Philosophy, Religion and Ethics BA

In this broad, interdisciplinary degree, you will study the momentous questions in Philosophy, Religion, and Ethics that matter most to you–whether they concern the rationality or value of religious faith and practices, the ethics of climate change or euthanasia, the nature of knowledge or freedom, or something else.

You will learn to develop and defend your own critical perspectives on these pressing issues while mastering the skills necessary to navigate their ongoing significance in our rapidly changing world.

In doing so, you will benefit from studying in a top Philosophy Department with particular expertise in Ethics, while learning from Sheffield’s cutting-edge scholars of Religion, who approach the study of Religion from a wide variety of academic perspectives including Cultural Studies, Gender Studies, History, Social Science, Literary Studies, and Philosophy of Religion.

Fast facts

  • Duration: 3 years full-time 
  • Award: BA

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Overview

Students on this degree take modules in each of Philosophy, Religion and Ethics each year, though there is extensive flexibility to allow you to focus more on one area if you choose. Our research-led Philosophy Modules and Religion Modules each include many options in Ethics, alongside a diverse portfolio of other possible subjects reflecting staff interests. Teaching methods for this degree include interactive lectures, seminars, team work, student presentations, debates, and fieldwork. Our modules are assessed by a variety of methods, ranging from examinations to essays, or more creative assignments, such as portfolios, posters, presentations, video-blogs, or artwork installations. One of the distinctive opportunities of the degree is a dissertation at level 3, where you will work closely with a member of academic staff.

Sheffield’s Philosophy, Religion, and Ethics community is an active one, hosting both the Centre for Engaged Philosophy and the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies. There’s always something exciting going on, whether it’s put on by staff or students. You’ll be encouraged to join in with the community by pursuing collaborative research projects, engaging the public, hearing guest lectures, or presenting your own academic work outside the classroom.

The Philosophy, Religion, and Ethics degree offers excellent preparation for a wide range of careers or for further study. The Philosophy Department, in partnership with the Careers Service, puts on a wide variety of opportunities designed to help students plan for their futures. For more information, see our careers page.

Structure

Our programme is designed so that you take modules in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics. You have the flexibility to choose from a range of modules in each subject area so you can design your degree to suit your interests. Many of the modules which are available are interdisciplinary, exhibiting a strong focus on more than one of the three areas. The modules outlined are marked PHIL, REL, ETH to indicate their focus on Philosophy, Religion or Ethics. While available modules may change from year to year, this list is representative of the modules which may be available. 

Year 1

You must take 120 credits in total, choosing at least 20 credits from each of the following groups plus an additional 20 credits from any group. After that you can choose freely from the modules listed below or you can choose up to 40 credits in other subjects in your first year.

You will choose at least 20 credits of Philosophy from:

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. PHIL

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. PHIL, ETH

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? PHIL

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

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. PHIL

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? PHIL

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. PHIL

Writing Philosophy. 20 credits. This module introduces students to the skills necessary to write philosophy, which you will continue to develop throughout your degree. PHIL 

You will choose at least 20 credits of Religion from:

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?  PHIL, REL 

Foundations in Literary Study: Biblical and Classical Sources in English Literature. 20 credits. Unlocking the biblical and mythical influences in English literature, from Adam and Eve to the Greek gods and heroes. REL 

A Life Worth Living. 20 credits. This interdisciplinary module explores these questions through engagement with the lives and visions of founding figures from eight diverse traditions that imagine a good life: the Buddha, the Torah and other writings of ancient Judaism, Jesus of Nazareth and early Christianity, Muhammad, Aristotle, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Karl Marx. PHIL, REL, ETH

Religion in Britain. 20 credits. An introduction to critical study of religion in contemporary world, engaging with social sciences. We will consider sociological facts and statistics, as well as ethnographic studies, in order to understand British religiosity, here and now. REL

Introduction to Islam. 10 credits. An introduction and overview of the religion of Islam. It will outline the formative life of the prophet Mohammed in his social, religious and cultural context as well as the early history of the Islamic faith and its central pillars of faith. It will sketch some of the major historical events and periods of Islam up to the present day and will introduce and explore the Koran and Hadith. REL

You will choose at least 20 credits of Ethics from:

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. ETH, PHIL

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

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? ETH, PHIL

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. ETH, PHIL

Self and Society. 20 credits. This module is an introduction to some of the central questions in political philosophy. Is democracy the best form of government? What is a just society? ETH, PHIL

LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans) Studies. 10 credits. This module introduces students to study of gender and sexuality, and LGBT stories, both historical and contemporary. ETH, PHIL 

Year  2

In your second year, you are required to take at least 100 credits of modules in Philosophy, Religion, and/or Ethics, leaving 20 credits that can either be taken in these subjects or in a subject offered by another Department.

