philosophers that are often overlooked on undergraduate political philosophy courses e.g. feminist thinkers and Queer theorists.

The curriculum should not be regarded as written in stone but responsive to new publications and developments in this field of research and to events in the wider world.

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The module will cover some of the major topics of the theory of reasoning, with a focus on presenting students with new and exciting research. The syllabus will vary from year to year. The approach will be philosophical and critical, and may 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.

As an indication of the kind of topics covered, the following are three potential syllabi, one of which might operate in any particular year:

1. Probability and probabilistic reasoning. This syllabus will present the major interpretations of probability and their connection with the various kinds of probabilistic reasoning. Topics covered might include: the classical interpretation; the logical interpretation; the subjective interpretation; the frequency interpretation; the propensity interpretation; the objective Bayesian interpretation. The key text will be D.A.Gillies (2000): Philosophical theories of probability, Routledge.

2. Causality and causal reasoning. This syllabus will present the major theories of causality, including difference-making theories (probabilistic theories, counterfactual theories, agency theories), mechanistic theories (process theories, complex systems theories) and pluralist theories. It will go on to consider methods of causal reasoning in the sciences and the implications of such methods for the metaphysics of causality. In the absence of a comprehensive text, this syllabus will appeal to papers, especially those in the Oxford Handbook of Causation (OUP 2009), and Causality in the Sciences (OUP 2011).

3. Invalid arguments. This syllabus will look in detail at methods of assessing the cogency of deductively invalid arguments. In particular it will present the methods of inductive logic for assessing the plausibility of arguments. It will provide an introduction to probabilistic logics and their semantics, as well as to methods of inference in probabilistic logics, with a focus on elementary methods that can be readily acquired by students with little prior training in logic and no prior knowledge of probability theory. In the absence of a text at a suitable level, this syllabus will be accompanied by a set of detailed lecture notes.

Convenor: Jon Williamson

Jon Williamson works on various topics connected with reasoning, inference and scientific method, including causal reasoning in the sciences, inductive reasoning, and the nature of probability. The aim of this module is to introduce students to cutting-edge research on topics such as these. Jon is editor of the gazette The Reasoner, co-director of the Centre for Reasoning, and author of books on reasoning such as Bayesian nets and causality (OUP 2005), In defence of objective Bayesianism (OUP 2010) and Probabilistic logics and probabilistic networks (Springer 2011).

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This module has an ambitious but hopefully not ridiculous goal: to teach you something about how to live well. It will do so by introducing you to some of the most prominent philosophical traditions that have tried to offer practical advice on how to live, such as that of the Stoics and the Epicureans, but also the religiously inspired traditions of Buddhists, Confucians and Jesuit philosophers.* Of course, you can't learn to live well simply by reading a few books—not even really good ones. That’s why, as part of the module, you’ll also spend three days living in accordance with one of the traditions covered, and then reporting back your experience to the rest of the class, either through a traditional presentation, or by making a short video about your experience. You might not come out a Stoic sage at the other end of this module (although who knows?), but you’ll have learned quite a few things about what some very interesting people thought about how to live well, some of which you’ll be able to incorporate into your daily life.

* Topics covered will likely vary from year to year. The variations will be guided by the expertise of whichever person happens to be convening the module any given year, and by student feedback on previous years.

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This course brings together a range of theories of love from the history of philosophy and from various traditions, including analytical philosophy, feminism, pragmatism and continental thought. It will explore questions of love, beauty and friendship in Plato, religious models in Aquinas, ars erotica in ancient Indian and Chinese philosophies of love, Romantic traditions of love, the logic of love in Peirce and James, feminist politics of love and maternity, and cognitive models of love. The course will also examine a range of analytical questions of love, including debates about the different types of love (eros, agape and philia), the problems of talking about love in philosophical language, distinctions between self-love and relational love, the relation of love to literature and poetry, love as embodied instinct and mental idea, the relation between love and sex, and connections between love, compassion and caring. The aim of the course is to combine a philosophical history of love with critical analytical skills to think about love as a dynamic feature of human relationships.

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This module will introduce students to philosophical theories of causality and philosophical theories of probability. The module will provide a broad background to the range of available interpretations of causality and probability. 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. Students will gain a good understanding of the complementary and in some cases conflicting perspectives and methodologies on causality and probability. The module will enable students to evaluate contemporary issues in a manner that's informed by a comprehensive set of relevant traditions.

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Teaching and assessment

Philosophy

Teaching is by lectures, seminars, class discussions, and individual and group research, which is discussed in class.

All modules are assessed by 100% coursework (essays, in-class assignments, seminar participation) throughout the year.

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.

