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BA Modules

This is the list of BA modules running in the academic year 2021/22.

Click on the titles below to see more information, including a module description and a provisional syllabus. Module leader email addresses can be found via the staff pages. For times and locations please use the UCL common timetable (which will be updated in early September).

First Year Modules (Level 4) - Term 1

PHIL0001 Ancient Philosophy

Module Leader: Saloni de Souza

Level: 4

Term: 1

Area: C

Assessment: 100% Coursework (2,000 words)

Description: This module deals with some important metaphysical, epistemological and ethical questions by looking to philosophers from the ancient Greek tradition.  Questions we will address include: 

What is philosophy and how should we approach doing it? 

 

Week 5: Plato’s Meno I: Definition 

Week 6: Plato’s Meno II: Meno’s Paradox  

Week 7: Plato’s Meno III: Knowledge and Belief 

Week 8:  Aristotle I: The Function Argument (in the Nicomachean Ethics

Week 9: Aristotle II: Choice, Praise and Blame (in the Nicomachean Ethics

Week 10: Aristotle III: Fatalism (in De Interpretatione

 

The schedule is as follows: 

Week 1: The Milesians (Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes)  

Week 2: Xenophanes on the Divine and Knowledge 

Week 3: Heraclitus and Parmenides on Opposition 

Week 4: Zeno on Motion 

What principles should we adhere to when dealing with philosophical texts?  What characteristics are we entitled to attribute to a deity?    Can you step into the same river twice?  Is it impossible to talk or think about something if it doesn’t exist?     Can we ever investigate anything?  If so, how do we go about it?  What is the difference between knowledge and true belief?  To what extent are we responsible for our actions? 

 

PHIL0005 Introduction to Logic 1

Module Leader: Owen Griffiths

Level: 4

Term: 1

Area: A

Assessment: 100% Exam (at end of term 1)

Description: This module aims to introduce the student to the main ideas, concepts and techniques of contemporary propositional logic, including syntax, semantics and natural deduction. 

PHIL0007 Introduction to Political Philosophy

Module Leader: Han van Wietmarschen

Level: 4

Term: 1

Area: B

Assessment: 100% Coursework (2,000 words)

Description: In this module, we investigate three large sets of questions about justice and the importance of liberty and equality for a just society:

(1)  Liberty: What is liberty and why is it important? Which liberties, if any, should a just society protect? Freedom of expression? Freedom from interference? Economic Liberty? Sexual liberty? Political liberty? Can these different liberties come into conflict, and if so, should some have priority over others?

(2)  Equality: What is equality, is it important, and which kinds of equality, if any, should a just society ensure? Equality of opportunity? Equality of income and wealth? Political equality?

(3)  Reconciliation: Can a society ensure the equality and liberty of its citizens at the same time, or are these political values inherently in conflict with one another? If they are conflicting values, which is to take priority?

We approach these questions by studying a sequence of authors including Hobbes, Locke, Wollstonecraft, Betham, Mill, Nozick and Rawls. We then look back and reflect on whether this sequence has ignored important considerations of class, gender and race, with readings from Marx and Engels, MacKinnon, and Delaney. 

PHIL0007 has three main aims: (1) to make explicit the normative ideas that underlie our views about the basic institutions of our society, (2) to evaluate the adequacy of those normative ideas, (3) to try to think and argue in a systematic and reasoned way about these questions together, on a basis of mutual respect.

 

Teaching Delivery

There will be a weekly lecture, and weekly discussion seminars (± 15 students per group). You will be expected to study readings for each week. The module is assessed by essay.

This module is compulsory for first year single honours philosophy students and for first year PPE students. Students from other programs and other years of study are welcome.

PHIL0008 Philosophical Study Skills: Reading, Understanding and Essay Writing

Module Leader: Sarah Richmond

Level: 4

Term: 1

Area: A/B/C

Assessment: 100% Coursework (2,000 words)

Description: Each tutorial group (maximum 4 students) is allocated to a tutor, usually an advanced PhD student, who meets weekly for an hour to discuss set texts; to improve the students’ understanding of them; to debate; and to instruct the students in essay-writing skills. Each student in the group will write some formative essays in the course of the term and may in addition be required to prepare presentations. The tutor is responsible for deciding – according to their expertise - the selection of texts to be studied, although this is done in consultation with the course convenor. See below for examples. In general, there will be a spread of different philosophical texts, possibly on a common theme, and frequently including both ‘historical’ and more contemporary texts. Assessment method 2,000-word submitted essay, due in on the first day of the following Term. It is possible to work up and submit one of the essays presented earlier in the term, in the light of feedback from the tutor.

First Year Modules (Level 4) - Term 2

PHIL0002 Early Modern Philosophy

Module Leader: Rory Madden

Level: 4

Term: 2

Area: C

Assessment: 100% examination in term 3

Description: This module is an introduction to Early Modern (17th and 18th Century) philosophy, concentrating on two celebrated but contrasting philosophers of this period: René Descartes (1596 - 1650) the first of the great Continental Rationalists, and David Hume (1711 - 1776) the last of the great British Empiricists. In the first half of term we will be thinking through Descartes' Meditations (1641), and in the second half of term Book 1 of Hume's Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40), the respective masterpieces of these two philosophers (and the two essential texts for the module).  Each week's lecture and class concerns the author's treatment of some aspect of metaphysics, mind, and knowledge.  By the end of the module you will have gained knowledge of some of the key arguments and theories of early modern philosophy, developed your skills in reading, discussing, and writing critically about challenging texts -- and attained a clearer understanding of philosophical questions about self, knowledge, and the nature of reality.

PHIL0003 Knowledge and Reality

Module Leader: Nilanjan Das

Level: 4

Term: 2

Area: A

Assessment: 100% Coursework (2,000 words)

Description: This course provides an introduction to epistemology and metaphysics. Topics to be discussed include: the nature of knowledge, scepticism, the existence of God, whether theism is rational, why the universe exists, free will, personal identity, and the metaphysics of race.

 

Week 1: The Existence of God

 

Required readings: 

 

1. Roger White, "The Argument from Cosmological Fine-Tuning," from The Norton Introduction to Philosophy (NIP)

2. Louise Antony, "The Argument from Evil," from NIP

 

Week 2: Believing Without Evidence

 

Required Readings: 

 

1. Blaise Pascal, The Wager, from Pensées

2. William James, "The Will to Believe," fromThe Will to Believe and Other Essays

2. Lara Buchak, "When is Faith Rational?" from NIP

 

Week 3: Do We Know Anything?

 

1. Rene Descartes, Meditation I, from Meditations on First Philosophy

2. Barry Stroud, "The Problem of the External World," from The Significance of Philosophical Skepticism

 

Week 4: What is Knowledge? 

 

1. Edmund Gettier, "Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?", Analysis

2. Linda Zagzebski, "The Inescapability of Gettier Problems," Philosophical Quarterly

3. Timothy Williamson, "Knowledge and Belief," from NIP

 

Week 5: Will the Sun Rise Tomorrow?

 

Required Readings: 

 

1. Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Sections iv-v

2. Wesley Salmon, "An Encounter with David Hume," from Reason and Responsibility: Readings in Some Basic Problems of Philosophy

 

Week 6: Grue!


Required Readings: 

 

1. Nelson Goodman, "The New Riddle of Induction," from Fact, Fiction, and Forecast

2. W. V. O. Quine, "Natural Kinds," from Ontological Relativity and Other Essays

 

 

Week 7: Race 

 

Required Readings: 

 

1. Alyssa Ney and Alan Hazlett, "The Metaphysics of Race," from Metaphysics: An Introduction

2. Anthony Appiah, "The Uncompleted Argument: Du Bois and the Illusion of Race," Critical Inquiry

3. Quayshawn Spencer, "Are Folk Races like Dingoes, Dimes, or Dodos?" from NIP

 

Week 8: What Are We? 

 

Required Readings: 

 

1. John Locke, "Of Identity and Diversity," from An Essay Concerning Human Understanding 

2. Derek Parfit, Personal Identity, from Reasons and Persons 

3. Bernard Williams, "The Self and the Future," The Philosophical Review

 

Week 9: Are We Free? 

 

1. Peter van Inwagen, "The Incompatibility of Free Will and Determinism," Philosophical Studies

2. Harry Frankfurt, "Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility," The Journal of Philosophy

3. Susan Wolf, "Asymmetrical Freedom," The Journal of Philosophy

 

Week 10: Should We Trust Our Intuitions?

