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Taught Masters Programme in the History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine

Programme Details

To download the HPSM Programme Handbook for 2015/16 please see below.


Components of the Programme

Current issues in medicine and science require both historical and philosophical analysis and understanding. This includes the critical assessment of scientific and medical problems in the context of cultural and social history as well as their epistemological and ethical analysis. Knowledge and understanding of the past enhances the students’ judgement of the present issues in science and medicine.

The Durham HPSM programme provides a unique opportunity for students of various backgrounds to acquire the necessary skills for this.

HPSM broadly combines historical and philosophical approaches to medicine and science within a coherent framework that aims at showing the relevance of using the humanities for a deeper understanding of past and present medical and scientific issues. This involves the study of selected areas of medicine and science from antiquity to the present. The breadth of approaches ranges from cultural and social history to analytical philosophy. The MA consists of the following compulsory and optional modules:

I. Core Modules

Core Module: Research Methods and Resources (PHIL 40230, 30 credits, core module)

This module is formally assessed via two essays and designed to introduce you to postgraduate essay composition, database proficiency and different methods used to understand the history and philosophy of science and medicine.

Core Module: Dissertation (PHIL40560 or HEAS 40660, 60 credits, core module)

Both modules are formally assessed by a dissertation written on a topic either in History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine (PHIL40560), or in History and Philosophy of Medicine (HEAS 40660) chosen by each student and supervised by a member of staff. You need to choose one of them.

II. Optional Modules

You have to choose one module from List A and one module from List B, plus one further module from either List A or List B.

List A (at least one module)

Optional Module: History of Medicine (HEAS 40030, 30 credits)

This module is formally assessed by one essay and overviews the history of medicine and its cultural placement.

Optional Module: Gender, “Sex”, Health and Politics (HEAS 40530, 30 credits)

This module is formally assessed by one formative assessed essay, one poster and one summative assessed essay.

Optional Module: Ethics, Medicine and History (PHIL 41330, 30 credits)

This module is formally assessed by one essay.

Optional Module: Science and the Enlightenment (PHIL 40330, 30 credits)

This module is formally assessed by one essay and overviews the history and historiographies of science.

List B (at least one module)

Optional Module: Phenomenology and Sciences of Mind (PHIL 41030, 30 credits)

Optional Module: Current Issues in Metaphysics (PHIL 40730, 30 credits)

Optional Module: Philosophical Issues in Science and Medicine (PHIL 40430, 30 credits).

Optional Module: Ethics of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (PHIL 41830, 30 credits)

Optional Module: Philosophy of the Social Sciences (PHIL 41730, 30 credits)

Research Seminars

HPSM students are expected to participate in the Research Seminars related to HPSM topics.

On many of these occasions, you will have the chance to debate with visiting speakers from the UK and abroad on a broad range of key topics relevant to HPSM

Teaching and Learning

The core modules convene during the academic year and consist of a format that includes lecture, seminars, personal tutorials and workshops.  The wide spectrum of academic staff from the Department of Philosophy and the School for Health allows you to focus your research on a wide variety of topics, some of which include bioethics and medical ethics, the history of medicine, the history of the body, the history and philosophy of science and environmental philosophy.


Assessment of the core modules is determined by three formative assessed short essays (2,000 words), three summative assessed essays (5,000 words) on a topic distinct from that of the short essays, a bibliographical essay (3,500 words), a dissertation proposal (1,500 words) written on topics of your choice, and the dissertation (12,000 words), again on a topic of your choice.  The essays have to be submitted at the end of each module.