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • promote the study of philosophy within a strongly multidisciplinary context
  • produce graduates with knowledge in the main themes and texts of the Western tradition in philosophy
  • produce graduates equipped with the skills and abilities characteristic of philosophers
  • produce graduates equipped with generic skills for study in the humanities
  • enable students to develop more general skills and competences so that they can respond positively to the challenges of the workplace or of postgraduate education.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain knowledge and understanding in:

  • the ideas of the major philosophers as encountered in their own writings, from the ancient Greek philosophers to the present day
  • central theories and arguments in the fields of logic, metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of mind, including such topics as existence, truth, certainty, meaning, causality, free will, and the relation of mind and body
  • central theories and arguments in the fields of moral, political and social philosophy, including such topics as the nature of judgements about right and wrong, human rights, duties and obligations, the relation between the individual and society, freedom, and justice
  • the relevance of philosophical ideas to other disciplines and areas of enquiry such as literature, the arts, religion, law, politics and social studies.

Intellectual skills

You gain intellectual skills in:

  • following complex presentations
  • reading a variety of technical and non-technical material
  • using libraries effectively
  • reflecting clearly and critically on oral and written sources, using powers of analysis and imagination
  • marshalling a complex body of information
  • remembering relevant material and bringing it to mind when needed
  • constructing cogent arguments in the evaluation of this material
  • formulating independent ideas and defending them with cogent arguments.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in the following areas:

  • articulacy in identifying underlying issues in philosophical debates
  • precision of thought and expression in the analysis and formulation of complex and controversial philosophical problems
  • sensitivity in the interpretation of philosophical texts drawn from a variety of historical periods
  • clarity and rigour in the critical assessment of arguments presented in such texts
  • the ability to use and criticise specialised philosophical terminology
  • the ability to abstract, analyse and construct sound arguments and to identify logical fallacies
  • recognising methodological errors, rhetorical devices, unexamined conventional wisdom, unnoticed assumptions, vagueness and superficiality
  • the ability to move between generalisation and detailed discussion, inventing or discovering examples to support or challenge a position, and distinguishing between relevant and irrelevant considerations
  • the ability to consider unfamiliar ideas and ways of thinking, and to examine critically presuppositions and methods.

Transferable skills

You gain transferable skills in the following:

  • communication – producing focused and cogent written presentations summarising information and assessing arguments; giving oral presentations, using visual aids where appropriate
  • problem-solving – identifying problems; assessing the strengths and weaknesses of different solutions; defending your own solutions
  • improving your learning – identifying your strengths and weaknesses; assessing the quality of your own work; managing your time and meeting deadlines; learning to work independently
  • working with others – participating in seminar discussions, responding to the views of others and to criticisms of your own views without giving or taking offence; engaging in independent group work, including the preparation of group presentations
  • using information technology – word processing essays; using online information sources; using email for receiving and responding to communications.

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.

Independent rankings

Religious Studies students who graduated from Kent in 2015 were the most successful in the UK in finding work or further study opportunities (DLHE).

Philosophy students who graduated from Kent in 2015 were the most successful in the UK at finding work or further study opportunities (DLHE).

Entry requirements

Home/EU students

The University will consider applications from students offering a wide range of qualifications. Typical requirements are listed below. Students offering alternative qualifications should contact us for further advice. 

It is not possible to offer places to all students who meet this typical offer/minimum requirement.

New GCSE grades

If you’ve taken exams under the new GCSE grading system, please see our conversion table to convert your GCSE grades.

Qualification Typical offer/minimum requirement
A level

BBB

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.

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.

International Baccalaureate

34 points overall or 15 points at HL

International students

The University welcomes applications from international students. Our international recruitment team can guide you on entry requirements. See our International Student website for further information about entry requirements for your country.

If you need to increase your level of qualification ready for undergraduate study, we offer a number of International Foundation Programmes.

Meet our staff in your country

For more advice about applying to Kent, you can meet our staff at a range of international events.

English Language Requirements

Please see our English language entry requirements web page.

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of 'pre-sessional' courses in English for Academic Purposes. You attend these courses before starting your degree programme. 

General entry requirements

Please also see our general entry requirements.

Fees

The 2018/19 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £9250 £15200
Part-time £4625 £7600

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

For 2018/19 entrants, the standard year in industry fee for home, EU and international students is £1,385

Fees for Year Abroad

UK, EU and international students on an approved year abroad for the full 2018/19 academic year pay £1,385 for that year. 

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

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. 

For 2018/19 entry, the scholarship will be awarded to any applicant who achieves a minimum of AAA over three A levels, or the equivalent qualifications (including BTEC and IB) as specified on our scholarships pages

The scholarship is also extended to those who achieve AAB at A level (or specified equivalents) where one of the subjects is either Mathematics or a Modern Foreign Language. Please review the eligibility criteria.

Full-time

Part-time

The Key Information Set (KIS) data is compiled by UNISTATS and draws from a variety of sources which includes the National Student Survey and the Higher Education Statistical Agency. The data for assessment and contact hours is compiled from the most populous modules (to the total of 120 credits for an academic session) for this particular degree programme. 

Depending on module selection, there may be some variation between the KIS data and an individual's experience. For further information on how the KIS data is compiled please see the UNISTATS website.

If you have any queries about a particular programme, please contact information@kent.ac.uk.