 

1. Jonathan Weinberg, Shaun Nichols, and Stephen Stich, "Normativity and Epistemic Intuition," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research

2. Jennifer Nagel, "Intuitions and Experiments: A Defense of the Case Method in Epistemology," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research

3. Amia Srinivasan, "The Archimedean Urge," Philosophical Perspectives

PHIL0004 Introduction to Logic 2

Module Leader: Owen Griffiths

Level: 4

Term: 2

Area: A

Assessment: 100% examination in term 3

Description: This module aims to introduce the student to the main ideas, concepts and  techniques of contemporary first-order logic, including syntax, semantics and natural deduction. Extensions of first-order logic with identity and function symbols are also considered, focusing on definite descriptions and non-denoting terms. Most of the course is based on Halbach's The Logic Manual (2010, OUP). Other mandatory readings are Russell (1905) "On Denoting" and Quine (1948) "On what there is". NB PHIL0005 Introduction to Logic 1 is a pre-requisite for this module.

 
PHIL0006 Introduction to Moral Philosophy

Module Leader: Mark Kalderon

Level: 4

Term: 2

Area: B

Assessment: 100% Examination in term 3

Description: This module is an introduction to moral philosophy through a close examination of two key historical texts. Specifically, we will read selections from Hume's Treatise and Kant's Groundwork. The aim is to introduce you to themes in moral philosophy and prepare you for further study in moral philosophy as well as further study of Hume and Kant.

Indicative Topics

The module will cover the following topics:

1. The nature of moral motivation, whether it is reason or desire that moves us to act as morality requires

2. Whether moral requirements can move us to act contrary to our interests

3. Whether moral requirements are universal

4. The connection between self-knowledge and virtue

Teaching Delivery

Teaching will consist in a weekly lecture and a weekly seminar. You will be required to do the reading for each week and participate in seminar.

The student might consult the optional reading for the course, two books based on similar courses, namely, David Wiggins’ Ethics, Harvard University Press, 2009, and John Rawls' Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy, Harvard University Press, 2000.

 

Second Year Modules (Level 5) - Term 1

PHIL0010 Morality and Literature

Module Leader: Sarah Richmond

Level: 5

Term: 1

Area: B

Assessment: 100% Coursework (2,500 words)

Description: The aim of this course is to examine the relationship between morality and literature from a number of angles. It falls within area B (normative) of the Department’s classification. Some topics will be more historical, while others will be more thematic. Historical authors whose ideas are discussed may include: Plato, Kierkegaard, and Sartre. We will look at several works of literature, including works by some or all of the following authors: Coetzee, Graham Greene, Wordsworth, Sophocles (Oedipus Rex), Shakespeare (Othello). Questions and problems to be discussed may include: is a literary work subject to moral evaluation? If so, how? How might its moral evaluation contribute to its overall evaluation as a literary artwork? I Can literary works be regarded as morally instructive? What is the difference between literature and the discourse of (traditional) moral philosophy? What if anything is wrong with sentimentality?

The module is summatively assessed by an essay of 2,500 words, and students will be offered the opportunity for formative assessment (on a different topic from the summative assessment).

A number of relevant papers can be found in the following collections:

(Eds) Berys Gaut and Dominic McIver Lopes (2005), The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics (2nd edition) (London: Routledge)

(Ed) Jerrold Levinson (1998), Aesthetics and Ethics: Essays at the Intersection, (Cambridge; CUP)

(Ed) Jerrold Levinson (2003), The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics, (Oxford: OUP)

(Eds) A. Neill and A. Ridley (2008), Arguing about Art, (3rd Edition) (London: Routledge)

(Eds) J.L. Bermudez and Sebastian Gardner (2003), Art and Morality (London: Routledge)

For historical texts, the following will give students an idea of important contributions to this area:

Plato’s discussion of poetry in The Republic Book X

Oscar Wilde, ‘Preface’ to Portrait of Dorian Gray; 'The Soul of Man under Socialism'; 'The Critic as Artist’.

Here are a couple of sample topics and associated reading suggestions:

Jean-Paul Sartre's What is Literature? (1948)

There is a useful overview of Sartre's philosophy in the IEP (web link below): for this topic, sections 4 and 5 will be the most relevant.

J-P Sartre (2001), What is Literature?, trans. B. Frechtman, (Abingdon: Routledge), chs 1 and 2

Nikolaj Lubecker, (2008) ‘Sartre’s Silence: Limits of Recognition in Why Write?’, Sartre Studies International, vol 14, issue 1, pp. 42-57

Theodor Adorno (1974), ‘Commitment’, New Left Review I/87-88, Sep-Dec, pp. 75-89

* J-P Sartre, 'The Childhood of a Leader'; first published in French in 1939, this short story is worth reading as a putative example of what Sartre might mean by 'committed literature'. In English translation it's been published as part of a collection titled Intimacy.

Sentimentality

Michael Tanner (1976), ‘Sentimentality’, reprinted in (Eds) J. Bermudez and S. Gardner (2003), Art and Morality, (London: Routledge): 95-110

Anthony Savile, ‘Sentimentality’, in (Eds) A. Neill and A. Ridley (2008), Arguing about Art, (3rd Edition), (London: Routledge): 315-319

Ira Newman, ‘The Alleged Unwholesomeness of Sentimentality’, in (Eds) A. Neill and A. Ridley (2008), Arguing about Art, (3rd Edition), (London: Routledge): 320-332

Mark Jefferson (1983), ‘What is Wrong with Sentimentality?’, Mind, vol XCII: 519-529

Maria Callas singing 'Un Bel Di' by Puccini (can be found with youtube link)

Sample questions

How does Sartre support his claim that no good literary work could be written in praise of anti-Semitism? How compelling is his argument?

What, if anything, is wrong with a work of narrative literature that encourages the reader to identify herself sympathetically with an immoral character or perspective? Give an example to illustrate your view.

The judgement that something is ‘sentimental’ is sometimes best understood in aesthetic terms, but in other contexts the same term can express moral criticism. Is there some common element in these two uses, or are they quite unrelated.

 
PHIL0011 Applied Ethics

Module Leader: John Vorhaus

Level: 5

Term: 1

Area: B

Assessment: 100% examination in term 3

Description: This course will examine some selected topics in applied ethics.

The following topics will be covered: abortion, rape, euthanasia, non-human animals, future people, affirmative action, disability, privacy and the ethics of immigration.

Students will be expected to read at least two papers for most topics, and to participate actively in the back-up seminar. Assessment will be by an two-hour examination, in which students will be expected to answer two questions.  This final paper will offer a wide range of questions to choose from, but a question on each topic is not guaranteed.

PHIL0013 Philosophy of Mind

Module Leader: Rory Madden

 

Level: 5

 

Term: 1

 

Area: A

 

Assessment: 100% Coursework (2,500 words)

 

Description: This intermediate level module aims to introduce students to a range of problems, positions, and arguments in the philosophy of mind - the philosophical study of mental phenomena and their relation to the rest of reality.   The first half of term (weeks 1-5) will focus on the mind-body problem - in particular the Problem of Consciousness. The theme for the second half of term (weeks 6-10) will be Self and Other - Where am I?  Where is my mind?  Can I know the minds of others?  Weekly live online lectures will be accompanied by in-person seminars.

Provisional syllabus and readings:

(1) What is the mind?

* Rorty, Richard 1979 Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature Ch 1 ‘The Invention of the Mind’

(2) Mind-brain identity

* Smart, J.J.C 1959 ‘Sensations and brain processes’ Philosophical Review

(3) Consciousness I

* Nagel, Thomas 1974 ‘What is it like to be a bat?’ Philosophical Review

(4) Consciousness II

* Jackson, F. 1982. ‘Epiphenomenal Qualia’ The Philosophical Quarterly 32: 127-136 

(5) Consciousness III 

* Montague, Michelle 2017 ‘What Kind of Awareness is Awareness of Awareness?’ Grazer Philosophische Studien

(6) Where am I?

* Dennett, Daniel 1978 ‘Where am I?’ in his Brainstorms

(7) The Extended Mind

* Clark, Andy and David Chalmers 1998 ‘The Extended Mind’ Analysis 

(8) The Extended Self

* Olson 2011 ‘The Extended Self’ Minds and Machines

(9) Other Minds I

* Duddington, Nathalie 1919 ‘Our Knowledge of Other Minds’ Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 

(10) Other Minds II

* Kripke, Saul 1982 Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language Postscript

PHIL0014 Knowledge

Module Leader: Lucy O'Brien

Level: 5

Term: 1

Area: A

Assessment: 100% examination in term 3

Description: This module is designed to deal with a variety of topics in epistemology – the philosophical study of knowledge. The curriculum will vary from year to year. Topics include: theories of knowledge; theories of justification or warrant; scepticism; contextualism; sources of knowledge: perception, memory, introspection, testimony.

Provisional Syllabus & Core Readings

Week 1. Knowledge by Testimony

- Hume (1748) Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section X

- Fricker (1995) ‘Telling and Trusting: Reductionism and Anti-Reductionism of Testimony’, Mind, 104: 393-411

Week 2. A Priori Knowledge

- Giaquinto (1996) ‘Non-Analytic Conceptual Knowledge’, Mind, 105: 249-68.

