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Department of Philosophy


Our undergraduate programmes incorporate a mixture of lectures, tutorials, seminars and one-to-one supervisions. All first-year modules are delivered through weekly lectures and fortnightly tutorials. The lectures contextualise material and introduce you to topics, positions and debates. There is an emphasis on providing you with the knowledge and skills required to navigate the relevant literature yourself. You will then pursue independent research, building from focused reading and discussion with your peers up to a dissertation in your third year.

Philosophical development is principally a matter of acquiring such skills, rather than familiarising oneself with a body of knowledge. As philosophers put it: it’s about know-how rather than know-that. This is one of the reasons why what you learn in an undergraduate degree in philosophy is transferable to all areas of work and life. Hence, from the outset, our courses place a strong emphasis on dialogical interaction. That means: talking!

Professor Holger Maehle - Director of Undergraduate Studies

How we teach and why

Our undergraduate programmes incorporate a mixture of lectures, tutorials, seminars and one-to-one supervisions. There is an emphasis on providing you with the knowledge and skills required to navigate the relevant literature yourself and through discussion with your peers.

At least four hours of additional study per week are recommended for each lecture – find out more here about our library and study facilities. You will return to the lecture topics in small group tutorials, where you will refine your understanding of material, and develop the reasoning skills needed to formulate, present, defend and criticise philosophical positions.

Lectures involve plenty of opportunities for questions and extended discussion, and tutorials consist mostly of structured, critical dialogue in the context of a friendly, supportive environment. If you want to learn more about what a philosophical conversation looks like, check out Plato’s Theaetetus; the so-called ‘Socratic dialogues’ are our model for philosophical work.

By the end of the first-year you’ll be able to conduct a philosophical conversation – something your friends and family may regret – and to translate your philosophical thoughts into essay form.

Second- and final-year modules build upon lower level modules in a coherent, progressive fashion, but are more specifically focused. Here you’ll get to work with lecturers on topics on which they are currently researching and writing. You’ll be offered a wider range of topics to choose from, especially in year 3.

You’ll have the opportunity to steer your studies in a range of different directions, many of which are interdisciplinary. You will work under the guidance of internationally recognised experts in the relevant fields, who are in a position to familiarise you both with the history of the topics in question, and with cutting edge research. In years 2 and 3, as your further develop the critical skills required for independent learning in Philosophy, your lecture-based modules will be complemented by other, seminar-based modules. Weekly ninety-minute seminars place more emphasis on your participation, in the form of group exercises and short presentations. Don’t worry – by the time you get to your second year, you’ll be dying to share your ideas.

The Dissertation

An important part of the curriculum for many students is the final-year dissertation. This is an exciting chance to complete an extended piece of work on a question of your own devising, through independent research. See here for some of the amazing questions our undergraduates have asked, and answered, in their dissertations.

We will give you plenty of support as you explore your chosen question. You will attend a workshop in your second-year, explaining how to go about choosing a dissertation topic and supervisor. In your third- year, you will work with your supervisor, who will give you guidance on suitable reading, critical discussion of relevant sources, and intensive critical engagement with your philosophical positions and arguments. That means: he or she will have many philosophical conversations with you about your chosen question, and will point you toward other conversations about your topic that are going on in books and journals.

Through the process of researching and writing a dissertation, the critical skills that you began to develop in your first year of study are developed to such an extent that you are able to pursue high-level, independent research.