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MA Modules

This is the list of MA 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).

Term 1

PHIL0025 Logic and its Limits

Module Leader: Owen Griffiths

Level: 7

Term: 1

Area: A

Shared: BA and MPhil Stud

Assessment: Coursework, 4 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: 7

Term: 1

Area: C

Shared: BA and MPhil Stud

Assessment: One essay (4,000 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: 7

Term: 1

Area: A

Shared: BA and MPhil Stud

Assessment: Essay 4,000 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.

PHIL0059 Philosophy, Politics and Economics of Health

Module Leader: James Wilson

Level: 7

Term: 1

Area: B

Shared: MPhil Stud

Assessment: Essay 4,000 words

Description: This module examines some central ethical, economic and political problems facing health policy in the UK and abroad, especially in relation to social justice. Topics covered include: how to allocate healthcare resources (e.g. should the NHS cover all new drug treatments, regardless of how expensive they are? Who should decide?); the appropriate role of the state in protecting and promoting health (e.g. should smoking be banned?); when inequalities in health and life expectancy are unfair; and special challenges posed by infectious diseases.

Reading list: http://readinglists.ucl.ac.uk/modules/phil0059.html

PHIL0067 Free Speech and Theories of Autonomy

Module Leader: Robert Simpson

Level: 7

Term: 1

Area: B

Shared: BA and MPhil Stud

Assessment: One essay (4,000 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: 7

Term: 1

Area: B

Shared: BA and MPhil Stud

Assessment: One essay (4,000 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: 7

Term: 1

Area: B

Shared: BA and MPhil Stud

Assessment: One essay (4,000 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: 7

Term: 1

Area: B

Shared: BA and MPhil Stud

Assessment: One essay (4,000 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: 7

Term: 1

Area: A

Shared: BA and MPhil Stud

Assessment: 70% Essay (2,500 words) plus 2 x Exercise Sets (Each 15% and approx 6 hours work each)

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

PHIL0097 Graduate Studies in Kant

Module Leader: Sebastian Gardner

Level: 7

Term: 1

Area: C

Shared: MPhil Stud

Assessment: Essay 4,000 words

Description: Kant's System of Freedom and Nature: The Third Critique. The Critique of the Power of Judgement ('Third Critique') seeks to transform the two great divisions of Kant's thought – the theory of nature presented in the Critique of Pure Reason, and the theory of freedom presented in Kant's practical works – into a unified philosophical system. The importance of this task for Kant and the difficulty that it poses are considerable. It is vital that the distinction of freedom and nature not be collapsed, since without it morality will be confused with empirical knowledge and nature with things in themselves, yet Kant's dualism generates a problem that, he makes clear, must be solved, for we cannot coherently regard ourselves in the same breath as members of two disjointed worlds, the one empirical and the other intelligible. Kant seeks accordingly in the Third Critique to show that his dualism can be mediated without being dismantled, and that the result has sufficient coherence for the purposes of human reason. This involves the introduction of major new elements, and the extension of Kant's philosophy to two areas not previously treated, namely aesthetics and biology. Their common significance, Kant argues, is that they disclose a purposiveness in nature, a meaning in appearances, that transcends natural scientific knowledge and lends the world an aspect of human intelligibility, whereby we find ourselves at home in it.

The course is divided into three parts. Part One is devoted to making clear Kant's need to provide a mediation of freedom and nature. In the first week (which will provide those who have not studied Kant previously with a background for what follows) we look at the 'great chasm', as Kant calls it, separating the domains of freedom and nature, and at contemporary critics of his dualism. The second week examines Kant's philosophy of history, in which we see his commitment to interpreting history both as a natural process, hence as subject to empirical law, and as answering to the interests of human freedom. This raises in a new form, which Kant has not yet elucidated, the question of how such a double view is possible.

