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  • Writer's pictureEmma

Year 3 Michaelmas Modules

Let's take some time to celebrate the hard work of Lancaster University’s philosophy lecturers and draw our attention to the merits of the philosophy modules that ran throughout this term! While it is worth noting that the modules offered each year vary, I hope that this information is helpful (even in some small way) to any future third-year students choosing their modules! I have also included links to YouTube videos that provide engaging introductions to some of the questions and concepts you might consider in each module.

Please refer to the module handbook, provided by the PPR department, for an official, up-to-date and comprehensive source of information. All module descriptions included in this post were taken from the 2022/2023 PPR Part II module handbook.

In Michaelmas Term 2022, there were 6 philosophy modules available: PPR.301 Philosophy of Art; PPR.304 Darwinism and Philosophy; PPR.305 Logic and Language; PPR.320 Political Ideas: Liberal Thought; PPR.391h Philosophies of War and Conflict; PPR.392c The Ethics and Politics of Communication. Special mention goes to Dr Sarah Hitchen for running both PPR.301 and PPR.391h!

PPR.301 Philosophy of Art

Dr Sarah Hitchen

This module introduces central issues, problems and theories in philosophical aesthetics by critically examining a number of central topics including: the nature of aesthetic experience; the objectivity of aesthetic judgement; emotional responses to fiction; the moral and cognitive value of art; the aesthetic value of nature. In addition to central philosophical discussions, various findings from empirical psychology and neuroscience will also be used. Although examples from all of the arts will be employed throughout the course, the emphasis will be on the wider issues just listed, and not exclusively focused on art. That is, aesthetics will be explored as an important area of the philosophy of value in general.

40% coursework (1 × 3000-word essay) and 60% exam (2 hours)

Voters reported that PPR.301 was first and foremost an interesting module, as well as challenging and fun / enjoyable! Voters would recommend the module based on your philosophical preferences – if you’re interested in the more abstract philosophical questions, this module might very well be for you!

PPR.304 Darwinism and Philosophy

Dr Brian Garvey The module will look at philosophical issues that arise out of Darwin’s theory of evolution. These include questions about how best to understand the theory of evolution, and questions about what evolution implies for our view of the world, and in particular of ourselves. The course breaks down into three broad areas:

  1. Different ways to understand the theory of evolution, e.g., Is evolution, as some would have us believe, all about genes? Is natural selection the only important factor in evolution?

  2. Conceptual issues relating to biology, e.g., How do we define ‘function’? Is there one right way to classify living things

  3. Implications of Darwinism for understanding human nature, e.g., Does the fact that we have evolved affect how we should see human nature? Why are evolutionary theories of human nature so controversial? Does Darwinism have any implications for moral questions?

40% coursework (1 × 3000-word essay) and 60% exam (2 hours)

100% of voters said that this module was challenging and interesting! Voters indicated that this module was fairly accessible, but could be quite technical, likely due to its scientific content. If you’re interested in science, especially biology, you’re likely to love this module! Half of all voters said they would ‘absolutely’ recommend it!

PPR.305 Logic and Language

Dr Nick Unwin

The module provides an introduction to formal logic together with an examination of various philosophical issues that arise out of it. The syllabus includes a study of the languages of propositional and quantificational logic, how to formalize key logical concepts within them, and how to prove elementary results using formal techniques. Additional topics include identity, definite descriptions, modal logic and its philosophical significance, and some criticisms of classical logic.

40% coursework (1 × 3000-word essay) and 60% exam (2 hours)

100% of voters said that this module was challenging and interesting. These voters would all recommend choosing this module if it aligns with your philosophical preferences. If you enjoyed the Critical Thinking section of PHIL100 in your first year, you’re likely to enjoy this module!

PPR.320 Political Ideas: Liberal Thought

Dr Patrick Bishop

This course examines central themes in the liberal branch of contemporary Anglo-American analytic political philosophy. The liberal positions on justice, liberty, equality, the state, power, rights and utility are all explored. The approach is philosophical rather than applied; its focus is on the ideas of liberal politics: how individual liberty can be maximised while not harming others; how an individual philosophical position can guide political determinants of a society and places the developments of liberal ideas in their appropriate historical contexts. The course also examines the connection between the ideas of liberalism and the idea of democracy to explore the philosophical tensions between the two and how these might be resolved. The course is a survey of major topics and concepts in Anglo-American liberal political ideas. The syllabus will include the following topics: questions about justice; visions of the state; negative and positive liberty; equality, utility and rights; toleration and multiculturalism; neutrality and the market.

40% coursework (1 × 3000-word essay) and 60% exam (2 hours)

This module was said by 100% of voters to be both accessible and interesting, yet it was recommended that politics students are more likely to enjoy the module than pure philosophy students. Dr Bishop was also highly commended.

PPR.391h Philosophies of War and Conflict

Dr Sarah Hitchen

This course will examine some of the core philosophical questions raised by warfare and conflict. We will look at the ethics of war and killing, but also at more neglected philosophical issues in this area, and non-Western approaches as well as classic texts in the Western tradition. We will do so by examining some of the central dilemmas faced by soldiers, policy makers and non-combatants, in the form of a weekly question for discussion. These questions include: Can war be beautiful? When, if ever, should we go to war? What counts as legitimate action in war? What, if anything, do we owe to our enemies? Is soldiering a good life? What does technological development mean for warfare? What should a responsible citizen do when their country is, or looks about to be, at war? Who has the epistemic authority to speak about war? Is war always tragic?

100% coursework (1 × 5000-word essay)

Teaching method: One seminar (two hours) weekly

Almost every single voter found this module interesting, and the vast majority of voters found it challenging! This module received the greatest proportion of ‘excellent’s!

PPR.392c The Ethics and Politics of Communication

Dr Neil Manson

This module critically explores a range of key topics in the ethics and politics of communication. In the first half of the course, we begin with an introduction to some basic concepts in linguistics and philosophy of language – especially to do with the practical side of communication. We then focus on (a) how certain kinds of communication can bring about ethical change (e.g. making something permissible); (b) upon whether lying and other kinds of deception are permissible, and if so, when. In the second half we turn to some broadly political issues: whether political lying is justified in a way that everyday lying is not. We consider three domains where freedom of communication is both important and contentious: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom on social media, including the challenges posed by “content moderation”.

100% coursework (1 × 5000-word essay)

100% of voters said that this module was challenging, fun / enjoyable and interesting. Not only that but 100% of voters would ‘absolutely’ recommend PPR.392c to anyone choosing their modules.


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