Philosophy modules

The Philosophy course at Sheffield is made up of modules, each of which considers a particular area or topic in philosophy.

Scales and a hammer represent criminal justice

Our course has been designed so that there are no core (compulsory) modules. Instead, you will gain a solid understanding of the ideas and theories that are the foundation of the discipline, across the full range of our modules. You will therefore have the flexibility to construct your own pathway through the degree, in line with their particular interests. Your lecturers will help you do this.

The philosophy course also allows you to study a small number of modules from other departments. We encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to broaden your university education.

Dual honours students – those studying philosophy with another subject – take around half their modules in philosophy, and the others with their partner department.

Our degree courses

We are constantly developing our courses so it is possible that the modules running during your time at Sheffield may differ slightly from those currently available. What follows is a typical list of the first, second and third year modules we offer.

How our research informs our module teaching

Modules by year

You must take 120 credits in total during your first year.

Single honours students must take at least 60 credits in Philosophy, including at least 20 credits from Group A, and at least 20 credits from Group B.

Dual honours students can select any modules from group A and/or B and normally choose a minimum of 40 credits in Philosophy. Depending on the credit requirements of your other subject, you may also be able to take optional modules outside of these subjects.

Here is a typical list of options. Click on the module titles to read a description.

Group A modules

Elementary Logic. 10 Credits.

The basic ideas and techniques of formal logic.

History of Philosophical Ideas. 10 credits.

This module will introduce you to some of the central movements and traditions in the history of Western philosophy from Plato onwards, and the key philosophical concepts and issues that they have brought to Western thought.

Knowledge, Justification and Doubt. 10 Credits.

An introduction to the basic questions of epistemology, which is the philosophical study of knowledge. Centrally, what is it to know something? Do we know anything? And how is it that we know what we do?

Mind, Brain and Personal Identity. 20 Credits.

Philosophical issues concerning the mind-body relation, the question of free will, the nature of personal identity, animal minds and machine minds.

Philosophy of Science. 10 credits.

The aim of this module is to introduce some of the philosophical issues that arise in science and through reflecting on science. Some central questions include: How should we represent scientific theories? What counts as evidence for these theories? How do scientific explanations work? How far can we treat science as revealing to us the truth about the underlying nature of reality?

Reason and Argument. 10 Credits.

This module teaches you how to recognise and understand the various types of argument we all encounter and, most importantly, how to evaluate those arguments for yourself.

Writing Philosophy. 20 credits. 

This module introduces students to the skills necessary to write philosophy, which you will continue to develop throughout your degree. This module is only available to single and dual honours Philosophy students.

Group B modules

Death. 10 Credits.

Death raises many philosophical questions. What is death? What happens to us when we die? What attitude should we have towards death? Are we right to dislike death, or is it a good thing?

Film and Philosophy. 10 Credits.

This module introduces central themes in philosophy through the medium of film. Many films have clear philosophical themes and resonance, and we choose a selection to cover a range of philosophical topics.

History of Ethics. 10 Credits.

 An introduction to the history of Western ethical thought, examining key ideas in Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, Bentham, Mill, Nietzsche, Rawls and Gilligan.

Matters of Life and Death. 20 Credits.

Ethical questions concerning topics such as suicide, abortion, euthanasia, animal rights and famine relief.

Philosophy of Religion. 10 Credits.

This course examines arguments for and against the existence of God, explores the rationality of religious belief, and subjects religious doctrines to philosophical scrutiny.

Philosophy of Sex. 10 Credits.

In everyday language 'sex' has a dual meaning. It can refer to an activity ('having sex') and to a set of categories (the female and the male sex). This module considers the moral, political and metaphysical issues raised by both sexual activity and sex categories, and explores the relationship between these two things.

Self and Society. 20 credits.

An introduction to some of the central questions in political philosophy. For example: Do we need a state, and if so, must we obey its laws? What is freedom, and when are we free?

For your remaining credits, you can choose from the selection above, or you can choose modules from other departments. 

You will take 120 credits in total during your second year. Single honours students typically take at least 100 credits in Philosophy, while most dual honours students typically take 60.

All second year Philosophy modules are 20 credits. Here is a typical list of options. Click on the module titles to read a description.


A comparative examination of some of the major moral theories: Utilitarianism, Kantian deontology, and Aristotelian virtue ethics.


A module available at either level two or level three. Philosophical examination of issues in feminism such as family, feminine appearance, sexual behaviour, science, culture and language.

Formal logic

An introduction to some elementary concepts from set theory, and the use of ‘trees’ as a method for proving the validity of arguments formalised in propositional and first-order logic.


An introduction to a variety of metaphysical issues, focused on questions concerning the metaphysics of properties. What is it for something to be, for example, red? How can we explain two distinct things being of the same type, e.g. both being red?

Philosophy of Education

The first half of the course addresses such questions as: What's the aim of education? What is indoctrination? Should we teach philosophy to school children? The second half prepares students to teach their own classes to pupils from a local secondary school.

Philosophy of Mind

Further questions concerning the mind. How can humans have conscious experiences? Are other animals conscious of their experiences? How can brain processes succeed in representing the world?