Part Two looks at the main divisions of the Third Critique, the Critique of the Aesthetic Power of Judgement, and the Critique of the Teleological Power of Judgement. We begin with Kant's account of judgements of taste. The key to attributions of beauty to objects lies, Kant proposes, in the special harmony of our cognitive powers that they occasion, a state of 'free play' of imagination and understanding, yielding a pure pleasure in which the subject registers the object's 'form of purposiveness'. Kant next sets the sublime in opposition to the beautiful. The objects we call sublime are distinguished by their formlessness and defy assimilation by our mental powers, but the mixture of pain and pleasure that defines sublimity is also, according to Kant, an experience of nature's purposiveness, albeit of a 'negative' kind. We then look at Kant's proto-romantic theory of fine art, and his interpretation of the beautiful as a 'symbol' of the supersensible.

In the Critique of the Teleological Power of Judgement Kant attempts to do justice to the difference of organic from inorganic nature, and our conceptualization of the former as purposively organized. In defending natural teleology, Kant must walk a fine line between affirming that there is (contra the Darwinian world-view) more to nature than mechanistic causality, and readmitting (contra Aristotelians and deists) dogmatic metaphysics. We look first at Kant's analysis of the appearance that organisms give of a species of form that transcends mechanism, and then at his use of transcendental idealism to reconcile the purposiveness of organic nature with mechanistic explanation.

Returning to the original question of how nature and freedom can be unified, in Part Three we look at the two places in the text where Kant gives his explicit answer to the question. First, Kant formulates in the Introduction to the Third Critique an original and complex hypothesis, which supplements his earlier teachings, namely that our power of judgement, like our other rational powers, has an a priori principle of its own. The principle in question is that of nature's purposiveness for our cognition. In the final week we consider the concept introduced late in the Third Critique of the 'intuitive intellect', described by Kant as a mode of cognition in which the dualities constitutive of human reason are transcended and the whole is apprehended prior to its parts. We have no knowledge of the intuitive intellect, just as we have no knowledge of God, but the Idea thereof is necessary for us. Though intended by Kant to bring to a conclusion his argument with Spinoza – whose monism Kant regarded as the precise antithesis of his own standpoint, and as its strongest competitor – the concept of the intuitive intellect stimulated Kant's major idealist successors to regard the Third Critique not as a systematic end point but as the basis for new philosophical construction.

            The Third Critique contains therefore an aesthetic theory and a biological theory, each of which can be taken on their own. Considered as a whole, the work represents the consummation of Kant's system and provided the springboard for German Idealism, while Kant's problem of reconciling freedom and nature endures to the present day.

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

PHIL0124 Research Seminar: Political Philosophy

Module Leader: Rich Healey & Ben Sorgiovanni

Level: 7

Term: 1

Area: B

Shared: MPhil Stud

Assessment: Essay 4,000 words

Description: This course offers students the chance to engage in an in-depth consideration of some central topics in contemporary political philosophy. At the beginning of the course, students will be asked to select from a range of possible topics, including animal rights, coercion, homelessness, justice and truth, colonialism, punishment, and responses to injustice. We will then spend two weeks on each of the selected topics, dedicating each session to a careful analysis of a key recent article on the topic. Students taking the course for credit will be expected to make a short presentation about one of these articles, and all students will be expected to carefully read the articles and participate in the discussion.

PHIL0142 Research Preparation in Philosophy 1

Module Leader: Rory Phillips

Level: 7

Term: 1

Area: N/A

Shared: MA Only

Assessment: Essay 4,000 words

Description: This module will introduce UCL Philosophy Masters students to graduate study in philosophy and to philosophical discussion. Most of the sessions will involve reading in advance one or two pieces of analytic philosophy. Then in the seminar itself, each paper will be presented by a student for a discussion which is moderated by the convenor.

The topics covered in this module will generally vary from year to year depending on developments in academic research and the interests of the class and module leader. However the main skills covered will remain the same:

• Reading and understanding works of analytic philosophy

• Understanding philosophical argument and common strategies of argument and reasoning

• Understanding how to connect ideas within and between philosophical topics

• Beginning to understand how to pursue philosophical research.

Teaching Delivery

This module is delivered via a two-hour seminar once a week. Students will be expected to read the set reading each week, and each week one or two students will be asked to present one of the set readings for discussion. The schedule and exact format of the presentations will be discussed and arranged during the course itself.

This is a compulsory module for the MA programme in philosophy.

Enrolment on this module is restricted to students on the MA programme in philosophy.

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

• Understand the works read in the seminar and evaluate the ideas and arguments they contain.

