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Durham University

Faculty Handbook

Module Description

Please ensure you check the module availability box for each module outline, as not all modules will run each academic year.

Department: Philosophy


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2018/19 Module Cap Location Durham


  • One level-1 module in philosophy


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The aim of this module is to introduce students to metaphysical and epistemological issues raised by the sciences.


  • Metaphysical issues in science: Causation and explanation; laws of nature; space and time. Epistemological issues in science: the nature of 'evidence'; Popper on falsifiability and pseudo-science; Kuhn on 'normal science' and scientific revolutions; Lakatos, Laudan and Feyerabend on scientific method; Hacking on the nature of experiment and the theory-ladenness of observation; instrumentalism, underdetermination, and scientific realism.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of this module students will have knowledge and understanding of some basic metaphysical and epistemological questions concerning the natural and social sciences, key theories relating to those questions, and arguments for and against those theories.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module students will be able to:
  • correctly utilise specialist vocabulary;
  • grasp, analyse, evaluate and deploy subject-specific concepts and arguments;
  • locate, understand, assess and utilise pertinent philosophical and historical sources;
  • interpret and criticise relevant texts.
Key Skills:
  • By the end of the module students will be able to:
  • express themselves clearly and succinctly in writing;
  • comprehend complex ideas, propositions and theories;
  • defend their opinions by reasoned argument;
  • seek out and identify appropriate sources of evidence and information;
  • tackle problems in a clear-sighted and logical fashion.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Seminars deliver basic module-specific information, provide a framework for further study, and the opportunity for students to present their own work in progress, to test their understanding of the course material, and defend and debate different opinions on theories and questions presented in that material.
  • Guided reading provides a structure within which students exercise and extend their abilities to make use of available learning resources.
  • The formative essay provides the opportunity for students to test and extend their knowledge and understanding of the module content, and develops their ability to present and defend relevant arguments and theories using available learning resources, uninhibited by the need for summative assessment.
  • The summative essays test knowledge and understanding of the course material, and the ability to identify and explain philosophical questions raised by the natural sciences, and, using relevant research material, to present relevant philosophical theories and arguments that claim to answer those questions, and to make reasoned judgements on the merits and demerits of such theories.

Teaching Methods and Contact Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 22 weekly 2 hours 44
Preparation and Reading 156
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essays Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 3000 words 50%
Essay 2 3000 words 50%

Formative Assessment:

One 2000 word essay, due at the end of the Michaelmas Term.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University

If you have a query about a specific module or degree programme, please contact the appropriate department.

If you have a question about Durham's modular degree programmes, please visit our FAQ webpage.  If you have a question about modular programmes that is not covered by the FAQ, or a query about the on-line Faculty Handbook, please contact us using the Comments and Questions form below.