Module Details

The information contained in this module specification was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change, either during the session because of unforeseen circumstances, or following review of the module at the end of the session. Queries about the module should be directed to the member of staff with responsibility for the module.
Code PHIL103
Coordinator Dr V Simoniti
Year CATS Level Semester CATS Value
Session 2023-24 Level 4 FHEQ First Semester 15


To introduce students to philosophical problems and debated in contemporary philosophy of mind, metaphysics and epistemology by introducing them in their historical context, with a particular focus on the systems of early modern philosophers.

Learning Outcomes

(LO1) Students will be able to distinguish between sound and unsound arguments.

(LO2) Students will be able to build a case for a specific metaphysical position, by weighing theoretical virtues, such as Occam's razor, and metaphysical principles, such as the conceivability principle and the principle of sufficient reason.

(LO3) Students will be able to prepare an argument for presentation in a piece of long-form writing, with a clear understanding of argumentative structure and the use of citations for support.

(LO4) Students will be able to explain philosophical systems, including those of Descartes and Locke, in their historical and intellectual context.

(LO5) Students will be able explain the basic issues, and the standard views, pertaining to Descartes’ essentialism, Locke’s account of the self, and the contemporary philosophy of mind.

(LO6) Students will be able to able to argue for a specific view pertaining to key issues in contemporary metaphysics: e.g. God, personal identity, consciousness, free will, causation, time.

(LO7) Students will be able to discuss reality in the partially abstract manner distinctive of metaphysical thought.

(S1) Students will develop their critical thinking and skills in relation to critical analysis of problems.

(S2) Students will develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills in relation to assessing arguments.

(S3) Students will enhance their ability to identify the issues that underlie debates.

(S4) Students will develop confidence in considering previously unfamiliar ideas and approaches, and their ability to identify presuppositions and to reflect critically upon them.

(S5) Students will enhance their ability to marshal arguments and present them orally and in writing.

(S6) Students will develop the ability to perform bibliographical searches, to include (to professional standard) citations and bibliographies in their work and to plan, organise and produce presentations and essays.

(S7) Students will enhance their oral and written communications skills and develop skill in explaining complex material in a precise manner.

(S8) Students will develop their ability to work independently.

(S9) Students will develop their ability to sift through information, assessing the relevance and importance of the information to what is at issue.

(S10) Students will develop their skills in making appropriate use of information technology, information on the World Wide Web and reference works and databases relevant to the discipline.



This module is a historical overview of a vast and complex discipline, and as such is unavoidably incomplete. The goal is to introduce students to the landscape of contemporary philosophy of mind, metaphysics and epistemology through close study of the key texts in early modern philosophy in which today's problems and debates are rooted. Key philosophers, in this period, whose texts may be studies are: René Descartes (1596–1650); Baruch Spinoza (1632 –1677); John Locke (b. 1632, d. 1704); Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz; George Berkeley (1685 –1753); David Hume (1711–1776). Key topics, aa selection of which will be covered are: Scepticism, Cartesian Dualism, Rationalism; Empiricism; Causation; Personal Identity; the Problem of Induction; Idealism; Realism; Physicalism.

A typical outline syllabus might be as follows:

Unit 1: Descartes' Meditations

• Method of Doubt
• Cogito
• Doctrine of I deas
• Dualism

Unit 2: Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding

• Empiricism
• Personal Identity

Unit 3: Hume, Treatise of Human Nature

• Problem of induction
• Personal identity
• Anti-Metaphysical turn

Teaching and Learning Strategies

Teaching Method 1 - Lecture
Description: Lectures are tutor-led activities, offering a map of the syllabus and a framework for independent enquiry-led research. Students are encouraged to engage actively with lectures through, for example: (i) taking opportunities to ask questions during the session; (ii) reflecting on and responding to questions posed to them; (iii) producing questions and notes on issues for subsequent group discussion in seminars.

22 x 1 hour lectures, 2 per week.
Attendance Recorded: Yes
Notes: The higher lecture hours are in keeping with principles of scaffolded learning, with greater tutor input at Level 4.

Teaching Method 2 - Seminar
Description: Seminars are formative spaces of applied and enquiry-led learning based on pre-set readings and facilitated by the tutor. Seminars thus offer opportunities for students to respond to tutor- and peer-set questions, deepen understanding, apply ideas, develop arguments and build confidence th rough group discussion. Seminars alternate between close reading of set texts and discursive feedback on ongoing assessment.

11 x 1 hour seminars.
Attendance Recorded: Yes

Delivery model will be FTF on campus.

Teaching Schedule

  Lectures Seminars Tutorials Lab Practicals Fieldwork Placement Other TOTAL
Study Hours 22


Timetable (if known)              
Private Study 117


EXAM Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
CONTINUOUS Duration Timing
% of
Penalty for late
Essay There is a resit opportunity. Standard UoL penalty applies for late submission. This is an anonymous assessment.    75       
5 short pieces of writing, alternating weeks during teaching term. This is not an anonymous assessment. Reassessment opportunity - Yes.    25       

Recommended Texts

Reading lists are managed at Click here to access the reading lists for this module.