BA Philosophy

Our Philosophy degree is very flexible. There are no core modules, so, with the advice of staff, you can construct a path through your degree that focuses on the topics and areas that interest you most.

We offer modules in key areas such as ethics, philosophy of mind, theory of knowledge, political philosophy, metaphysics, and feminism, as well as major figures such as Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Hegel.

Fast facts

  • Duration: 3 years full-time 
  • Award: Bachelor of Arts

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Overview

Philosophy asks intriguing questions about familiar – and at first sight straightforward – features of our lives and world. For example, it is a significant fact that people have moral convictions. Are these convictions anything more than personal likes and dislikes? Can I give others good reason to share my moral outlook?

Questions like this can appear dauntingly difficult. Our Philosophy degree equips you to think about and engage with them for yourself. Our level one modules introduce some of the central areas of philosophy (ethics, political philosophy, theory of knowledge, philosophy of mind, history of philosophy and ancient philosophy). These level one modules give you a broad overview of the types of issue which arise in different areas of the subject. Level two modules enable you to take a closer and more careful look at the issues which interest you, and offer additional choices (feminism, metaphysics, philosophy of the arts, philosophy of education, philosophy of science). Level three modules are our most closely focused, with members of the department typically teaching in their own areas of research – and that gives you the chance to focus on your own areas of interest too.

Your interests will develop and form over the course of your Philosophy degree. While you will have the support of an academic personal advisor to offer advice and guidance in your module choices, you will be able to choose for yourself which areas to concentrate on in the broad range of issues covered by philosophical enquiry.

Studying Philosophy offers excellent preparation for a career in a wide variety of different fields, in addition to being immensely enjoyable for its own sake. Find out more about careers for philosophers.

Structure

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. Students thus have the flexibility to construct their 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 students to take advantage of this opportunity to broaden their university education.

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.

Year 1

You must take 120 credits in total. First years typically take at least 80 credits in philosophy.

History of Philosophical Ideas. 10 credits. An introduction to some important philosophical ideas and concepts, with attention to both the historical context in which they arose and their contemporary significance.

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?

Elementary Logic. 10 Credits. The basic ideas and techniques of formal logic.

Film and Philosophy. 10 Credits. A module exploring some philosophical issues raised by a range of films.

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.

Key Arguments. 10 Credits. An inquiry-based group-work module aimed at helping you to isolate and assess a key argument from a philosophical text.

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?

Matters of Life and Death. 20 Credits. Ethical questions concerning topics such as suicide, abortion, euthanasia, animal rights and famine relief.

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.

Paradox and Plurality. 10 Credits. Ancient yet intriguing questions. Some early Greek debates ( Zeno to Aristotle) on paradoxes concerning plurality, counting, spatial division, spatio-temporal atomism and infinity.

Philosophy of Religion. 10 Credits. Philosophical questions over and above whether a god exists. Is life after death possible? Could eternal punishment in hell ever be justified? Could a just god act on petitionary prayer? Would divine foreknowledge rob us of free will?

Philosophy of Sex. 10 Credits. A module considering the moral, political and metaphysical issues raised by both sexual activity and sex categories (e.g. male/female).

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.

Year 2

Students take 120 credits in total. Second years typically take at least 100 credits in philosophy.

All Level 2 Philosophy modules are 20 credits.

The Empiricists An introduction to the principal early-modern empiricists: Locke, Berkeley and Hume.

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

Feminism A module available at either level two or level three. An examination of a wide variety of areas not traditionally considered to be of political relevance, which feminists have argued are in fact crucial to politics: family structure, feminine appearance, sexual behaviour, science, culture and language.

Formal Logic Rivals to classical logic (intuitionist logic) and extensions of classical logic (modal logic); possible world semantics; basic metalogical results for the various systems studied.

Metaphysics 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 the Arts What is art? Why is it important to us? Does representation vary from one art form to another (eg pictures and poetry)? What is it for art to express emotion? Are our judgments about art subjective? Can there be rational argument about artworks?

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?

Plato 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, 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 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 An introduction to central aspects of contemporary philosophical debates concerning the relationship of the divine to the human good life.