All level 2 modules are 20 credits each.

You must take at least 40 credits from:

The Ten Commandments. Political, social, economic, and ethical aspects of ancient life, and law codes of the Hebrew Bible. ETH, REL 

Religion in an Age of Terror: Ancient Texts and the Making of Modern Israel. Religious identity, conflict and violence, engaging with theology, philosophy, sociology, ethics and politics. REL

Good Books: Intertextual Approaches to Literature and the Bible. The Bible is an important source of narrative, character and image. This module will analyse film, TV and visual media as well as literary forms, to explore the ways in which creative writers interpret and re-imagine biblical narratives and tropes. REL

Ethics: Theoretical and Practical. Important texts in Moral Philosophy ranging from e.g. Aristotle, Smith, Rousseau, Kant, Mill, and Sidgwick. ETH, PHIL

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? ETH, PHIL, REL

Sociology and Anthropology of Religion. An introduction to the classical theory and pioneering figures, as well as contemporary topics, like secularisation, de-secularisation, religious market theory, and ritual theory. REL

Jesus, Gospels and Christianity. This module will consider the early evidence of Jesus and the emergent community of Jesus worshippers, consulting the work of New Testament scholars and historians of the first three centuries of the common era. REL

Understanding Islam Text and Transition in the Modern World. Reading Quran, Sunna and Hadith, applying these to contemporary issues such as gender, sharia, and democracy. REL


You must take at least 40 credits from:

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? 

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? PHIL

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. PHIL

Ethics: Theoretical and Practical. Important texts in Moral Philosophy ranging from e.g. Aristotle, Smith, Rousseau, Kant, Mill, and Sidgwick. ETH, PHIL

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. PHIL

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? PHIL

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. ETH, PHIL

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.  PHIL, ETH

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? PHIL, ETH

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? PHIL

Philosophy and 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. PHIL

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? PHIL

Philosophy and Revolution. A module available at either level two or level three, which examines the intense philosophical debate that followed the upheaval of the French Revolution. PHIL, ETH

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?  PHIL, REL, ETH

Year 3 

In your third year, you must take a total of at least 100 credits of modules in Philosophy, Religion, and/or Ethics, leaving 20 credits that can either be taken in these subjects or in a subject offered by another Department.  

You must take at least 40 credits from:

Forced into Being: How Involuntary Migration Created Ancient Israel. 20 credits. This module aims to familiarise students with the role involuntary migration played in ancient Israelite history and the way this experience shaped its sacred texts and religious practices. REL

Project Module: Texts of Terror. 20 credits. This module confronts a host of biblical narratives that embody the horrific, such as genocide, rape, child abuse/sacrifice, etc., using a variety of contemporary methods in their interpretation. REL

Free Will and Religion. 20 credits. 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. PHIL, REL

The Radical Demand in Løgstrup's Ethics. 20 credits. 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. PHIL,REL,ETH

Dissertation. 20 or 40 credits. Individual research project on a topic of your choice supervised by a member of academic staff, available as 20 or 40 credit options. PHIL, REL, ETH

New Testament Texts. 20 credits. Advanced examination of texts and interpretive debates. REL

Gender and Religion. 20 credits. Examining constructions of gender and sexuality in different religious traditions, cultures and contemporary debates around the world, engaging with feminism, queer theory, social sciences, and cultural studies. REL

You must take at least 40 credits from:

Metaphysics. 20 credits. 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. PHIL

Feminism. 20 credits. 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. PHIL, ETH

Philosophical Problems 1 and 2. 20 credits each. The topic of these modules varies from year to year, based on current research of the lecturer. PHIL, ETH. 

Philosophy of Psychology. 20 credits. 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? PHIL

Advanced Logic. 20 credits. Building upon the second year Formal Logic module, this module examines some philosophically important areas of formal logic, and considers some philosophical debates concerning foundational aspects of logic. PHIL

Global Justice. 20 credits. This module examines various issues of justice that arise at the global level, for example, how jurisdiction over territory might be justified, whether states have a right to exclude would-be immigrants, how to understand the wrong of colonialism. PHIL, ETH

Philosophical Project 1 and 2. 20 credits. 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. PHIL

Philosophy of Law. 20 credits. 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? PHIL, ETH

Plato's Symposium. 20 credits. A close study of this important text, which is one of the classic treatments of the nature of love. PHIL, ETH

Free Will and Religion. 20 credits. 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. PHIL, REL

Pain, Pleasure and Emotions. 20 credits. 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? PHIL

The Radical Demand in Løgstrup's Ethics. 20 credits. 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.’ PHIL, REL, ETH

Philosophy of Medicine. 20 credits. This course focuses on the philosophical challenges of current medical science and practice. 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, we will explore medical knowledge and practice. PHIL

Work Place Learning. 20 credits. 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. PHIL, ETH

Philosophy and Revolution. 20 credits.  A module available at either level two or level three, which examines the intense philosophical debate that followed the upheaval of the French Revolution.. PHIL, ETH

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. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

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 here

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 here.

