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MPhil Stud Modules

UCL Philosophy Department modules information for current MPhil Stud students.

Below is the list of modules running in the 2020/21 academic year - click on the title to see more information including a module description and sample / provisional syllabus. Module leader email addresses can be found via the staff pages:

For locations please use the UCL common timetable which will be updated early September.

Term 1

PHIL0025 Logic and its Limits

Module Leader: Lavinia Picollo

Level: 7

Term: 1

Area: A

Shared: BA & MA

Assessment: Coursework, 4 Problem Sets (25% each)

Day / Time: Thursday 2-4pm

Estimated size: 30

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, sequent calculi, soundness and completeness results, and, time permitting, incompleteness and non-standard models of arithmetic. 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 & MA

Assessment: One essay (4500 words)

Day / Time: Wednesday 10-12noon

Estimated size: 30

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.

PHIL0042 Adorno: Art and Politics

Module Leader: Tom Stern

Level: 7

Term: 1

Area: C

Shared: BA & MA

Assessment: One essay (4500 words)

Day / Time: Thursday 12-2pm

Estimated size: 45

Description: The course will provide a detailed overview of the philosopher T W Adorno’s views on art, politics and the relationship between the two. We will study certain key primary texts as well as some of the important secondary literature. The main texts for the course will be Adorno’s Minima Moralia and Adorno and Horkheimer’s The Dialectic of Enlightenment. In addition to these primary texts, Brian O’Connor’s Adorno (Routledge) provides a good introduction to Adorno’s thought.

 

PHIL0067 Free Speech and Theories of Autonomy

Module Leader: Robert Simpson

Level: 7

Term: 1

Area: B

Shared: BA & MA

Assessment: One essay (4500 words)

Day / Time: Thursday 10-12noon

Estimated size: 45

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).

 

PHIL0077 Equality

Module Leader: Han van Wietmarschen

Level: 7

Term: 1

Area: B

Shared: BA & MA

Assessment: One essay (4500 words)

Day / Time: Friday 2-4pm

Estimated size: 45

Description: This module is about equality, considered from a moral, social, and political perspective. We will focus primarily on equal and unequal (or hierarchical) social relationships. Our first set of questions will be broadly theoretical: what is it for people to relate to one another as equals, what is it for them to relate to each other in hierarchical ways? What distinguishes paradigmatically egalitarian social relationships--between friends, for example, or between democratic citizens--from hierarchical social relationships such as those between persons of different ranks in the military, members of different castes, or members of different social classes? Second, we will look at broadly evaluative questions: why do we care about our social standing? Why do we feel insulted when mistaken for a person of lower standing, and pride when we rise on social ladders? Are such feelings justified? Third, we will look at the normative evaluation of egalitarian and hierarchical social relationships. Should we relate to one another as equals? Does a just society promote or secure the equal social standing if its members?

Each week, there will be a reading from philosophy, as well as a reading from one of a range of academic disciplines including history, sociology, psychology, anthropology, and law.

There will be a weekly 2-hour seminar for all enrolled students. 

The module is primarily aimed at students from philosophy BA, MA, and MPhil programmes, but students from other programmes are also welcome.

The module is assessed by essay.

PHIL0079 Advanced Topics on Moral Philosophy

Module Leader: Ulrike Heuer

Level: 7

Term: 1

Area: B

Shared: BA & MA

Assessment: One essay (4500 words)

Day / Time: Tuesday 3-5pm

Estimated size: 30

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.

PHIL0091 Practical Criticism 1

Module Leader: José Zalabardo

Level: 7

Term: 1

Area: N/A

Shared: MPhil Stud 1st Yrs Only

Assessment: Attendance and participation / commentaries

Day / Time: Wednesday 1-3pm

Estimated size: 20

Description: This module is designed to train postgraduate students in the close readings of philosophical texts. One text will be chosen for the whole term and will be read in close detail. Students will write commentaries on the text every week. Texts can be either contemporary or historical and can vary year by year. Texts for Practical Criticism 1 will be theoretical in nature (i.e. on metaphysics, or epistemology, philosophy of mind or language, philosophy of logic, science or mathematics etc.