Week 3. What is a Justified Belief? I

- Greco (2013) ‘Justification is Not Internal’ in Steup et al (eds.) Contemporary Debates in Epistemology

Week 4. What is a Justified Belief? II

- Feldman (2013) ‘Justification is Internal’ in Steup et al (eds.) Contemporary Debates in Epistemology

Week 5. Knowledge as Justified True Belief

- Ayer (1956) The Problem of Knowledge, Chapter 1, pp.7-35.

- Gettier (1963) ‘Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?’, Analysis, 23: 121-3.

Week 6. Knowledge as JTB+truth-tracking

- Nozick (1983) Philosophical Explanations, Chapter 3, Section 1 ‘Knowledge’ pp.172-96

Week 7. Can Knowledge Even Be Analyzed?

- Zagzebski (1994) ‘The Inescapability of Gettier Problems’, The Philosophical Quarterly, 44: 65-73

- Williamson (1995) ‘Is Knowing a State of Mind?’, Mind, 104:533-65, Sections 1-3 & 5

Week 8. Virtue Epistemology

- Sosa (2017) Epistemology, Chapter 8 ‘Mind-World Relations’

Week 9. Scepticism

- Pryor (2000) ‘The Skeptic and the Dogmatist’, Noûs, 34: 517-49

Week 10. Contextualism

- Lewis (1996) ‘Elusive Knowledge’, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 74(4): 549-67

PHIL0028 Topics in Political Philosophy

Module Leader: Joe Horton

Level: 5

Term: 1

Area: B

Assessment: 100% Coursework (2,500 words)

Module Description: This module investigates questions that are both central to political philosophy and of current political importance. They include: What does it take for a society to be just? How can we come to own natural resources? Does global inequality matter as much as national inequality? Is it wrong to contribute to climate change? Should states recognise the institution of marriage? What do we owe to future generations?

Module Aims: This module is designed to introduce you to some important debates in political philosophy and to help you develop the skills needed to evaluate them. These skills include the ability to reconstruct complicated arguments, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and identify the connections between them. These skills are fundamental in all areas of philosophy, but they are also important in many other disciplines.

Sample Readings:
> Elizabeth Anderson, ‘What is the Point of Equality?’, Ethics 109 (1999): 287–337
> G. A. Cohen, Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality (Cambridge University Press, 1995): Chapter 3 and Chapter 4
> Andrea Sangiovanni, ‘Global Justice, Reciprocity, and the State’, Philosophy & Public Affairs 35 (2007): 3–39
> Paula Casal, ‘Why Sufficiency is Not Enough’, Ethics 117 (2007): 296–326
> Julia Nefsky, ‘Consumer Choice and Collective Impact’, in Anne Barnhill, Mark Budolfson, and Tyler Doggett (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Food Ethics (Oxford University Press, 2018): 267–286

 
PHIL0149 Introduction to Kant's Philosophy

Module Leader: Sebastian Gardner

Level: 5

Term: 1

Area: C

Assessment: 100% Coursework (2,500 words)

Description: The course provides an introduction to Kant's philosophy, concentrating on the Critique of Pure Reason and Kant's strategy for rendering 'theoretical philosophy' (epistemology & metaphysics) consistent with 'practical philosophy' (moral theory). The first week gives an overview of the novel concepts and principles introduced by Kant, and an outline of his system. We then look at the dualist foundations of each of its divisions: his analysis of theoretical cognition into conceptual and 'intuitive' components; and the parallel schism of duty and inclination that he posits in the practical sphere. These jointly pose the problem: Kant's theoretical philosophy tells us that without sense experience knowledge is impossible, while his practical philosophy maintains that moral cognition requires the exclusion of all sensory factors.

We then examine in the central weeks of the course selected chapters in the Critique of Pure Reason: first, the doctrine of transcendental idealism (the famous distinction of appearances and things in themselves) that follows according to Kant from his analysis of space and time; second, Kant's attempt to solve the problem created by his dualism of how sense and intellect can be united in the way required if we are to have knowledge of objects; third, the special mode of argument ('transcendental proof') that Kant devises to justify principles, such as the principle of causality, that are fundamental to our knowledge of objective reality but, as Hume has shown, lack empirical grounds; fourth, Kant's theory that human reason is necessarily and unavoidably plagued by speculative questions which it is unable to answer, and the specific impasse to which we are led by reflection on the self (the 'I' is ineliminable, yet we know nothing of its nature); fifth, the contradictions into which reason falls when it attempts to answer metaphysical questions concerning the constitution of the world as a whole (it both must be and cannot be finite, both must and cannot have a first cause, etc.); and finally Kant's resolution of the seeming contradiction of natural necessity and human freedom.

With this last topic we return to practical philosophy and take up the question of how the radical species of freedom which the moral law presupposes can be justified, despite its transcendence of the bounds of theoretical knowledge, and consider the different accounts offered by Kant in the Groundwork and Critique of Practical Reason. At this point – if all has worked out – the two divisions of Kant's system, which initially appeared to be at odds with one another, are seen to be mutually supporting: the limitations on theoretical knowledge demonstrated in the Critique of Pure Reason are necessary conditions of moral consciousness, in which reason finds the fulfilment denied it in speculative metaphysics.

The weekly readings consist of manageable extracts from the Critique of Pure Reason and Kant's practical works. The course is designed in such a way that, as a cumulative picture of Kant's system builds up, each weekly topic can also be understood as concerned with an independent philosophical problem.

PHIL0181 Epistemology and Contemporary Society

Module Leader: Robert Simpson

Level: 5

Term: 1

Area: B

Assessment: 100% Coursework (2,500 words)

Description: This is an intermediate-level module designed to introduce students to the burgeoning field of Applied Epistemology. We will use philosophical theories about knowledge, justification and belief-formation to explore pressing societal issues. Topics will vary from year to year, but may include:

When other well-informed people disagree with us, should this make us less confident in our beliefs?

What can epistemology tell us about online ‘echo chambers’?

What, if anything, makes conspiracy theories epistemically worse than official theories?

How should feminism affect the way we think about knowledge and belief?

Background Reading: David Coady (2012) What to Believe Now: Applying Epistemology to Contemporary Issues.

Second Year Modules (Level 5) - Term 2

PHIL0009 Aesthetics

Module Leader: James Wilson

Level: 5

Term: 2

Area: B

Assessment: 100% Coursework (2,500 words)

Description: This module aims to provide you with an introduction to aesthetics and the philosophy of art. While aesthetics is occasionally thought as synonymous with the philosophy of art, it examines questions raised by experiences that are appreciated for their own sake in a much wider variety of contexts, including natural environments, and watching sport.

The course focuses on two main themes. First, the nature and justifiability of aesthetic judgements. Questions addressed may include: How should we reconcile the commonly held thought that taste is subjective with the equally commonly held idea that some artworks are nonetheless better than others? Is there a right or wrong way to experience the aesthetic qualities of a sunset or a starfish?

The second theme is the contemporary debates in the philosophy of art. Questions addressed may include the nature and value of art (can just anything count as art if you put it in a gallery?), the aesthetic value of forgeries, what we can learn about life from art, and why we value painful works such as tragedies.

Teaching delivery

The module is taught by a weekly one-hour lecture, and a smaller one hour seminar. Core readings will be set for each week, and it is expected that you read these before the lecture.

By the end of the module you should be able to:

• Recognise and assess a range of philosophical arguments in aesthetics and philosophy of art.

• Use examples of artworks and particular experiences to reflect on the aptness of some philosophical theories about art and aesthetic experience.

• Reflect independently on, and write reasoned responses to, some central questions in the field.

PHIL0012 Metaphysics

Module Leader: Luke Fenton-Glynn

Level: 5

Term: 2

Area: A

Assessment: 100% Coursework (2500 words)

Description: This module will examine core themes and debates in contemporary metaphysics, equipping you not only with an understanding of these core topics, but also with conceptual tools that will help you become a participant in the debate.

Sample topics (may vary slightly year to year):

• Identity & Change

• Possibility & Necessity

• Causation

• Space & Time

Teaching Delivery

There will be one 1 hour lecture per week plus one 1 hour seminar per week. You will be required to read a set of ‘Key Readings’ each week (normally 1-2 articles or equivalent) prior to the lecture. Seminars will be an opportunity to engage in interactive discussion of the week’s topic.

