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Department of Philosophy


Central Library

Durham University Central Library

The Philosophy Course in Durham

The Framework

Durham University's mission is to achieve and sustain excellence in its teaching and research, whilst maintaining its character as a collegiate university. The Department’s aims and objectives are fully consistent with the University’s mission. Our primary degree programme for undergraduates is a BA Single Honours in Philosophy. We also participate in Joint Honours BA degrees in Philosophy with English, Politics, Psychology and Theology. Additionally we contribute to the Combined Honours BA degree in Arts, the Combined Honours BA degree in Social Sciences and the BSc Honours degree in Natural Sciences. The Department has several postgraduate programmes, including degrees by research and the following taught degrees: Diploma in Philosophy (a ‘conversion’ programme), Advanced Diploma in Philosophy and an MA in Philosophy.

The Department aims to:

  1. recruit students of high academic ability with the potential to benefit from their chosen programme;
  2. offer students programmes informed by high-quality research;
  3. enable undergraduate students to gain a knowledge of important developments in the history of western philosophical thought and an ability to apply accepted methods of philosophical analysis and argument to philosophical problems;
  4. offer non-specialists the opportunity to engage with specific aspects of the discipline;
  5. enable postgraduates to study areas of the discipline in depth and in a way which will equip them to undertake original research in the subject.


The Department’s broad educational purpose is to give its students an excellent education, at honours degree and taught postgraduate levels, in various areas of philosophy (including the history and philosophy of science and medicine) to an extent and depth depending on their chosen degree programmes.

Subject-specific knowledge and understanding:

  1. On completion of a BA Single Honours programme, students will have demonstrated knowledge and understanding of:
    • significant developments in the history of western philosophical thought;
    • a range of major philosophical texts;
    • important philosophical concepts, questions, arguments and methods;
    • a specific topic studied in detail for a dissertation.
  2. On completion of a BA Joint Honours programme, students will have acquired an appropriate range of the learning outcomes stated in 1) above to an extent and depth consistent with their choice of modules within the overall structure of their programme of study.
  3. Non-specialist undergraduate students (i e those taking philosophy within the Combined Honours and Natural Sciences programmes and those taking philosophy modules as an ‘outside’ subject) will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of specific areas of the discipline depending on the modules studied.
  4. Non-specialist postgraduate students (i e those taking the Diploma) will be able to demonstrate sufficient knowledge and understanding of philosophy to equip them to take an MA in the subject.
  5. On completion of the MA and Advanced Diploma programmes students will be able to demonstrate that they:
    • have acquired a working knowledge of research methods and resources in philosophy;
    • have an advanced and in-depth understanding of a range of subject areas, including especially (for MA students) the subject of their dissertation;
    • can present written work in a scholarly fashion.

Subject-specific skills

In addition to the above all students will be able to demonstrate that they can:
  1. utilise correctly specialist vocabulary;
  2. grasp, analyse, evaluate and deploy subject-specific concepts and arguments;
  3. locate, understand, assess and utilise pertinent sources;
  4. interpret and criticise relevant texts.

General skills

In addition to the above all students will be able to demonstrate that they can:

  1. express themselves clearly and succinctly;
  2. comprehend complex ideas, propositions and theories;
  3. defend their opinions by reasoned argument;
  4. seek out and identify appropriate sources of evidence and information;
  5. tackle problems in a clear-sighted and logical fashion.