Modules we offer

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

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.

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

View some detailed examples of how our research informs our module teaching

Press the + icon to expand the text and see our range of modules.

Level 1

You must take 120 credits in total.

Single honours students must 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.

Group A 

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.

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?

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

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?

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

Group B

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. 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. 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. 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?

You can select remaining credits from either section above or modules in the critical study of religion and interdisciplinary studies in gender and sexuality.

Level 2

Students take 120 credits in total. Single honours second years typically take at least 100 credits in philosophy.

All Level 2 Philosophy modules are 20 credits.

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 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.

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 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.

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?

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, 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?

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?

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

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.

Level 3

Students take 120 credits in total. Single honours third years typically take at least 100 credits in philosophy.

All Level 3 Philosophy modules are 20 credits.

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

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.

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 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.

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 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 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.

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 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.

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

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?

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.

Work Place 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'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.

If you'd like any more information, visit AskUS to browse our frequently asked questions or ask us your own question.