PHIL0092 Recent Philosophical Writings 1

Module Leader: Robert Simpson

Level: 7

Term: 1

Area: N/A

Shared: MPhil Stud & PhD

Assessment: Presentations, attendance and participation

Day / Time: Wednesday 5-7pm (fortnightly)

Estimated size: 35

Description: This module is designed to familiarize the student with recent research in philosophy in a diverse range of areas. Recent journal articles are discussed in a seminar led by student presentations. Each student on the course will be required to make a presentation at some point in the year.

 

PHIL0097 Graduate Studies in Kant

Module Leader: Sebastian Gardner

Level: 7

Term: 1

Area: C

Shared: MA

Assessment: One essay (4500 words)

Day / Time: Friday 10-12noon

Estimated size: 15

Description: The course aims to provide graduate Philosophy students with a detailed and thorough understanding of central concepts and issues in the philosophy of Kant. Students will be assumed to have prior familiarity with Kant's philosophy, and will be required to study key selected sections from Kant's writings, including the three Critiques, and to engage with the contemporary anglophone Kant literature. Special attention will be paid to the historical context of Kant's philosophical project, to the inter-relations between the different parts of Kant's philosophical system, and to the relation of Kant to contemporary philosophical developments. Syllabus varies by year.

 

PHIL0115 Changing Beliefs

Module Leader: Nilanjan Das

Level: 7

Term: 1

Area: A

Shared: MA

Assessment: 80% Essay (3,000 words), 20% Problem sets

Day / Time: Monday 3-5pm

Estimated size: 15

Description: This course will discuss a basic problem in epistemology: how should we change our beliefs in light of new evidence? We will lok at this question from both a philosophical and logical perspective: examining a variety of theories to account for belief change. Our main focus will be Harmans belief Change in Belief, the logical account of belief change known as AGM, as well as probabilistic theories of belief revision.

PHIL0162 The Self in Classical Indian Philosophy

Module Leader: Nilanjan Das

Level: 7

Term: 1

Area: C

Shared: BA & MA

Assessment: 80% Essay (2,500 Words); 10% 5 Short Writing Assignments (300 words each); 10% Attendance and Participation

Day / Time: Tuesday 10-12noon

Estimated size: 45

Description: In this course, we will consider debates about the nature of the self in classical Indian philosophy. We will look at two Buddhist theories of the self: reductionism and anti-realism. We will then examine some arguments that the non-Buddhists---especially, the Nyāya philosophers---gave against these theories. Along the way, we will also discuss some of the questions that these debates raise in epistemology and ethics: for example, whether our memories give us any reason to believe in an enduring self, and whether denying the existence of the self can help us justify altruism.

 

PHIL0167 Perception and its History

Module Leader: Mark Kalderon

Level: 7

Term: 1

Area: A

Shared: MA

Assessment: One essay (4500 words)

Day / Time: Tuesday 1-3pm

Estimated size: 20

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.

PHIL0182 Metametaphysics

Module Leader: Tim Button

Level: 7

Term: 1

Area: A

Shared: BA & MA

Assessment: One essay (4500 words)

Day / Time: Friday 12-2pm

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: 7

Term: 1

Area: C

Shared: BA & MA

Assessment: One essay (4500 words)

Day / Time: Monday 12-2pm

Estimated size: 30

Description: This course will focus on a particular, historically important theme that is developed across Plato’s philosophy. While it may draw on his predecessors and shed light on the ways Plato influenced his successors, the class will evaluate Plato’s contributions to the history of philosophy. Themes discussed may include: the place of virtue in the happy human life, Forms and particulars in Plato’s metaphysics or Plato’s theory of knowledge.

 

Term 2

PHIL0044 Aristotle’s Moral Psychology

Module Leader: Fiona Leigh & Elena Cagnoli Fiecconi (Greek & Latin)

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: C

Shared: BA & MA

Assessment: One essay (4500 words)

Day / Time: Tuesday 2-4pm

Estimated size: 45

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 the role of contemplation in the good life. The central primary texts will be de Anima and the Nicomachean Ethics, although other texts will be consulted.  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:

Week 1

Introduction – 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

Week 2

Eudaimonia & Function

Primary Text: Nicomachean Ethics, book I (especially chapters 1-5, 7-9, 13)