Teaching and Assessment Methods

You'll learn through interactive lectures, seminars and one-to-one meetings with lecturers, and take part in presentations, debates and field work. You will be given extensive feedback on your work, which will generally be assessed through examinations, essays and longer projects. Some modules use presentations, portfolios, posters, artwork installations and ethnography.

Diverse assessments are designed to diversify your learning experience and develop your transferable and improve your graduate prospects. We plan our learning and assessment on programme level, thinking your three year degree holistically. We spread out your deadlines, and plan different tasks to multi-skill our students. We give feedback in each module to help you to improve your skills and academic performance, and we see our students develop throughout their degree.

Further information about teaching and learning can be found under the "learning and assessment" tab on the University 2020 prospectus.

Contact Hours

Contact hours are typically 2 hours per week for 10 credit modules, and 3 hours per week for 20 credit modules, plus the opportunity to see staff individually in their open office hours.

Our campus and how we use it

While some of our teaching takes place in the department, most of it is timetabled to take place in purpose-built teaching spaces across the campus (see our campus map). The campus has many amenities, and is located at the heart of the city, giving you easy access to shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.

Applying

Entry requirements

Our typical entry requirements are:

  • A Levels: ABB
  • International Baccalaureate: 33
  • Scottish Highers: AAABB
  • A Levels + Extended Project Qualification: BBB+B. The Extended Project should be in a relevant subject.

We can also accept other qualifications: Other entry requirements for Philosophy, Religion and Ethics BA 

Other qualifications

If you have a question about your qualifications, please email phi-ugadmissions@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

How to apply

Tuition Fees

Disability and Support

We welcome disabled students. We're committed to responding effectively and appropriately to individual support needs. We take all practicable steps to ensure that disabled students can participate in their studies without disadvantage, and can make full use of the University's academic and support services.

Open Days

Pre-application open days in 2019 are being held on 22 June, 6 July, 7 September, and 19 October.

Register your interest in a pre-application open day

Teaching Staff

Religion modules are taught by a team of specialist staff from Philosophy, English and History. Staff who may teach on your degree will include:

Dr Ryan Byerly - Ryan's primary research interests are in Philosophy of Religion, Epistemology, and Virtue Ethics.

Dr Chris Bennett - Chris’s main interests are in moral, political and legal philosophy.

Dr Mark Finney - Mark's research interests include the relationship between religion and violence, particularly in relation to the conflict in the contemporary Middle East and Early Christian Identity. He is also interested in Paul, religious art and the Greco-Roman context of the New Testament.

Prof Eric Olson - Eric works primarily in Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind with a particular focus on personal identity, time and death.

Dr Katie Edwards - Katie specialises in the Bible in contemporary and popular culture, including representations of religion in the media and advertising, and biblical literacy. Her teaching and research also includes critical study of religion and gender.

Dr Minna Shkul - Minna specialises in social sciences, gender and religion.

Dr Casey Strine - Casey works on the history, literature, and cultures of the ancient Near East, specialising in ancient Israel and Judah. Casey’s research is interdisciplinary, as he uses the study of migration to reconstruct ancient history and to interpret ancient texts. His teaching also includes philosophical and theological debates, in the module ‘Life Worth Living'.

Dr Meredith Warren - Meredith's primary research interests lie in the cultural and theological interactions among the religions of ancient Mediterranean, especially early Judaism and Christianity. In particular, Meredith is interested in how shared cultural understandings of food and eating play a role in ancient narratives, including the Pseudepigrapha, Hellenistic romance novels, and the Gospels.

Many of our staff have received Senate Awards for Excellence in Teaching

Student Experience

Photo of Emilie Lebarbier"I chose Sheffield because I was impressed by the diversity of fields that each lecturer brought to the department. Subsequently, the diverse range of specialisations meant that there was a large range of module choices available."

Emilie Lebarbier, BA Philosophy and Religion


 "Photo of Elizabeth GreenThe reason that I believe Philosophy, Religion and Ethics work so well together is that both compliment one another because you have to be analytical and critical about the philosophical arguments posed or interpretation of the canonical texts which you find within religion. Furthermore, these subjects allow you to delve deeper into the history of the world, whether that be in ancient Greece with Socrates and Plato or in antiquity and studying traditions which make up major religions."

Elizabeth Green, BA Philosophy and Religion


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.


For more information: