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Study information

Philosophical Problems 1

Module titlePhilosophical Problems 1
Module codePHL1004
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Adrian Currie (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module will introduce you to the kind of philosophical thinking that is involved in solving, or at least addressing, concrete philosophical problems. Each lecture will focus on such a problem, which will take the form of a concrete real-world example. Throughout the module, and through the lens of these examples, we will cover many of the core areas of philosophy. What sets this module apart from other general introductions to philosophy is its focus on concrete problematic examples. These examples themselves will guide your thinking and discussion, rather than what some famous philosopher happened to say. There is no prior knowledge or experience required, and there are no pre-requisite or co-requisite modules.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aims of this module are both general and specific. The general aims are to introduce you to a way of approaching concrete problems with both clarity of thought and methodological sophistication. However, it will also introduce you to the fundamental nature and underlying motivations behind core areas and debates in philosophy. Too often students are told to read the two sides of a debate in philosophy without being first given an appreciation of why the debates in question are taking place. In stark contrast, this module situates, grounds and motivates key debates in philosophy, so that you will understand why so much ink has been spilled on certain (often seemingly trivial or obscure) issues.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate familiarity with some of the canonical problematic examples and dilemmas of philosophy.
  • 2. Demonstrate understanding of what is problematic in these examples, and how a philosopher can respond to them with clarity and sophistication.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Illustrate a variety of philosophical positions on a specific topic.
  • 4. Critically evaluate, orally and in writing, a variety of philosophical positions

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Engage in complex arguments verbally and in small groups.
  • 6. Analyse, critically engage with, and report accurately upon, existing written material while articulating it within a structured and cogent argument.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will address some or all of the following questions through the medium of concrete examples and dilemmas:

  • What is the nature of being?
  • What is the nature of personal identity?
  • What is the nature of meaning and language?
  • What does it mean to know things?
  • How do we ascertain what is right or wrong?
  • What is the relationship between moral responsibility and autonomy?
  • What is the nature of consciousness?
  • What is freedom?
  • What is equality?
  • Is there a relationship between beauty and moral goodness?

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesScheduled Learning and Teaching Activities 2211 x 2 hours per week comprising of lectures and seminars
Guided Independent Study 44 Preparation for lectures and tutorials
Guided Independent Study 84Preparation for presentation and examination

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual presentation 10 min1-6Verbal and written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Examination1001.5 hours1-6Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
ExaminationExamination (1.5 hours)1-6August/September reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

Russell, B. (1912/1997) The Problems of Philosophy (Oxford University Press revised second edition)

Nagel, Thomas (1987). What does it all mean?: a very short introduction to philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Hurka, T. (2011). The Best Things in Life: A Guide to What Really Matters. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bramble, Ben and Bob Fisher, (2015), The Moral Complexity of Eating Meat, New York: Oxford University Press.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources


Key words search

Philosophical Problems; Problems; Dilemmas; Applied Philosophy

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date