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Philosophy (MA)


Course Description

This one-year programme (two years part-time) provides an ideal academic environment for those who would like to study the subject at a higher level in preparation for a PhD or as a basis for future employment. Significant numbers of former students go on to further study. The programme includes research training and allows you to write a substantial dissertation on a topic you wish to pursue at PhD level. Our staff members have expertise in a very wide range of areas, so there is considerable flexibility over choice of dissertation topic. Modules are taught via group seminars and one-to-one tutorials. There is also a weekly student-led work-in-progress seminar, which all MA students attend.

Course structure

Candidates shall study and be assessed in the following modules:

List A:

Dissertation- 60 credits
Philosophical Research Methods- 30 credits

Candidates shall also study and be assessed in modules to the value of 90 credits from Lists B, C and D. The module titles below are those offered in previous academic years. Not all the modules will necessarily be available every year.

List B:

Ancient Philosophers on Necessity, Fate and Free Will- 30 credits

Forms After Plato- 30 credits

Mind and Action- 30 credits

Philosophical Issues in Science and Medicine- 30 credits

Phenomenology and the Sciences of Mind- 30 credits

Current Issues in Aesthetics and Theory of Art- 30 credits

Current Issues in Metaphysics- 30 credits

Current Issues in Ethics- 30 credits

Philosophy and Religion- 30 credits

Gender Theory and Feminist Philosophy- 30 credits

Science and the Enlightenment- 30 credits

Ethics, Medicine and History- 30 credits

Philosophy of the Social Sciences- 30 credits

Ethics of Cultural Heritage- 30 credits

Environmental Philosophy- 0-30 credits

List C:

Candidates taking modules from List C must take both modules:

BUSINESS ETHICS 1: Ethical Leadership- 15 credits

BUSINESS ETHICS 2: Society and Sustainability- 15 credits

List D:

Candidates taking modules from List D must take both modules:

Moral and Corporate Trust: Trust and Accountability- 15 credits

Moral and Corporate Trust: Trust and Business Ethics- 15 credits

Learning and Teaching

The Taught MA in Philosophy provides the opportunity for in-depth engagement with areas of philosophy in which the Durham department has internationally recognised expertise. In the process, students develop critical abilities and independent research skills that prepare them for further postgraduate study in Philosophy and for a wide range of careers where such skills are highly prized.

Students choose three optional ‘topic’ modules from a list of approximately twelve. They are also required to take a ‘philosophical research methods’ module and to complete a double-module dissertation. Topic modules are taught via seven two-hour seminars and two one-to-one tutorials. Seminars incorporate staff-led discussion of topics, student presentations and small group discussions, in the context of a friendly, supportive environment. Seminars serve to (i) familiarise students with topics, positions and debates, (ii) help them to navigate the relevant literature, (iii) refine their oral and written presentation skills and (iv) further develop their ability to independently formulate, criticise and defend philosophical positions. Students are expected to do approximately four hours of reading for each seminar. Having completed the seminar-based part of the module, they decide upon an essay topic, having received guidance from the module leader. At this point, they begin a more focused programme of reading and independent study, and also benefit from two one-to-one supervisions with an expert in the relevant field. These supervisions provide more focused teaching, tailored to a student’s chosen essay topic. Supervisions further enable students to develop and refine their own philosophical positions, convey them clearly and support them with well constructed arguments.

The core modules of the programme are the ‘Philosophical Research Methods’ module and the double-module Dissertation. The former consists of ten seminars of 2 hours duration. Seven of these introduce students to different philosophical methodologies and to contrasting conceptions of what philosophy is. Critical refection upon the nature of philosophy, cultured through seminar discussions and subsequent reading, equips them with the ‘meta-philosophical’ skills required to write a ‘Philosophical Methods’ essay. The other three seminars include training in library use, referencing, writing abstracts, structuring an MA-level essay and other research-related matters. They also include focused advice and discussion concerning dissertation proposals, which students are required to submit as part of this module.

Having completed the three topic modules and the research methods module, students start work on their dissertations. They are offered six one-to-one tutorials of up to an hour each, with a supervisor who will be an expert in their chosen field. There is also a ‘dissertation mini-conference’ in August, where students present work from their dissertation and receive feedback from members of staff and from their peers. The supervisions and the conference both help them to further refine skills acquired during the academic year (such as presenting and defending an argument in a clear, structured fashion) and to complete a substantial piece of high quality independent research. Through the conference, they also engage with the work of other students in ways that are mutually informative.

In addition to this core teaching, students benefit from a range of activities, including an MA Master-class, a student-led ‘work-in-progress group’ and regular meetings of EIDOS, the department’s postgraduate philosophy society. They are welcomed as full participants in the department’s research culture, and are thus strongly encouraged to attend a range of other events, including weekly Research Seminars, and occasional Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures, conferences, workshops and reading groups. The programme director remains in regular contact with the students throughout the year and is always available to discuss any issues that might arise (personal or academic).

Visit the Philosophy (MA) page on the Durham University website for more details!

Entry Requirements

A typical 2:1 classification or higher at undergraduate level or equivalent qualification with a substantial philosophy component.

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