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.

Topics in Ancient Philosophy An examination of the contrast which Plato creates between philosophical discussion and rhetorical manipulation. Texts include Gorgias’ Encomium of Helen, early Platonic dialogues (Laches, Crito) and Plato’s Gorgias.

Year 3

Students take 120 credits in total. Third years typically take at least 100 credits in philosophy.

All Level 3 Philosophy modules are 20 credits.

Advanced Logic Building upon the second year Formal Logic module, in this module some major logical results about the propositional calculus are proved, presented in a new way - as an ‘axiom system’. We also lookat some fundamental philosophical issues arising from aspects of logic.

Aristotle Some major themes in Aristotle’s metaphysics: form, matter, cause, nature, substance, actuality and potentiality. Students will engage critically with difficult Aristotelian texts, and appreciate Aristotle’s continuing contribution to contemporary metaphysical debate.

Epistemology An advanced account of the current state of epistemology through a consideration of some of the key papers in the last couple of decades. Topics covered include, but are not limited to: the new rationalism, disjunctivism, virtue epistemology, contextualism, testimony and disagreement.

Feminism A module available at either level two or level three. An examination of a wide variety of areas not traditionally considered to be of political relevance, which feminists have argued are in fact crucial to politics: family structure, feminine appearance, sexual behaviour, science, culture and language.

Fiction and Truth This module considers some philosophical puzzles raised by fiction. How can there be truths about things which don’t exist? How can we talk and think about unreal entities? What is it for something to be true in a fiction?

Free Will and Religion This module focuses on philosophical issues concerning the relationship between free will and religion, and perennial questions about the nature of human agency and the traditional conception of God as omniscient.

Global Justice This module examines the application of notions of justice outside national boundaries, and focuses in particular on central questions concerning international distributive justice. What do the global wealthy owe to the global poor? And do we owe more to our fellow citizens than to those in other countries?

Idealism and Pragmatism This course involves a detailed study of two of the most important traditions in nineteenth-century philosophy. We examine debates concerning metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics within their historical context and also assess the reasons for reviving these traditions in the twenty-first century.

Intimate Acts, Relationships and Consent Intimate relationships and acts are the subject of significant popular interest and intrigue. Unsurprisingly, the conceptual and ethical issues that surround these raise a range of complex and intriguing philosophical problems. This module examines the philosophical issues raised by a range of intimate relationships and acts.

Metaphysics 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.

Phenomenology An introduction to the thought of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and in particular his work Phenomenology of Preception. Topics covered will include perception, action, knowledge, thought, other selves, the nature of the world, time and freedom.

Philosophical Projects Students pursue independent research under the direction of a member of staff. Topics offered in recent years have included Cooperation and the Prisoner’s Dilemma; Nietzsche on Morality; Pyrrhonian Scepticism; Evil of Death; Sexual Orientation; Structuralism in the Philosophy of Maths; Moral Luck; Expressivism in Meta-ethics; Conceptual Schemes; Sartre on Bad Faith; Zeno of Elea; Marx on History; Philosophy as Therapy; Moral Status; The Emotions; The Semantic/Pragmatic Distinction; Euthanasia and the Value of Human Life; Scientific Realism.

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 Medicine A module focusing on the philosophical challenges of current biomedical science and medical practice, in social and historical context. Working with concrete cases in medical practice and research drawn from current biomedical and technological shifts in medicine, and from history and sociology of science, students consider epistemological, ethical and political aspects of medicine.

Philosophy of Psychology A more in-depth look at issues in contemporary 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? To what extent are these capacities learned as opposed to innately given?

Plato's Symposium The Symposium is a vivid, funny and moving dramatic dialogue in which a wide variety of characters - orators, doctor, comic poet, tragic poet, soldier-cum-statesman, philosopher and others give widely differing accounts of the nature of erotic love (eros) at a banquet. No previous knowledge of either ancient philosophy or ancient Greek is required. In this modules we explore the origins, definition, aims, objects and effects of eros, and ask whether it is viewed as a predominantly beneficial or harmful force. Are some manifestations of eros better than others? Is re-channelling either possible or desirable, and if so, how and in what contexts? What happens to eros if it is consummated?