• Understand how to read works in philosophy and make sense of the ideas and arguments they contain.

• Understand the style of philosophical arguments and know some common strategies of argument and reasoning

• Recognise connections between argument styles and philosophical topics where appropriate

• Use literature and other resources to embark on philosophical research.

PHIL0167 Perception and its History

Module Leader: Mark Kalderon

Level: 7

Term: 1

Area: A

Shared: MPhil Stud

Assessment: Essay 4,000 words

Description: The course will involve a close reading of a historical text on the nature of perception. A different text will be chosen each time the course is offered. Contemporary philosophy of perception is very different from earlier historical discussions, especially in the pre-modern era. This is not due solely to advances in psychology, but the kind of questions that are asked are often very different. Part of the point of engaging in these texts is to bracket our own presuppositions about the nature of perception so as to become critically conscious of them. Sometimes these may be reaffirmed. Sometimes, however, they may be called into doubt. The student will gain an in depth understanding of the text under study, learn about close readings and historical scholarship, and hopefully gain a new perspective on the nature of perception.

Indicative Topics

The topics covered in the module will vary with the historical text under discussion.

Teaching Delivery

Teaching will consist in a weekly two hour seminar.

Assessment

This module will be assessed by essay. No paper topic will be assigned. Instead you must meet individually with the instructor after reading week to discuss your potential paper topic and receive guidance concerning it.

2021/22 text will be Epicurus’ Letter to Herodotus in Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of the Eminent Philosophers. (The Pamela Mensch translation from OUP). 

PHIL0182 Metametaphysics

Module Leader: Tim Button

Level: 7

Term: 1

Area: A

Shared: BA and MPhil Stud

Assessment: Essay 4,000 words

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: 7

Term: 1

Area: C

Shared: BA and MPhil Stud

Assessment: Essay 4,000 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.

Term 2

PHIL0044 Aristotle’s Moral Psychology

Module Leader: Fiona Leigh

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: C

Shared: BA and MPhil Stud

Assessment: Essay 4,000 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: 7

Term: 2

Area: B

Shared: BA and MPhil Stud

Assessment: Essay 4,000 words

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: 7

Term: 2

Area: C

Shared: BA and MPhil Stud

Assessment: Essay 4,000 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: 7

Term: 2

Area: B

Shared: BA and MPhil Stud

Assessment: Essay 4,000 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: 7

Term: 2

Area: B

Shared: BA and MPhil Stud

Assessment: One essay (4,000 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.

PHIL0086 Reasons and Normativity

Module Leader: Ulrike Heuer

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: B

Shared: MPhil Stud

Assessment: Essay 4,000 words

Description: We will read papers and chapters of books published in recent years. The topics may include questions regarding the nature of practical reasons and their relation to values, what it is to act for a reason, and how doing so relates to acting intentionally, as well as questions about the nature and the normativity of practical rationality.

For further information about the specific content of the module in the current year, please don’t hesitate to contact the module leader:  u.heuer@ucl.ac.uk

PHIL0087 Research Seminar in Legal Philosophy

Module Leader: Robert Simpson

Level: 7

Term: 2 and 3

Area: B

Shared: MPhil Stud

Assessment: One essay (4,000 words)

Description: This module is intended to introduce students to contemporary research in legal and political philosophy. It has an unusual format. The most distinctive feature of the format is a series of meetings that will run in conjunction with the UCL Colloquium in Law, Philosophy, and Politics (LPP). The LPP Colloquium is a joint enterprise between the Philosophy Department, the Faculty of Law, and the School of Public Policy Each, and it runs from January to May each year (across terms 2 and 3). At the LPP Colloquium, a series of high-profile visiting speakers discuss a recent paper of theirs in political, legal, or moral philosophy. The papers are not on any set theme, beyond being current work in these disciplinary areas. Papers are pre-circulated, so the whole meeting is devoted to discussion, and after the workshop there are normally drinks with attendees (which gives you a chance to meet the speaker in person, if you like). There will normally be six of these sessions, held from January to May. For each of them you have a one-hour pre-meeting to discuss the paper as a small group, with the module convenor, before joining the with the speaker and a larger audience for a two-hour Q&A session. In addition to the LPP Colloquium meetings, there will be some additional meetings scheduled to discuss background work in the philosophy of law, and to discuss assessment requirements. Further reading will be assigned for these meetings as well. Assessment is via a major essay, and there are a few other minor, reading-related tasks that you’re required to complete during the term. The schedule can be a little haphazard, but – to a rough approximation – you will be required to attend a meeting for this module slightly more often than once a fortnight, through terms 2 and 3.