Week 3

The Soul & Cognition

Primary Text: de Anima, books I-III (especially I.1, I.4, II.1-6, II.11-12, III.1-3), and de Motu Animalium, 6-11

Week 4

Phantasia & Emotion

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

Week 5

Habituation, Pleasure & Cognition

Primary Text: Nicomachean Ethics, I.13, II.1-3, (II.4-9: optional), X.9

Week 6

Habituation & Action

Primary Text: Nicomachean Ethics, II.4 (in detail)

Week 7

The Doctrine of the Mean

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

Week 8

The Mean Relative to Us

Primary Text: (as for last week:) Nicomachean Ethics, books II-III (esp. II.1-9, III.5-12), and VI.1-2, 5-6 (optional)

Week 9

Virtue and Akrasia (weakness of the will)

Primary Text: Nicomachean Ethics, VII.1-10

Week 10

Two kinds of flourishing?

Primary Text: Nicomachean Ethics, book X (especially X.6-8)

PHIL0046 Advanced Philosophy of Mind

Module Leader: Lucy O'Brien

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: A

Shared: BA & MA

Assessment: One essay (4500 words)

Day / Time: Monday 11-1pm

Estimated size: 30

Description: This module will focus on philosophy of emotion. We will critically examine the leading theories of emotion found in contemporary philosophy of mind. According to "feeling" theories, emotions are a distinctive kind of felt sensation. According to "judgment" theories, they are a kind of evaluative belief. According "perceptualist" theories, emotions are a kind of perception, akin to visual experience. According to "non-reductivist" theories, the emotions cannot fruitfully be understood in terms of other pre-existing categories in the philosophy of mind, but must be understood in their own right. To what extent can each of these the capture the nature of emotions and the role they play in our mental lives? We will also discuss further issues: do the emotions form a natural kind? What representational content do emotions have? How do emotions relate to values? How do they relate to the body?

Background reading: Deonna & Teroni (2012) The Emotions: A Philosophical Introduction

 

PHIL0052 Regulation of Intimacy

Module Leader: Véronique Munoz-Dardé

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: B

Shared: BA & MA

Assessment: One essay (4500 words)

Day / Time: Thursday 9-11am

Estimated size: 45

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 & MA

Assessment: One essay (4500 words)

Day / Time: Friday 10-12noon

Estimated size: 20

Description: The course focuses on central issues in the writings of the German Idealists – Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel – with special attention to the ways in which they develop and transform Kant's philosophy. Topics covered include the theory of the self, transcendental and absolute idealism, philosophy of nature, philosophy of art, intersubjectivity, and Hegel's dialectic.

 

PHIL0068 Metaethics

Module Leader: TBC

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: A

Shared: BA & MA

Assessment: One essay (4500 words)

Day / Time: Thursday 11-1pm

Estimated size: 30

Description: This module will introduce you to contemporary metaethics, a discipline which asks philosophical questions about ethics. The four questions at the centre of the course are: (i) are there truths about ethics – about what is good, bad, right, wrong, and so on? (ii) are these truths objective? (iii) are these truths part of the natural world, and (iv) how does our ethical thought and language work? You will investigate these questions by learning about the major theories defended in contemporary metaethics, and as part of this you will learn about various specific problems and questions investigated by contemporary philosophers in this area.

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:

• The five theories we will discuss are:

o Moral naturalism: the view that there are ethical truths, they are objective, and part of the natural world.

o Moral non-naturalism: the view that there are ethical truths, they are objective, but that they are not part of the natural world.

o Constructivism: the view that there are ethical truths, but that they are not objective.

o Error theory: the view that there are no ethical truths.

o Expressivism: the view that ethical language and thought is not best understood as trying to represent ethical truths.

• Some of the problems and questions we will investigate include:

o The nature of ethical properties and facts, and their place in the world

o The link between ethical judgements and motivational states like desires and intentions

o The nature of our knowledge of ethical properties and facts: can we know about such things? How? Is it problematic to learn about ethical truths on the basis of what others tell us?

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.

 

PHIL0086 Reasons and Normativity

Module Leader: Ulrike Heuer

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: B

Shared: MA

Assessment: One essay (4500 words)

Day / Time: Monday 4-6pm

Estimated size: 20

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.