Philosophy of Science

Why is science a paradigm of rational enquiry? Different answers to this question are compared (Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos). What should we think about our current best scientific theories – that they are true, or that they merely fit the current available data?

Philosophy of the Arts

An introduction to a broad range of issues in the philosophy of art, including: What is art? Is there a link between artistic creativity and ‘madness’? Is there anything wrong with appropriating art forms from another culture? How should we understand what it is for something to be a picture?


The philosopher and mathematician A N Whitehead once characterized western thought as a “series of footnotes to Plato”. An introduction to Plato through mid/late dialogues such as Meno, The Republic or Theaetetus.

Political Philosophy

Some central problems of political philosophy. Does justice in distribution demand equality? Is equality compatible with liberty? Why is democracy the best form of political constitution? What is the justification for punishment?

The Rationalists

An introduction to the principal ideas and arguments of the key early-modern rationalists: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz and Kant.

Reference and Truth

Some central issues in the Philosophy of Language. How does a proper name like “Barack Obama” refer to a certain person? Is meaning just a matter of reference? What about expressions like “Santa Claus” that don’t refer to anything?

Religion and the Good Life

Philosophical debates about the relationship between religion and the good life. For example, is a religious reality needed as a foundation for morality? Do religious traditions provide insights into a life well-lived?

Theory of Knowledge

A broad introduction to the main aspects of epistemology covering scepticism, the nature of knowledge, the structure of knowledge and our sources of knowledge.

You will take 120 credits in total during your third year. Single honours students typically take at least 100 credits in Philosophy, while most dual honours students take 60.

All third year Philosophy modules are 20 credits. Here is a typical list of options. Click on the module titles to read a description.

Advanced logic

Examines some philosophically important areas of formal logic, and considers some philosophical debates concerning foundational aspects of logic.

Classical Chinese Philosophy

This module will consider the philosophical ideas to be found in classical Chinese thought from the pre-Qin Dynasty, including Confucius. It will put the ideas in historical and intellectual context, and consider how they should best be understood.


A module available at either level two or level three. Philosophical examination of issues in feminism such as family, feminine appearance, sexual behaviour, science, culture and language.

For the love of knowledge

We know things as individuals, but we also know things collectively. And what we know individually can depend on our relation to other knowers. These relations are not merely epistemic, they are also practical and ethical, as when we trust others.

Free will and religion

Considers the role of free will in religious thought: Is human freedom compatible with God's foreknowledge? Can God have free will? Can free will help account for evil?

Global justice

What does justice require between different societies? What obligations do the global wealthy have to the global poor? Do states have a moral obligation to open their borders? Should states pay reparations for wrongs which occurred many generations ago?

Hegel and the phenomenology of spirit

This module will focus on Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, one of the major works of nineteenth century German philosophy, which has influenced a range of subsequent philosophers, from Marx to Sartre.


Some central metaphysical themes, ancient and modern: the existence of abstract objects, ontological commitment, the ontology of material objects and people, and the nature of time.

Moral theory and moral psychology

A module examining the relationship between moral theory and moral psychology. It will discuss the nature of self-interest, altruism, the will, and moral intuitions, and psychological arguments for and against various moral theories.

Pain, pleasure and emotions

A module on the nature of affective states: pleasures, pains and emotions. What do all and only affective states have in common? Why are pains and joys affective states while hearings and seeings aren’t? In virtue of what is it that some affective states feel good and others bad?


A text-based introduction to the work of thinkers within the Phenomenological Movement, such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone De Beauvoir, and Frantz Fanon.

Philosophical projects

Students pursue independent research under the direction of a member of staff. Topics offered in recent years have included Nietzsche on Morality; Pyrrhonian Scepticism; Evil of Death; Sexual Orientation; Structuralism in the Philosophy of Maths; Moral Luck; Expressivism in Meta-ethics; Sartre on Bad Faith; Zeno of Elea; Marx on History; Philosophy as Therapy; The Emotions.

Philosophy of law

What is law, and how does it differ from other types of social regulation? How should we understand the authority of law, and our duty to obey? How does law relate to morality and rights?

Philosophy of psychology

What is the structure and organization of the human mind? What aspects of our minds are uniquely, or distinctively, human? What is the cognitive basis for such capacities as our capacity for language, science, altruism, cooperation, morality, and art?

Plato's Symposium

A close study of this important text, which is one of the classic treatments of the nature of love.

The Political Philosophy of Climate Change

Why is climate change a problem of global justice and how could the international community address the problem fairly?

The Radical Demand in Løgstrup's Ethics

K. E. Løgstrup was a Danish philosopher and theologian who developed an account of the ethical demands for care that people make on each other. This module examines his views.

Workplace Learning

Students undertake a work placement of 35—70 hours with a local organisation. Drawing on concepts and theories studied in their other philosophy modules, they write coursework critically examining an issue of philosophical interest faced by the organisation.

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it is up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research, funding changes, professional accreditation requirements, student or employer feedback, outcomes of reviews, and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

Information last updated: 25 March 2020

Course search

Explore. Challenge. Influence. Find the right course for you.