PHIL0103 Research Seminar: Philosophy of Mind

Module Leader: Professor Lucy O'Brien

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: A

Shared: MPhil Stud

Assessment: Essay 4,000 words

Description: This module is a research seminar in the philosophy of mind. In 2021/22 the module teacher (Lucy O’Brien) will present work on her current book project (supported by a BA/Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship) on the ‘Pains and Pleasures of Interpersonal Self-Consciousness’.
Alongside the presentation of work from the draft of the book, we will explore core related readings. The pains and pleasures of a human life are closely tied to our consciousness of ourselves as the focus of consciousness of others. We will look at the challenge we face in giving an account of interpersonal self-consciousness – such self-consciousness demands that we make sense of both a doubling of standpoints, me and my observer, and an integrated single intersubjective structure. We will consider a way of making sense of the phenomenon, consider what kinds of stimulus occasion interpersonal self-consciousness, ask what role such consciousness plays in our knowledge of other minds, and how we vary in our self-conscious lives. We will also consider how human beings relate to, and aim practically to control, their own social self-consciousness, and others’.

PHIL0129 Worlds, Sentences and Measures

Module leader: Daniel Rothschild

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: A

Shared: BA and MPhil Stud

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.

PHIL0143 Research Preparation in Philosophy 2

Module Leader: Ben Sorgiovanni

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: A/B/C

Shared: MA Only

Assessment: Essay 4,000 words

Description: This module is a continuation and extension of PHIL0142. This module has two aims: (1) to train you in reading difficult philosophical texts (2) to train you in the skills involved in philosophical discussion.

Indicative Topics

The specific topics covered in the module will vary with the choice of philosophical papers.

Teaching Delivery

Teaching will consist in a weekly two hour seminar. Discussion of the text will be organized around student presentations.

PHIL0160 Philosophy of Space and Time

Module Leader: Luke Fenton-Glynn

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: A

Shared: BA and MPhil Stud

Assessment: Essay 4,000 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)

PHIL0177 Recent Work in Moral Philosophy

Module Leader: Joe Horton

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: B

Shared: MPhil Stud

Assessment: Essay 4,000 words

This module provides students with an opportunity for deep engagement with recent work in moral philosophy. We cover five topics across the ten classes, with two classes on each topic. These topics are likely to include:

Moral Aggregation

Is there any number of people you should save from a large burden, such as paralysis, rather than saving one person from a very large burden, such as death? Is there any number of people you should save from a small burden, such as a migraine, rather than saving one person from a very large burden, such as death? Many people answer these questions ‘yes’ and ‘no’, respectively. Can this position be defended?

> Indicative Reading: Alex Voorhoeve, ‘How Should We Aggregate Competing Claims?’, Ethics 125 (2014): 64–87

Collective Harm

Many of our choices collectively inflict grave harms on humans, animals, and the environment. Think of buying clothes from sweatshops, eating meat, or driving gas-guzzling cars. However, when considered individually, these choices seem to make extremely little difference to anyone, and they might even make no difference at all. This makes it difficult to explain why we ought not to make these choices. Is there a plausible explanation?

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

Moral Uncertainty

You have a slight preference for the burger, but the salad also sounds nice. You stare hard into the distance, wondering whether the vegetarians are right. You cannot decide—it seems just as likely that they are right as that they are wrong. What should you do?

You give up on assessing vegetarianism and reason as follows: If the vegetarians are wrong, it is slightly better for you to choose the burger, for that is what you prefer. If they are right, it is much better for you to choose the salad, for choosing the burger would be morally very bad. So, taking both prudential and moral considerations into account, the expected value of the salad is greater than that of the burger. So, you should choose the salad.

