(Updated September 2021)
This module functions as a kind of ‘boot camp’ intended to develop and hone the skills and methods required for university-level work in philosophy and related disciplines.
Philosophical work involves dealing in arguments: assembling evidence in support of some conclusion. Such arguments are occasionally simple but often very complex; they are sometimes valid but they are often fallacious. The primary aim of the module is to assemble and hone a set of tools for (a) the identification of arguments in philosophical prose (b) the representation of arguments in summaries, in argument-schemata and in symbolization (c) the assessment of arguments both for logical soundness and for rhetorical effectiveness (d) the formulation of effective arguments in the writing of essays and examinations. The module also provides opportunities for developing the distinctive skills involved in oral presentation of argument and navigating the ensuing debates.
In the Autumn and Spring terms, students enrolled on this module will attend one weekly two-hour lecture (starting in Week 2) and one weekly 50-minute class (starting in Week 3). There will be two revision sessions in the Summer term.
Coursework assignments will focus on skills of analysis and writing, and on the basic skills of elementary symbolic logic, including symbolization, construction of truth-tables, working of natural deduction proofs. Students will be given the opportunity to discuss their coursework, and will receive close feedback on essay-writing skills and methods. The module provides the opportunity for students to make brief oral presentations, but these will be neither required nor assessed.
Each year the module supervisor selects one or two philosophical topics to be used as target areas for argumentative analysis. These topics vary from year to year but will be selected so as to avoid overlap with other materials covered elsewhere in the first-year curriculum. Possible topics include: Can there be free will in a deterministic universe? What constitutes personal identity over time? What does it mean to follow a rule? How is self-knowledge possible? Students read a sampling of classic texts pertaining to the chosen topic to use as a basis for the primary skill-focused work of the module. In 2021-22, the topic will be: `Free Will`.
Assessment for the module will be based on marked coursework and a final exam.
The coursework will consist of weekly assignments in the Autumn and Spring terms, with the first assignment due in Week 3. There will be a total of 16 weekly assignments over the course of Autumn and Spring terms. However only six of these assignments are “summative.” That is, only six weekly assignments will be used in the calculation of the coursework mark for the module. The other ten weekly assignments are “formative.” They form an essential part of the skill development for the module, but they will not be assigned a numerical mark that will be used in calculation of the coursework mark for the module.
The Autumn Term summative coursework assignments will be due in Weeks 4, 9 and 11. The Spring Term summative course work assignments will be due in Weeks 18, 22 and 25. Each of the six summative coursework assignments will be worth 16.67% of the overall coursework mark for the module.
Coursework assignments will take two different forms: three will be short writing assignments; three will be logic exercise sets.
Week 8 (Autumn Term) and Week 21 (Spring Term) are Reading Weeks; there will be no teaching events and no weekly assignments due in the two Reading Weeks.