 

PHIL0090 Topics in Ancient

Module Leader: Sarah Broadie

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: C

Shared: MA

Assessment: One essay (4500 words)

Day / Time: Monday 2-4pm

Estimated size: 20

Description: This course will discuss a topic of philosophical significance in the field of ancient philosophy, as presented by the Keeling Scholar in Ancient Philosophy, in their first year of tenure. The course may focus on a particular text, such as a Platonic dialogue, an Aristotelian treatise, or a set of thematically unified fragments from a Pre-Socratic philosopher or Hellenistic philosopher or school. Alternatively, it may discuss a topic or interconnected set of issues that is treated over a number of ancient texts, such as for example `self-knowledge in classical philosophical thought', or `the relation between form, universal and essence in Aristotle', or `virtue ethics in Plato's middle and late dialogues'.

 

PHIL0098 Practical Criticism 2

Module Leader: Nilanjan Das

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: N/A

Shared: MPhil Stud 1st Yrs Only

Assessment: Attendance and participation / commentaries

Day / Time: Wednesday 1-3pm

Estimated size: 20

Description: This module is designed to continue to train postgraduate students in the close readings of philosophical texts. One text will be chosen for the whole term and will be read in close detail. Students will write commentaries on the text every week. Texts can be either contemporary or historical and can vary year by year. Texts for Practical Criticism 2 will be normative in nature (i.e. on ethics, or political philosophy, value theory generally etc.)

 

PHIL0119 Recent Philosophical Writings 2

Module Leader: TBC

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: N/A

Shared: MPhil Stud and PhD

Assessment: Presentations, attendance and participation

Day / Time: Wednesday 5-7pm (fortnightly)

Estimated size: 30

Description: Second year of module designed to familiarize MPhil students with recent research in philosophy in a diverse range of areas. Recent journal articles are discussed in a seminar led by student presentations. Each student on the module will be required to make a presentation at some point in the year.

 

PHIL0160 Philosophy of Space and Time

Module Leader: Luke Fenton-Glynn

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: A

Shared: BA & MA

Assessment: One essay (4500 words)

Day / Time: Tuesday 10-12noon

Estimated size: 30

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)

PHIL0165 Philosophy and Ethics of Climate Change

Module Leader: James Wilson

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: B

Shared: BA & MA

Assessment: One essay (4500 words)

Day / Time: Thursday 1-3pm

Estimated size: 45

Description: Climate change not only raises extremely important practical challenges, but a host of deep ethical and epistemic questions. The ethical questions you will study include the proper scope of moral concern (human centred versus biocentric views); justice in carbon emissions; individual responsibilities to mitigate climate change; what we owe to future generations; and the permissibility of geoengineering. You will also examine a range of epistemic questions about the nature and status of evidence for climate change, including the epistemic status of climate change models, and which types of climate change scepticism are reasonable.

Core skills focused on are those of philosophical reasoning and argumentation. Texts discussed will include not just philosophy, but also a variety of scientific, policy, and economic perspectives. The module would be suitable for non-philosophy students with an existing interest or expertise in climate change, but such students may find it hard going at times.

Teaching delivery

The module is taught by one two-hour seminar each week, with an additional bi-weekly one hour seminar for undergraduates. The weekly two-hour seminar will involve a mixture of presentation by the module leader, and group discussion. Some core readings will be set for each week, and it is expected that you read these before the seminar.

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

• Demonstrate critical awareness of a range of ethical and philosophical questions raised by climate change.

• Synthesise a range of empirical materials in climate science, and combine these with philosophical theories, to provide a reasoned analysis of what should be done in a range of cases.

• Reason cogently about a range of possible responses to some practical problems caused by climate change.      

PHIL0174 Responsibility and Agency

Module Leader: John Hyman

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: B

Shared: MA

Assessment: One essay (4500 words)

Day / Time: Tuesday 4-6pm

Estimated size: 20

Description: We shall study a wide range of research relevant to philosophical debates about determinism, responsibility and free will, including research in legal theory concerning the relationships between responsibility, liability and culpability, and research in the philosophy of action concerning the physical, psychological, ethical and intellectual dimensions of human agency.