Your reasoning seems plausible. But it assumes that what you should do is sensitive to your moral uncertainty—to your levels of confidence in competing moral theories. Is this assumption correct? What are its consequences?

> Indicative Reading: William MacAskill and Toby Ord, 'Why Maximize Expected Choice-Worthiness?', Noûs 54 (2020): 327–353

PHIL0178 Research Seminar in Realism and Antirealism

Module Leader: José Zalabardo

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: A

Shared: MPhil Stud

Assessment: One essay (4,500 words)

General subject matter of the seminar

In very general terms, the realism/antirealism debate concerns the status of the following thought:

(A) How things stand in the world is, in many respects, independent of us, and yet

(B) we can gain cognitive access to how things stand in the world; that is,

(B1) we can represent things in thought and language as being a certain way, which may or

may not coincide with how things are

and

(B2) some of these representations can achieve the status of knowledge—we can know that things are as we represent them as being.

The debate arises from a perceived tension between A and B—from arguments to the effect that representation or knowledge are only possible if the independence of the world is abandoned or qualified. Antirealists invoke these arguments to support positions on which reality is somehow dependent on us. Realists maintain that these arguments fail to undermine the independence of the world.

These debates have adopted a wide variety of shapes. The general goal of this seminar is to study specific manifestations of the issue.

The 2021-22 Edition. The Primacy of Practice

This year the seminar will be based on a book draft I’m working on, provisionally entitled the Primacy of Practice. We will discuss chapters of the draft as well as related readings by other authors.

Assessment

MA: 4000-word essay

MPhilStud: 4,500-word essay

Essay topics to be agreed with tutor

SOME BACKGROUND READING

Blackburn, Simon. 1980. "Truth, Realism, and the Regulation of Theory". In Midwest Studies in Philosophy, Vol. V, Studies in Epistemology, edited by P. French, T. Uehling, Jr. and H. K. Wettstein. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Dennett, Daniel C. 1987. "True Believers". In The Intentional Stance. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Dreier, James. 2004. "Meta-Ethics and the Problem of Creeping Minimalism". Philosophical Perspectives 18:23-44.

Jackson, Frank. 1998. From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defense of Conceptual Analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lewis, David. 2009. "Ramseyan humility". In Conceptual Analysis and Philosophical Naturalism, edited by D. Braddon-Mitchell and R. Nola. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Macarthur, David, and Huw Price. 2007. "Pragmatism, Quasi-realism, and the Global Challenge". In New Pragmatists, edited by C. Misak. Oxford: Clarendon.

Price, Huw. 2011. "Naturalism and the Fate of the M-Worlds". In Naturalism Without Mirrors. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Quine, Willard Van Orman. 1960. Word and Object. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, Chapter 2.

I have discussed some of the ideas that I develop in the book in some published articles, including:

"Belief, Desire and the Prediction of Behaviour", Philosophical Issues 29 (2019), pp. 295-310.
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/phis.12155

"The Primacy of Practice". Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 86 (2019), pp. 181-99.
https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/royal-institute-of-philosophy-supplements/article/abs/primacy-of-practice/E388DE2CD07C8AD04257B909A1FC0C60
"Empiricist Pragmatism", Philosophical Issues 26 (2016), pp. 441-61.

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/phis.12071

PHIL0180 Carnap

Module Leader: Tim Button

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: C

Shared: MPhil Stud

Assessment: 100% Coursework (4000 words)

Description: Rudolf Carnap was one of the most celebrated representatives of logical empiricism. This course focuses on his early work — in particular, his Der logische Aufbau der Welt (the Logical Structure of the World) — with the aim of understanding Carnap's empiricism in its historical context. Alongside the Aufbau, we will read parts of Carnap's doctoral dissertation Raum (Space) and Der Logische Syntax der Sprache (the Logical Syntax of Language).

The course has no specific prerequisites, and all texts will be read in English! However, be aware that Carnap frequently uses formal tools, and I will presume that all those enrolled on the course are familiar with the use of first-order logic as a device for formalization.

PHIL0184 Philosophy of Arithmetic and Incompleteness

Module Leader: Tim Button

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: A

Shared: BA and MPhil Stud

Assessment: 5 problem sets (10% each) and essay 3,000 (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.