By the end of the module, you should:

1. Have a sound understanding of a range of core themes and debates in contemporary metaphysics.

2. Be equipped with the understanding and conceptual resources needed to contribute to these debates yourself.

3. Have further honed your ability to analyse arguments, and construct rigorous arguments yourself.

4. Have improved your essay-writing skills.

Recommended Reading

In preparation for the module, we advise reading the following core text. This can be found in the UCL Library, but it might be a good idea to buy your own copy:

Lowe, E. J. (2002): A Survey of Metaphysics (Oxford: OUP) ISBN: 978-0-19-875253-0

PHIL0017 Topics in Greek Philosophy: Plato

Module Leader: Fiona Leigh

Level: 5

Term 2

Area: C

Assessment: 100% Coursework (2500 words)

Description: The course takes students through the central tenants of Plato’s thought by way of a survey of some of his most important works. The main text will be the Republic, with topics to be examined including epistemology, the theory of Forms, Plato's moral psychology, feminism and aesthetics. The course will also examine the challenge to the theory of Forms in the Parmenides and the Sophist.

PHIL0022 Philosophy of Language

Module Leader: Owen Griffiths

Level: 5

Term: 2

Area: A

Assessment: 100% Coursework (2,500 words)

Description: This module will introduce you to topics in contemporary analytic philosophy of language. The central questions we will examine concern the fact that language is meaningful – that words can be used to say something about things in the world. How does this happen? In what ways can language be meaningful? How do different elements of language get their meaning? The aims of this module are to examine these questions by looking at the most prominent philosophical theories of the meaning of names, the meanings of sentences, and the different ways that our words can be meaningful.

The module will cover the following topics, which may be subject to variation depending on developments in academic research and the interests of the class:

Meaning and names:

Purely referential theories of names

Frege’s theory of sense

Russell’s theory of descriptions

Kripke’s causal-historical theory of reference

Meaning and sentences:

Grice’s theory of speaker meaning

Implicature (when we say one thing but mean something else)

Speech-acts (the different actions we can perform with words)

 

Teaching Delivery

This module will be delivered in two ways. There are weekly one-hour lectures for the whole group. There are then weekly one-hour seminars, divided into smaller groups. One of these seminar groups will be taught by the module leader, the others by one or more PGTAs depending on course size. Each student will therefore attend the weekly lecture and one seminar each week. We expect students to read the essential reading given on the reading list, and to be ready to contribute in the seminars where appropriate.

By the end of the module, you should be able to:

Understand and explain the theories of language we cover in the module.

Understand and explain the key arguments given for and against these theories.

Philosophically evaluate and assess these theories and the key arguments given for and against them; evaluate whether these arguments effectively support or undermine the theories they are targeted at.

Understand and explain how these theories and arguments, and their evaluation, connect with one another and with broader philosophical issues where appropriate.

 

Recommended Reading

In preparation for the module, we advise reading the following core texts. These can be found in the UCL Library:

William G. Lycan, 2019, Philosophy of Language: A Contemporary Introduction (3rd ed) excluding chapters 6, 8-10, 14-15.

PHIL0024 Ethics

Module Leader: Douglas Lavin

Level: 5

Term: 2

Area: B

Assessment: 100% Coursework (2,500 words)

Description: This module is a survey of central questions and concepts of recent ethical theory. Precise contents may vary slightly by year. Some topics include: the nature of the good, egoism, utilitarian accounts of right and wrong action, virtue (esp. justice and benevolence), partiality and impartiality, moral luck.

Recommended general background reading:

• Williams, Morality an Introduction to Ethics

• Scheffler, Consequentialism and Its Critics

PHIL0030 Topics in Aristotle

Module Leader: Saloni de Souza

Level: 5

Term: 2

Area: C

Assessment: 100% Coursework (2,500 words)

Description: This course deals with some of Aristotle’s most influential ideas.  We will begin with one of his ethical works, the Nicomachean Ethics, and then move on to his metaphysics in the Categories.  The rest of the term will be spent looking at Aristotle’s ideas about nature, causation, the infinite, place and self-motion in his Physics.  Throughout the course, we will consider questions of interpretation, try to understand how Aristotle’s ideas fit together and engage with his views and arguments critically. 

Schedule:  

Week 1: Conceptions of happiness in the Nicomachean Ethics 

Week 2: Friendship in the Nicomachean Ethics 

Week 3: Relatives in the Categories 

Week 4: The four causes in the Physics 

Week 5: Teleology in the Physics 

Week 6: Chance in the Physics 

Week 7: The infinite in the Physics 

Week 8: Time in the Physics 

Week 9: Place in the Physics 

Week 10: Self-motion in the Physics 

PHIL0185 Protecting Dignity

Module Leader: John Vorhaus

Level: 5

Term: 2

Area: B

Assessment: 100% 24hr examination in term 3

Description: An introduction to questions in applied ethics and philosophy of law about human and animal dignity, and the prohibition on degrading treatment and punishment.

We explore conceptions of dignity and degradation, and examine the characteristics and any wrong inherent in degrading treatment and punishment, as imposed upon prisoners, people held in detention centres, people with dementia and other disabilities, and non-human animals.

The course includes readings in applied ethics, jurisprudence and international human rights law.

The course will include lectures on the following ten topics:

Distinctions: torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment

Degrading treatment and punishment

Corporal punishment and bodily searches

Kantian dignity and respect for persons: Korsgaard, Wood, Parfit, Kerstein

Contemporary accounts of dignity: Waldron, Rosen, Hill

Advocates of human dignity: Velleman, Nussbaum, Margalit

Scepticism about human dignity: Sangiovanni, Rosen, McMahan

Unawareness: the dignity of people with advanced Dementia

Dignity and disability

Non-human animals: the ethics of captivity.

Final Year (Level 6) - Term 1

PHIL0019 Marxism

Module Leader: Rory Phillips

Level: 6

Term: 1

Area: C

Assessment: 100% Courswork (3,500 words)

Description: This course will examine the development of Marxism, focusing on the works of Marx and Engels. Representative topics will include the critique of religion, alienation, morality, surplus value and exploitation, and the Marxian philosophy of history (historical materialism). A range of primary texts will be assigned, including those of Marx and Engels, but also including Feuerbach and Lenin. The course is designed to enable students to understand and evaluate the core philosophical theory of Marxism, and show the beginnings of how the story unfolds throughout the 20th century. 

PHIL0025 Logic and its Limits

Module Leader: Owen Griffiths

Level: 6 (also taught with graduate students)

Term: 1

Area: A

Assessment: Coursework: Four problem sets 25% each

 

Description: The purpose of this module is to present the basic methods and results of contemporary logic. The emphasis is on the practical skill of formulating and proving results about logical systems. Students are introduced to basic set theory, enumerability and non-enumerability, isomorphisms and cardinality of models, the Compactness and Löwenheim-Skolem Theorems, inexpressibility results, soundness and completeness results. Most of the course is based on Jeffrey & Boolos' Computability and Logic (2007, CUP, 5th edition).

PHIL0041 Early Wittgenstein

Module Leader: José Zalabardo

Level: 6 (also taught with graduate students)

Term: 1

Area: C

Assessment: 100% Coursework (3,500 words)

Description: The purpose of this module is to present some of the central doctrines of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. The module focuses on the account offered in this book of the structure of reality and our ability to represent it in thought and language. We will also study ideas of Bertrand Russell and Gottlob Frege that are relevant for the development of Wittgenstein’s thought.

The module will enable you to understand these important ideas, overcoming the obscurity of Wittgenstein’s writing. This will contribute to your general understanding of the central philosophical issues that Wittgenstein addresses. It will also develop your ability to interpret difficult philosophical texts.

Topics covered by the module will include:

Russell’s dual-relation theory of judgment

Russell’s multiple-relation theory of judgment

Russell and Wittgenstein on forms

Wittgenstein’s picture theory

Frege on unity and unsaturatedness

Wittgenstein on the unity of the proposition

Wittgenstein on the unity of facts

Objects and expressions as common structural features

Substance and simplicity

 

Teaching Delivery

The module will be delivered by weekly two-hour lecture/seminars, combining presentation of material by the lecturer and general discussion of the ideas presented. You will be expected to do preparatory reading for each session.

By the end of the module:

You will have gained a deep understanding of some of the central ideas put forward by Wittgenstein in his early period.

You will be able to connect Wittgenstein’s proposals to contemporary debates in metaphysics, philosophy of language and philosophy of mind.

You will have enhanced your interpretative skills regarding difficult philosophical texts.

You will have developed your ability to grasp and discuss highly abstract philosophical issues.

 

Recommended Reading

In preparation for the module, we advise reading the following core texts. These can be found in the UCL Library:

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1974. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Translated by D. F. Pears and B. McGuinness. 2nd ed. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Original edition, 1961.