Pleasure, Pain 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?

Political Obligation How do individuals acquire political obligation? Why do we assign a special moral status to the state and are we justified in doing so? Is political obligation required because of something individuals have or would have done? Is political obligation entailed by existence within political communities? Is political obligation merely the consequence of being a moral agent?

Practical Reason We justify many of our actions in terms of reasons. What are reasons? What methods do we have for telling what reasons we have? How reliable are these methods? What is the connection between reasons and motivation?

The Radical Demand in Løgstrup's Ethics A module considering the work of K. E. Løgstrup (1905-1981), a Danish philosopher and theologian, who, in his key work The Ethical Demand (1956), characterized the relation between individuals as involving a ‘radical demand’ for care, involving important commitments about the nature of life, value, and human interdependency. His ideas are compared to related themes in Kant, Kierkegaard, Levinas, and contemporary care ethics.

Theories of Rights A module on the analysis and justification of our assertions of rights (eg to education privacy and life). The module aims to clarify which rights we have and why. Leading contemporary theories of rights are discussed, along with significant historical and critical works.

Work Place Learning This module involves a work placement (of 35-70 hours) with an organization in the voluntary or commercial sector, which will provide an opportunity to gain skills and experience relevant to philosophy in an applied setting. You'll complete written coursework exploring an issue or issues relevant to the goals or work of the organisation, or reporting on a specific problem of philosophical relevance tackled in the course of the work placement.

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's 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.

Study Abroad

Many of our students choose to spend part of their degree studying, working or teaching in another country. Find out more about our study abroad opportunities

Degree with Employment Experience

The Philosophy Department offers the option for students to spend a year in employment as part of their degree programme. For more details about this programme, see the section on Degrees with Employment Experience on the Careers Service’s placement page.

Research Led Teaching

View some examples of how the research of our staff contributes to their teaching

Applying

Entry requirements

 If you would like to be considered for a place on one of our undergraduate courses, you should apply through UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. Register with UCAS

Our typical entry requirements are A Level AAB, International Baccalaureate 34, or Scottish Highers AAAAB.

We can accept other qualifications including Welsh Baccalaureate, Irish Leaving Certificate, International and European Baccalaureates, GNVQ and BTEC. A full list is given on the following webpage: Entry requirements

If you have a question about your qualifications, please email philosophy@sheffield.ac.uk

English language requirements

 International students need an overall IELTS grade of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or an equivalent English language qualification.

Part-time, Foundation, and University of Sheffield International College courses

Find out more about alternative routes to a degree in Philosophy

Tuition Fees

Disability and Support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability and Dyslexia Support Service.

Open Days

Open days for offer holders in 2018 are being held on 17 February, 17 March, 21 April
Find out more about post offer open days

Pre-application open days in 2018 are being held on 23 June, 7 July, 8 September, and 20 October
Book your place on a pre-applicant open day

Student Experience

 Photo of Wiktoria Kulik"I chose Sheffield because of its international reputation, diverse student community, and the flexibility my degree offered."

Wiktoria Kulik, BA Philosophy

Find out from our students what it's like to live, study and work in Sheffield in our student profiles.


PhilSoc- We have a thriving Philosophy Society known as 'PhilSoc'. It's a great way to meet people on your course!

Reading Weekend  - Every year the department organises a Reading Weekend for staff, postgraduates and undergraduates. It normally takes place in the spring at a youth hostel in Derbyshire. There are philosophy talks, walks around in the Peak District and a trip to the pub.

Undergraduate conference -  The University of Sheffield Philosophy Undergraduate Conference is arranged every year by the Sheffield philosophy department and is a great chance for undergraduates to experience presenting one of their own papers to an interested group of peers.


Philosophy in the City logoPhilosophy in the City

Philosophy in the City is an award-winning outreach project, run entirely by student volunteers from the University of Sheffield’s Philosophy department. PinC volunteers go into schools and other institutions to teach philosophy, and to encourage pupils and residents to think critically about philosophical problems and develop their own ideas.


Got a question? Get in touch