PHIL0177 Recent Work in Moral Philosophy

Module Leader: Joe Horton

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: B

Shared: MA

Assessment: One essay (4500 words)

Day / Time: Friday 12-2pm

Estimated size: 15

Description: 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 moderately 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 very small burden, such as a headache, 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

Normative 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 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 normative uncertainty—to your levels of confidence in competing normative theories. Is this assumption correct? What are its consequences?

Indicative Reading: Jacob Ross, ‘Rejecting Ethical Deflationism’, Ethics 116 (2006): 742–768

PHIL0184 Philosophy of Arithmetic and Incompleteness

Module Leader: Tim Button

Level: 7

Term: 2

Area: A

Shared: BA & MA

Assessment: 5 problem sets (10% each) and essay 3000 (50%)

Day / Time: Wednesday 11-1pm

Estimated size: 30

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.

Term 3

PHIL0103 Research Seminar in Philosophy of Mind

Module Leader: Douglas Lavin

Level: 7

Term: 3

Area: A

Shared: MPhil Stud 1st Yrs Only

Assessment: Essay 4500 words

Day / Time: TBC

Estimated size: 105

Description: This module is a research seminar in the philosophy of mind. The module teacher will present some of their recent research. Subject matter can vary year by year, but might include: mental states and events, mental actions, the mind-body problem, consciousness, intentionality, mental causation etc.

 

PHIL0116 Profound Impairment

Module Leader: Sarah Richmond & John Vorhaus

Level: 7

Term: 3

Area: B

Shared: MPhil Stud 1st Yrs Only

Assessment: Essay 4500 words

Day / Time: TBC

Estimated size: 10

Description: This course will explore a series of questions in moral and political philosophy that apply to persons characterized by profound impairments, including people suffering from advanced dementia and people with profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.  Profound impairment raises a series of questions about the content and application of a set of moral and political concepts, including human dignity, respect for persons, personhood, capabilities, dependency, citizenship, rights, caring relationships and moral status. This last includes questions about the status of persons whose capacities and levels of functioning are broadly equivalent to or less extensive than those of other higher primates. Topics to be covered include some (but not necessarily all) of the following: Human dignity; Personhood; Respect for persons; Dependency; Capability and functioning; Citizenship; Rights; Caring relationships; Moral status; Autonomy; Disability (the social and medical models); Wittgensteinian ethics.

The following readings will give students an idea of the sort of literature we will be discussing on the course.

The online Stanford entry on “Cognitive Disability and Moral Status” .

These anthologies:

(Eds) Brownlee and Cureton (2009), Disability & Disadvantage (OUP: Oxford)

(Eds) Kittay and Carlson (2010), Cognitive Disability and Its Challenge to Philosophy (Wiley-Blackwell: Oxford)

(Eds) Francis and Silvers (2000), Americans with Disabilities (Routledge: New York)

PHIL0180 Carnap

Module Leader: Tim Button

Level: 7

Term: 3

Area: C

Shared: MPhil Stud 1st Yrs Only

Assessment: 40% Coursework (2,000 words)

60% Coursework (2,500 words)

Day / Time: TBC

Estimated size: 10

Description: Many contemporary philosophers call themselves (neo-)Carnapians. But what were Rudolf Carnap’s own views? This course aims to understand Carnap’s evolving empiricism, in its historical context, with a particular focus on Carnap's Aufbau (the Logical Structure of the World) and his methodological solipsism, which amounts to using "the form and method of solipsism", but refraining from accepting "its central thesis". We are likely also to read parts of his doctoral dissertation Der Raum (Space), his Scheinprobleme (Pseudo-problems in Philosophy), and his Der Logische Syntax der Sprache (the Logical Syntax of Language), alongside secondary texts.

The course will be based entirely around weekly 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, and all texts will be read in English! However, be aware that Carnap frequently uses formal tools — he was an early adopter of Russell's logic — so you will get much more out of the course if you are comfortable with the use of symbolic logic.

Note on areas: courses available to graduates are classified as falling into one of three broad philosophical areas

(A)     Theoretical (metaphysics, language, epistemology etc.)

(B)     Practical (in the Kantian sense; ethics, politics, aesthetics) and

(C)    Historical (ancient, continental, early modern, early analytic etc.)

MPhil Stud students are expected to take at least two courses from each of these three areas.