Zalabardo, José L. 2015. Representation and Reality in Wittgenstein's Tractatus. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

PHIL0045 Making Sense of the Senses

Module Leader: Mark Kalderon

Level: 6 (also taught with graduate students)

Term: 1

Area: A

Assessment: 100% Coursework (3,500 words)

Description: C.D. Broad offers a comparative phenomenology of vision, audition, and touch highlighting the important differences between them. We will assess Broad’s comparative phenomenology drawing upon analytic, continental, historical and psychological literature. The aim is to introduce the student to advance themes in philosophy of perception through this assessment of Broad’s comparative phenomenology. The class will be conducted as a seminar with student presentations

For relatively recent analytic discussion of these issues, the student might consult the optional reading Perception and Its Modalities edited by Dustin Stokes, Mohan Matthen, and Stephen Biggs. Oxford University Press, 2014.

PHIL0053 Philosophy of Religion

Module Leader: Rory Madden

Level: 6

Term: 1

Area: A

Assessment: 100% Coursework (3,500 words)

Description: This is an advanced undergraduate course covering theoretical topics in philosophy of religion. You will develop an understanding of contemporary debates about four topics (largely avoiding traditional arguments for and against the existence of God): (1) the philosophy of mind and epistemology of religious and mystical experiences; (2) the possibility of life after death within a materialist framework; (3) cosmic fine-tuning and the multiple universes response; and (4) non-realist (expressivist, fictionalist, and Wittgensteinian) approaches to religious language and practice.  Each week's two-hour discussion seminar will be accompanied by a short video about the reading.

Provisional Syllabus & Core Readings

Week 1. Introduction

• James, W. 1902 The Varieties of Religious Experience Lectures XVI & XVII

Week 2. The epistemology of religious experience

• Swinburne, R. 2004 The Existence of God ch 13

Week 3. Religious experience continued

• Zangwill, N. 2004 ‘The myth of religious experience’ Religious Studies

Week 4. Materialism and life after death I

• Olson, E. 2010 ‘Immanent Causation and Life After Death’ in G. Gasser (ed) Personal Identity and Resurrection

Week 5. Materialism and life after death II

• Baker, Lynne R. 2007 ‘Persons and the metaphysics of the resurrection’ Religious Studies

Week 6. The argument from cosmic fine tuning

• Swinburne, R. 2003 ’The argument to God from fine-tuning reassessed’ in N. Manson (ed) God and Design

Week 7. The multiple universes response

• White, R. 2000 'Fine-tuning and multiple universes’ Nous

Week 8. Expressivism

• Braithwaite, R.B. 1955 ‘The Nature of Religious Belief’

Week 9. Fictionalism

• Le Poidevin, R. Arguing for Atheism ch 8

Week 10. Wittgenstein

• Wittgenstein, L. 1967 ‘Lectures on Religious Belief’ in C. Barrett (ed) Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology, and Religious Belief

PHIL0067 Free Speech and Theories of Autonomy

Module Leader: Robert Simpson

Level: 6 (also taught with graduate students)

Term: 1

Area: B

Assessment: 100% Coursework (3,500 words)

Description: This module investigates two complementary topics: (1) theories of autonomy, as they have been developed by philosophers writing about ethics and the self, and (2) defences of free speech, as they have been developed (and criticised) by legal and political theorists. With respect to (1), we’re interested in what it means to be autonomous, how and why the process of desire-formation has a bearing on a person’s autonomy, and whether it is possible for someone to autonomous desire their own subordination. With respect to (2), we’re interested in what kind of conception of autonomy – and of the individual, as such – different theorists have invoked in seeking to defend free speech, and what kinds of theoretical justifications for free speech can be developed in light of different conceptions of autonomy. The insights into the nature of autonomy that we gain from thinking about the topics in part (1), will inform the critical inquiry that we carry out in part (2). Assessment is via a major essay, and there will usually be some kind of minor, reading-related tasks that you’re required to complete during the term. Classes are a mixture of lectures, small-group discussion, and whole group discussion. Representative examples of readings that we look at during the course are John Christman, “Autonomy and personal history” (Canadian Journal of Philosophy 21/1, 1991, pp. 1-24), and Susan Brison, “The autonomy defense of free speech” (Ethics 108/2, 1998, pp./ 312-39).

PHIL0068 Metaethics

Module Leader: Ben Sorgiovanni

Level: 6 (also taught with graduate students)

Term: 1

Area: B

Assessment: 100% Coursework (3,500 words)

Description: Module Content and Indicative Topics

This module will introduce you to contemporary metaethics, a discipline which asks philosophical questions about ethics. The course focuses on three kinds of questions in particular: 
1.    Psychological and semantic (What is it to make a moral judgment? What is the connection between moral judgment and motivation? Are moral claims capable of being true or false?)  
2.    Metaphysical (Are there moral facts? Are these facts independent of our moral practices and beliefs? Are they part of the natural world?) 
3.    Epistemic (Is there such a thing as moral knowledge? If so, how do we acquire it? Are the emotions, for instance, a source of knowledge in ethics?) 

In the course of exploring these questions, we’ll familiarise ourselves with and critically assess debates between:  

Cognitivists and non-cognitivists about the nature of moral judgment and discourse 

Realists and anti-realists about the existence of moral facts 

Naturalists and non-naturalists about the nature of moral facts 

Empiricists and intuitionists about the nature of moral knowledge 

Teaching Delivery 

This module is delivered in weekly two-hour classes, which are a mixture of lecture and discussion. Students are expected to read the compulsory reading set each week and prepare for discussion in the seminars. 

This module has historically been popular. If you try to register on this module, we would advise exploring additional options, just in case. 

By the end of the module, you should be able to: 

• Understand and explain the broadest aims and questions of contemporary metaethics. 

• Understand and explain the most popular contemporary metaethical theories and some prominent problems and questions investigated by contemporary philosophers in this area. 

• Philosophically evaluate and assess these theories and the answers given to these problems and questions, and understand what kinds of considerations are relevant to this assessment. 

• Understand and explain how these theories and questions, and their evaluation, connect with one another and with broader philosophical issues. 

Recommended Reading 

In preparation for the module, we advise reading the following core texts. These can be found in the UCL Library or online through UCL Library Services: 

• The International Encyclopedia for Ethics, ed. Hugh LaFollette, is a great resource for short introductory articles to topics. You could start by reading the article on metaethics, written by Jonas Olson. Other good articles include those on moral naturalism, non-naturalism, non-cognitivism, quasi-realism, and error theory. 

• Copp, David, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Ethical Theory. Oxford University Press, 2007, chapters 1, 3, 4, 5 

PHIL0073 Feminism and Philosophy

Module Leader: Rich Healey

Level: 6 (also taught with graduate students)

Term: 1

Area: B

Assessment: One essay (3,500 words)

Description: This course will introduce students to some central topics in feminist philosophy. Topics will include misogyny, pornography, beauty norms, sexual objectification, intersectionality, work and the family, and abortion. Through consideration of both classic and contemporary feminist writing, students will be asked to think carefully and critically about feminist approaches to these areas of significant moral, political, and social concern.

PHIL0077 Equality

Module Leader: Rich Healey

Level: 6 (also taught with graduate students)

Term: 1

Area: B

Assessment: 100% Coursework (3,500 words)

Description: In everyday moral and political arguments appeals to equality are ubiquitous. Yet it is often unclear how exactly we should understand these appeals, and what the implications of “equality” are supposed to amount to. In this course, we will try to gain a deeper understanding of equality and its role in moral and political thought. To do so, we will address four interrelated topics in which considerations of equality are front and centre. First, we will consider what a commitment to moral and political equality implies about how we should distribute resources amongst the members of a community. Next, we will turn to consider the significance of relationships of social equality in our day to day lives. What does it mean for us to relate to one another as equals, and why do we regard relations of equality as important? Third, we will consider what equality implies about political decision making, and specifically, whether a commitment to the equality of all citizens should commit us to democratic rule. Finally, we will think about what underpins claims to moral and political equality. Can we offer a philosophical defence of the claim that all human beings are equal in some fundamental way? In addressing these topics, we will consider both theoretical and applied issues, and draw on both historical and contemporary sources. 

PHIL0078 Formal Epistemology

Module Leader: Luke Fenton - Glynn

Level: 6 (also taught with graduate students)

Term: 1

Area: A

Assessment: 70% Essay (2,500 words) plus 15% Exercise Set 1 (Approx 6 hours work) & 15% Exercise Set 2 (Approx 6 hours work)

Description: Our strength of beliefs influence our decision making. But how should we measure strength of belief, and what rational constraints are there on one's strength of belief? How should one's strengths of belief change in response to evidence? And how exactly ought one's strength of beliefs feed through into rational decision making?

These are the central questions that will be tackled in this module, where students will be introduced to the probabilistic representation of strength of belief, arguments for the rationality of probabilistic degrees of belief, arguments for various rational constraints on those beliefs - including constraints concerning belief updates in response to evidence - and to decision theory.

Formal epistemology is an increasingly important area of philosophy, and its influence on other areas of philosophy (traditional epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of action, metaphysics, ethics, and political philosophy) has been profound. The field is also strongly interdisciplinary, with cross-overs into economics, statistics, computer science, and political science.

Key Text

Bradley, D. (2015): A Critical Introduction to Formal Epistemology (Bloomsbury).

Background Reading

Bradley, D. (2015): A Critical Introduction to Formal Epistemology (Bloomsbury).

Fenton-Glynn, L. (2015): ‘A Simple Introduction to Probability’ < https://www.academia.edu/12094718/A_Simple_Introduction_to_Probability>.

Nozick, R. (1970): 'Newcomb's Problem and Two Principles of Choice', in N. Rescher et al. (eds.) Essays in Honor of Carl G. Hempel (Dordrecht: Reidel).

Topic 1: Overview & Introduction to Probability

Topic 2: The Probabilistic Representation of Degrees of Belief

Topic 3: Conditionalization

Topic 4: Prior Probabilities

Topic 5: Chance and Credence

Topic 6: Reflection & Disagreement

Topic 7: The Problem of Old Evidence

Topic 8: Knowledge & Probability

Topic 9: Epistemic & Causal Decision Theory

Topic 10: Imprecise Probabilities

PHIL0083 Dissertation

Module Leader: Nilanjan Das (Module Convenor)

Level: 6

Terms: 1 & 2

Area: A/B/C

Assessment: Dissertation (8,000 words) 30 Credits

Description: The dissertation module is an optional module that can only be taken in your final year of study. Enrolment requires approval by the Departmental Tutor. The 30 credit dissertation is a 8,000-word essay on a philosophical topic of your choosing, subject to the availability of a member of staff with appropriate expertise to supervise it, and approval by the Departmental Tutor. Tuition involves four one-hour sessions of one-on-one supervision by a member of staff. The module is taken over the course of Term 1 & Term 2. The research will be self-directed, though with the guidance of your supervisor. The dissertation submission deadline is 1st day of 3rd term by 4.00 pm.

PHIL0084 Guided Research

Module Leader: Nilanjan Das (Module Convenor)

Level: 6

Term: 1 or 2

Area: A/B/C

Assessment: Essay (4,500 words)

Module Aims: To provide students with an understanding of an area of current philosophical research and to offer them the opportunity of engaging in the methodology of philosophical research practiced in leading research universities in the world. The student should gain experience of the method of study and instruction expected of a graduate student in the first years of a research degree. Intended Learning Outcomes: The student will produce a significant piece of writing in the relevant research area. The student will gain an understanding of the key issues in that area of the discipline, and will encounter some of the core classical readings and/or some of the most important recent literature on the topic. They will gain an understanding of research methods in philosophy. Module Structure: Students who meet the eligibility criteria outlined below can, subject to space and with approval of the Departmental Tutor and the module leader, select a dedicated graduate-level module in term one. The options in term one are:
PHIL0097 Graduate Studies in Kant (C)   

PHIL0124 Research Seminar: Political Philosophy (B)          

PHIL0167 Perception and its History (A)
Module descriptions are on the website: 
https://www.ucl.ac.uk/philosophy/current-students/research-programmes/mphil-modules


Tuition: Students will attend all seminars for the module that they select. In recognition of the fact that graduate-level courses are more demanding than undergraduate courses, undergraduates taking the Guided Research Module (GRM) will receive additional support in the form of three tutorials (i.e. small group meetings) with the leader of the graduate module. Assessment: Students will complete a summative essay of the same length as the graduate students (4,500 words) due for submission on the first day of the term following the term in which the module is taken. Eligibility and Selection: To be eligible for the GRM students must have a weighted average of at least 65 in the modules they have taken in their first and second year (modules taken in the second year are weighted three times as heavily as first year modules). A maximum of two undergraduate students may take each of the modules listed above (this may be fewer if the module is oversubscribed, since graduate students will be given priority). In the event that more than two undergraduates with a weighted average of 65 or above apply to take the same graduate module (or more than one if there’s only space for one undergraduate on the module), then the students with the highest weighted averages will be selected.

PHIL0182 Metametaphysics

Module Leader: Tim Button

Level: 6 (also taught with graduate students)

Term: 1

Area: A

Assessment: 100% Coursework (3,500 words)

Estimated size: 30

Description: The central question for this course was posed by Kant: Whether such a thing as metaphysics is even possible at all. The path through the question is as follows:

1. After briefly considering Kant's answer, you will examine verificationist-inspired scepticism about the possibility of metaphysics. These sceptical challenges characterised metaphysics and science as wholly separate disciplines.

2. You will then consider the upset caused by Quine's attack on the analytic/synthetic distinction, and his criterion of ontological commitment.

3. Following Quine many metaphysicians began to regard their subject as continuous with the sciences, and you will consider this viewpoint.

4. But, even granting this viewpoint, there is still space to challenge metaphysics: after all, apparently rival metaphysical theories may turn out, on closer inspection, to be (metaphysically) equivalent.

5. You will close by considering whether metaphysics is (or should be) in the business of investigating grounding.

The course will be based entirely around weekly, two-hour seminars. Each seminar has compulsory readings. You will come to the seminar prepared with at least one question about what you have read; the seminars will be entirely structured around your questions.

The course has no formal pre-requisites. However, you are discouraged from taking this seminar if you have never studied any topics in metaphysics before (at undergraduate level or above); you will get much more from the course if you have some experience with metaphysics!

PHIL0186 Advanced Topics in Plato’s Philosophy

Module Leader: Merrick Anderson

Level: 6 (also taught with graduate students)

Term: 1

Area: C

Assessment: 100% Courswork (3,500 words)

Description: In this course we will take a deep dive into certain themes in Plato’s moral philosophy. In particular, we will be evaluating his ‘philosophical anthropology’ – the study of earlier human beings, their nature, and what they can teach us about contemporary moral and political problems. In a number of places in Plato’s dialogues we find prominent appeals to earlier periods in human history. Unfortunately, however, it is not immediately clear what the purpose of these appeals is. We will try to discover this purpose. Some questions we will ask are: When making these appeals to earlier time periods, does Plato really think he is describing history as it occurred in the past? If so, what is this history meant to teach us? If not, is the purpose merely rhetorical? And regardless of this, what do these appeals add to the moral and political teaching of the dialogues? The focus throughout the course will be on Plato, but we will also examine some of his predecessors and successors to get a better feel for the general strategy of appealing to earlier times.

Final Year (Level 6) - Term 2

PHIL0044 Aristotle’s Moral Psychology

Module Leader: Fiona Leigh

Level: 6 (also taught with graduate students)

Term: 2

Area: C

Assessment: 100% Coursework (3,500 words)

Description: The module focuses on Aristotle's philosophy of mind and moral psychology. After a brief introduction in the first week to the central tenets of his metaphysics and epistemology, the module will cover topics including Aristotle's views human nature and human flourishing, the kinds of cognitive capacities attributable to humans and non-human animals, the emotions, virtue ethics, the doctrine of the mean and learning to be good, weakness of the will, and vice. The central primary text will be the Nicomachean Ethics, although other texts will be consulted, notably de Anima.  It is intended that students will learn to read passages from Aristotle’s works in ethics and psychology. They will develop the ability to evaluate the arguments proposed in the sources and to propose and assess different possible interpretations. They will be encouraged to reflect critically on the significance of the material. A sample syllabi, with the relevant primary texts, is as follows (selected secondary reading is also assigned each week):

 

Week 1

Introduction & metaphysics – overview of life and works, relation to Plato – and Aristotle’s metaphysics: hylomorphism, substance, the four causes, body and soul

Primary Text: Metaphysics, VII.1-4, 6, 10-11, 13, 15, 17; Physics II.1-9; III.1-3, VIII.6; de Anima, book 1.1, 1.4

Week 2

The soul & cognition

Primary Text: de Anima, books I-III, and (optional) de Motu Animalium, 6-11

Week 3

Phantasia & emotion

Primary Text: Rhetoric book II.1-10; de Anima, book III.3

Week 4

Understanding the ‘doctrine’ of the mean

Primary Text: Nicomachean Ethics, books II-III (especially II.1-9, III.5-12)

Week 5

The mean ‘relative to us’

Primary Text: Nicomachean Ethics, books II-III (especially II.1-9, III.5-12)

Week 6

The structure of habituation

Primary Text: Nicomachean Ethics, I.13, II.1-4

Week 7

Habituation & action

Primary Text: (the same as for week 6) Nicomachean Ethics, I.13, II.1-4

Week 8

Virtue and Akrasia (weakness of the will)

Primary Text: Nicomachean Ethics, Nicomachean Ethics, VII.1-10

Week 9

Vice and moral conflict

Primary Text: Nicomachean Ethics, III. 2-5, 10-12, VII.7-8 (already read in week 8), IX.4

Week 10

Vice as a unified psychological state

Primary Text: (mostly the same as for week 9) Nicomachean Ethics, III. 2-5, 10-2, VII.7-8, IX.4

PHIL0052 Regulation of Intimacy

Module Leader: Véronique Munoz-Dardé

Level: 6 (also taught with graduate students)

Term: 2

Area: B

Assessment: 100% 24hr examination in term three

Description: This optional course will be taught in seminar format, with one weekly two-hour meeting. It is designed to introduce students to some central questions in political and moral philosophy. The topic of the course is the politics of sex. It focuses on general ethical concerns raised by state regulation of intimate relations e.g. in marriage or prostitution. Should some things not be for sale? Is consent the key to legitimate interaction? What is involved in one person ‘objectifying’ another? Are there circumstances in which paternalism is permissible or even required?

Readings include Anderson, Herman, Langton, Nussbaum, Pallikkathayil, Parfit, O’Neill, Satz, Saul, Scanlon, Scruton, Shiffrin, Thomson, Wedgwood.

This course is intended for students with a range of specializations, but some background knowledge in philosophy (normally a minimum of two philosophy courses passed before taking this module). The course is not suitable for conversion students.

 
PHIL0057 Topics in German Idealism

Module Leader: Sebastian Gardner

Level: 6 (also taught with graduate students)

Term: 2

Area: C

Assessment: 100% Coursework (3,500 words)

Description: Freedom and Systematicity in German Idealism. The course focuses on two interconnected themes in German Idealism: the problem of human freedom, and the metaphysics of idealism.

            Part One of the course covers the foundations of German Idealism, starting with Kant's theory of freedom and the tensions within it brought to light in the first wave of Kant reception. The first week provides those who have not previously studied Kant (and/or the problem of free will) with the background needed for what follows. Also covered are Reinhold's attempt to give Kant's philosophy fully systematic form, Schiller's charge that Kant's dualism of freedom and nature results in alienation and subjective incoherence, and Jacobi's attack on philosophical systematicity as bound to terminate in the fatalism and 'nihilism' of Spinoza. We look at the attractions, and costs, of Schiller's and Jacobi's alternatives to Kant.

            Part Two is concerned with the attempts of Fichte and Schelling to construct out of the materials bequeathed by Kant, and in the light of a new appreciation of Spinoza, what they described as a 'system of freedom', 'the alpha and omega' of philosophy. Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre, a greatly strengthened form of Kant's transcendental idealism, sought to derive nature and human freedom from the 'I', which Fichte conceives as pure activity rather than substance. At issue here are two questions which Kant had left unanswered: How do I come to be presented with objects? And, How is self-consciousness possible? We then look at Fichte's elaborations of the Wissenschaftslehre, which include a major revision of Kantian ethics, and an a priori proof of the existence of other minds.

            Over the same period Schelling sought instead a unification of Kantian idealism with Spinozistic realism. We consider in turn the three stages in his early development: first, his defence of a romantic anti-Newtonian form of natural science, in which nature is conceived as unconscious activity; second, his formulation of a double-aspect system that places the philosophy of art at the summit of metaphysical knowledge; and third, his presentation of the first system of 'absolute idealism', which allows human freedom to be derived from an absolute in which subjectivity and objectivity are identical. Fichte and Schelling thus offer opposed systems, both purporting to supply what is missing from Kant.

            Part Three outlines the two major developments in the later phase of German Idealism. First, at Hegel's system, built on the model of Schelling's absolute idealism but offering a quite different solution to the problem of human freedom, which Hegel identifies with the realm of social practice that he calls 'ethical life'. And second, at Schelling's late re-evaluation of the rationalist assumptions underpinning the project of German Idealism, which involves a restoration of the concept of evil to a central position in the theory of freedom, and a critique of Hegel's alleged panlogicism.

            The weekly readings consist of manageable extracts from the major works of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, and other relevant figures, including Kant. The course is designed in such a way that, as we follow the historical development of German Idealism, each weekly topic can also be understood as concerned with an independent philosophical problem.

PHIL0066 The Philosophy of Altruism

Module Leader: Ben Sorgiovanni

Level: 6 (also taught with graduate students)

Term: 2

Area: B

Assessment: 100% Coursework (3,500 words)

Description: Effective Altruism is a social movement that encourages people to do good and to use evidence and careful reasoning to make their altruistic efforts maximally effective. Though the movement is relatively young, it has already had a significant impact. This module considers philosophical questions that are important for both evaluating and guiding the movement. They include: Are we obligated to give to charity? Should we always save the greater number? Should we always give to the most effective charities? Is it wrong to make the world worse for future generations? Should we be vegetarians? Is it wrong to contribute to collective harms? Is it wrong to support sweatshops? Can small harms to the many outweigh severe harms to the few? Should we be Effective Altruists?

Sample Reading

• Peter Singer, ‘Famine, Affluence, and Morality’, Philosophy & Public Affairs 1 (1972): 229–243

• Alastair Norcross, ‘Puppies, Pigs, and People’, Philosophical Perspectives 18 (2004): 229–245

• Julia Nefsky, ‘Fairness, Participation, and the Real Problem of Collective Harm’, Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics 5 (2015): 245–271

Module Assessment

The module is assessed by a summative essay. For BA students, the maximum length is strictly 3500 words. For MA students, the maximum length is strictly 4000 words. For MPhil students, the maximum length is strictly 4500 words.

Essay questions are modelled on the questions listed above.

Students are strongly encouraged to write a formative essay, which is due around the end of week 8. The formative essay is intended to serve as a draft of the summative and should therefore answer the same question. The maximum length is strictly 2000 words.

 
PHIL0079 Advanced Topics on Moral Philosophy: Responsibility, Luck and Excuses

Module Leader: Ulrike Heuer

Level: 6 (also taught with graduate students)

Term: 2

Area: B

Assessment: 100 Coursework (3,500 words)

Description: We will explore theories of responsibility, in particular their explanations of its grounds, its scope and its limits. We will also discuss some fundamental skeptical challenges to the practice of holding ourselves and others responsible. In light of these general considerations, we will then examine more specific topics, such as responsibility for attitudes, moral luck, blameworthiness, excuses and collective responsibility. The aim of the module is to develop an understanding of the nature of responsibility, and the resources and problems of contemporary approaches.

Introductory readings:

• R. Jay Wallace, Responsibility and the Moral Sentiments, Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press 1996.

• Susan Wolf, Freedom Within Reason, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1990. • Daniel Statman (ed), Moral Luck, SUNY Press 1993.

 
PHIL0081 Topics in Moral Psychology

Module Leader: Douglas Lavin

Level: 6

Term: 2

Area: B

Assessment: 100% Coursework (3,500 words)

Description: Investigation of a familiar and puzzling elements of moral life, e.g., promising, forgiveness, authority, pride/shame, pleasure, respect/humiliation, self-control, love and friendship, competitiveness. Topics and texts may differ year to year.

 
PHIL0083 Dissertation

Module Leader: Nilanjan Das (Module Convenor)

Level: 6

Terms: 1 & 2

Area: A/B/C

Assessment: Dissertation (8,000 words) 30 Credits

Description: The dissertation module is an optional module that can only be taken in your final year of study. Enrolment requires approval by the Departmental Tutor. The 30 credit dissertation is a 8,000-word essay on a philosophical topic of your choosing, subject to the availability of a member of staff with appropriate expertise to supervise it, and approval by the Departmental Tutor. Tuition involves four one-hour sessions of one-on-one supervision by a member of staff. The module is taken over the course of Term 1 & Term 2. The research will be self-directed, though with the guidance of your supervisor. The dissertation submission deadline is 1st day of 3rd term by 4.00 pm.

PHIL0084 Guided Research

Module Leader: Nilanjan Das (Module Convenor)

Level: 6

Term: 1 or 2

Area: A/B/C

Assessment: Essay (4,500 words)

Module Aims: To provide students with an understanding of an area of current philosophical research and to offer them the opportunity of engaging in the methodology of philosophical research practiced in leading research universities in the world. The student should gain experience of the method of study and instruction expected of a graduate student in the first years of a research degree. Intended Learning Outcomes: The student will produce a significant piece of writing in the relevant research area. The student will gain an understanding of the key issues in that area of the discipline, and will encounter some of the core classical readings and/or some of the most important recent literature on the topic. They will gain an understanding of research methods in philosophy. Module Structure: Students who meet the eligibility criteria outlined below can, subject to space and with approval of the Departmental Tutor and the module leader, select a dedicated graduate-level module in term in term two. The options in term two are:
PHIL0086 Practical Reasons and Agency (B)         

PHIL0089 Special Topics in Ancient Philosophy B (C)        

PHIL0103 Research Seminar: Philosophy of Mind (A)       

PHIL0177 Recent Work in Moral Philosophy (B) 

PHIL0178 Research Seminar in Realism and Antirealism (A)          

PHIL0180 Carnap (C)
Module descriptions are on the website: 
website: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/philosophy/current-students/research-programmes/mphil-modules


Tuition: Students will attend all seminars for the module that they select. In recognition of the fact that graduate-level courses are more demanding than undergraduate courses, undergraduates taking the Guided Research Module (GRM) will receive additional support in the form of three tutorials (i.e. small group meetings) with the leader of the graduate module. Assessment: Students will complete a summative essay of the same length as the graduate students (4,500 words) due for submission on the first day of the term following the term in which the module is taken. Eligibility and Selection: To be eligible for the GRM students must have a weighted average of at least 65 in the modules they have taken in their first and second year (modules taken in the second year are weighted three times as heavily as first year modules). A maximum of two undergraduate students may take each of the modules listed above (this may be fewer if the module is oversubscribed, since graduate students will be given priority). In the event that more than two undergraduates with a weighted average of 65 or above apply to take the same graduate module (or more than one if there’s only space for one undergraduate on the module), then the students with the highest weighted averages will be selected.

PHIL0085 Advanced Tutorials

Module Leader: Han van Wietmarschen (Module Convenor)

Level: 6

Term: 2

Area: A/B/C

Assessment: Presentations (25%) & Essay (3,000 words = 75%)

Description: This module is designed to allow students to build on their introductory tutorial module. Students will discuss a variety of central philosophical texts on fundamental topics in a broad area of their choice. The module will allow them to enhance their skills in philosophical discussion, oral presentation and essay writing. Students will be placed in tutorial groups of two to four students, ensuring that everyone has a chance to participate in debate, and to receive feedback on their oral presentations and written work during the course. The texts studied will be selected by the course tutor in consultation with the module convenor.

Students enrolled in the 3rd Year Tutorial Module, are asked to nominate their top two preferences for the kind of philosophy to be studied in the module, either Theoretical Philosophy (A), Practical Philosophy (B), or Historical Philosophy (C). The Department will endeavour to allocate students to one of their top two preferences, wherever possible. Students will be allocated to an instructor (a Postgraduate Teaching Assistant), and in the first week of class (or possibly in the week before), will be given a syllabus and reading list. During the semester students will in alternate weeks present or read aloud draft essays (of about 2000 words) to the small group, in response to the overarching topic and in light of the reading list. The group will then discuss the work critically and offer suggestions for improvement, or indicate further questions or lines of inquiry. The assessment will be a 3,000 word essay produced as a result of the draft essays discussed during the semester.

 
PHIL0129 Worlds, Sentences and Measures

Module leader: Daniel Rothschild

Level: 6 (also taught with graduate students)

Term: 2

Area: A

Assessment: Problem Sets

Description: This module gives an introduction to some of the formal tools most often used in contemporary philosophy. These include probability theory, non-classical logic, and modal logic.  A good knowledge of first-order (predicate) logic is presupposed and some familiarity with basic metalogical results (e.g. soundness and completeness) will also be helpful. For undergraduates PHIL0025 Logic and its Limits covers all recommended background, but is not strictly necessary. A main component of the module is regular problem sets on most of which collaboration is encouraged.

PHIL0160 Philosophy of Space and Time

Module Leader: Luke Fenton-Glynn

Level: 6 (also taught with graduate students)

Term: 2

Area: A

Assessment: 100% Coursework (3,500 words)

Description: In this module, you will study key philosophical issues relating to space and time. When it comes to the philosophy of space, the module will focus upon the longstanding debate between absolutists and relativists about space considering the key arguments on both sides of what has been an important philosophical debate from Early Modern times to the present day. The module will then examine how the modern theories of Special Relativity and General Relativity suggests that the distinction between space and time may be less sharp than it first appears. When it comes to time, the module will address questions concerning whether there are reasons to doubt the reality of time, debates about the nature of time (such as why time seems to ‘pass’ and have a ‘flow’), and what accounts for the direction of time will also be addressed.

Sample topics (may vary slightly year to year):

Absolutism & Relationalism about Space in Newtonian Physics

Leibniz’s Arguments for Relationalism

Newton’s & Kant’s Arguments for Absolutism

Galilean Relativity

Special Relativity

General Relativity

Is Time Real?

Special Relativity & The Metaphysics of Time

Time Travel

The Direction of Time

Teaching Delivery

There will be one 2 hour seminar per week. You will be required to read a set of ‘Key Readings’ each week (normally 1-2 articles or equivalent) prior to the seminar.

By the end of the module, you should:

Have a sound understanding of the central metaphysical debates concerning the nature of space and time.

Have a sufficient understanding of the physics of space and time to grasp how this interacts with the metaphysics (though please note that no background in physics or maths is presumed).

Be equipped with the understanding and conceptual resources needed to contribute to the philosophical debates about space and time yourself.

Have further honed your ability to analyse arguments, and construct rigorous arguments yourself. Have improved your essay-writing skills.

 

Recommended Reading

In preparation for the module, we advise reading the following core texts. These can be found in the UCL Library:

Maudlin, T. (2012): Philosophy of Physics: Space and Time (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press)

Dainton, B. (2010): Time and Space, Second Edition (Abingdon: Routledge)

 
PHIL0184 Philosophy of Arithmetic and Incompleteness

Module Leader: Tim Button

Level: 6 (also taught with graduate students)

Term: 2

Area: A

Assessment: 5 problem sets (10% each) & essay 2500 words (50%)

Description: Arithmetic is the branch of mathematics which studies the natural numbers — i.e. the numbers 0, 1, 2, 3, and so on — and operations on the numbers — like addition and multiplication. This course explores the features that make arithmetic distinctive, and pose unique philosophical challenges. The path through the course is as follows.

1. Arithmetic is infinitary, abstract, a priori and apodictic, necessary, completely general, and scientifically indispensable. You will start by surveying these features, and encounter the general idea of a formal theory of arithmetic.

2. A common sentiment is that, in mathematics, consistency suffices for existence. You will explore this idea, understanding what it means to describe a theory as "consistent", and how one might establish consistency. This will lead into into a discussion of Hilbert's programme, which aimed to provide proofs that (various) mathematical theories are consistent. Famously, this programme floundered when Gödel discovered his incompleteness theorems.

3. You will learn about the technical details behind the incompleteness theorems, including such concepts as: (computable) enumerability, representability, the arithmetization of syntax, Tarski's Diagonal Lemma, Gödel sentences, and consistency sentences.

4. Armed with this technical knowledge, you will assess the philosophical significance of these results, both for Hilbert's programme and for other philosophical positions.

5. To finish the course, you will consider other approaches to the philosophy of arithmetic, and how they deal with the phenomenon of incompleteness.

The course will be based entirely weekly lectures, backed up with classes. Each lecture/class will have compulsory readings.

Please note that the course combines philosophical and formal elements! Although it is not a formal prerequisite, the course will presuppose introductory logic (at the level of first year Introduction to Logic 1 & 2); at the very least, you will need to be comfortable with how first-order logic works. The course will not presuppose any particular prior knowledge of mathematics; only that you know how to count, and can make sense of expressions like ‘x2 + 3x + 2 = 0’ (even if you cannot quite remember how to solve it). Still, if the very idea of looking at an expression like that fills you with horror, this course is not for you. Half of your final grade will be based on your performance in problem sets, which will help to reinforce your understanding of the technical details behind the incompleteness theorems.

In addition BA Philosophy students can take the following modules in EISPS (European & International Social and Political Studies) as Philosophy modules (i.e. do not count as a module from another department): 

ESPS0013: Hegel    
ESPS0020: Nietzsche    
ESPS0022: Why Democracy? (N.B. Not running 2021/22) 
ESPS0024: Law, Freedom, and Morality

For more information about the EISPS modules above please see the EISPS website.

In their second and third year, students can also take one or more of the following modules from the Science and Technology Studies (STS) Department as philosophy modules (i.e. not counting as modules from another department).
HPSC0004 Philosophy of Science 1 (Level 4; Area A; Term 2; available to second years only)
HPSC0014 Philosophy of Science 2 (Level 5; Area A; Term 1) 
HPSC0109 Philosophy of Medicine (Level 6; Area A; Term 2)
For further details about these modules, see the STS Undergraduate Module Catalogue.

In their second and third year students can also take MATH0050 Logic or ECON0027 Game Theory as a philosophy module (i.e. not counting as a module from another department).

Information for UCL students from other departments:

The following modules can only be taken by students studying Philosophy degrees (Single and Combined Honours): PHIL0008: Philosophy Tutorials / PHIL0083 Dissertation/ PHIL0084 Guided Research Module and PHIL0085 Advanced Tutorials.

Registration for all modules is via Portico. Once Philosophy students have registered their modules spare places will be allocated on a first come first served basis. If the module has seminars these are automatically allocated via the common timetable to fit with your module choices once the module selection has been approved by both departments.