Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2007-2008 (archived)


Department: Philosophy


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2007/08 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • to engage students with philosophical issues arising in science and medicine
  • to introduce central philosophical theories and concepts relevant to these issues
  • to introduce key arguments for and against these theories
  • to promote understanding of the relationship between historical and philosophical issues in science and medicine.


  • The seminars will cover the central philosophical issues in science and medicine. Following a introductory session, there will be three series of seminars:
  • The introductory seminar will provide and overview of the central philosophical issues in science and medicine, and the relationships between them.
  • Seminars 1 to 5 will cover core issues in the philosophy of science, including the demarcation between science and non-science; causation; the role of experiment in science; natural kinds; scientific realism.
  • Seminars 6 and 7 will cover philosophical issues in medicine and biomedical science, including philosophical approaches to some of the moral and conceptual issues raised by the beginning and end of human life, including criteria for human life, personhood and identity.
  • In consultation with the Module Leader, students will choose a topic for their assessed essay. The essay's topic should normally come from one of the subject areas covered in the seminars. Topic proposals falling outside these areas will have to be approved by the Course Director.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • At the end of the module students should have a familiarity with key philosophical theories and concepts concerning science and medicine.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module students should be able to:
  • demonstrate skills in understanding and interpreting philosophical theories and arguments concerning science and medicine in contemporary and historical perspective;
  • analyse and evaluate central arguments for and against theories;
  • write a critical and well-informed essay on a selected topic in the philosophy of science and/or medicine.
Key Skills:

    Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

    • This module will be taught in 7 two-hour group seminars, and with individual tutorial sessions on the topic of the assessed essay. In addition, draft versions of the assessed essay will be presented in a one-day workshop before submission.
    • Each of the two-hour seminars will be led by a lecturer. The seminars include a short introduction to the topic by the lecturer; students' short presentations of key literature; and joint critical discussion of pre-read research publications (partly in group work).
    • The individual tutorials (entitlement of up to 4 hours with the chosen supervisor) will support the students' work towards the assessed essay. They include discussion of the chosen research/ essay topic; guidance on relevant research methods and literature; development of a research plan and time-table; and feedback on essay drafts.
    • In the workshop (up to 4 hours) students will present draft versions of their essay and discuss them with their fellow-students and the lecturer.
    • These teaching and learning methods will support students in achieving Learning Outcomes 1-4 above. The 4 Learning Outcomes will be formally assessed by the essay.
    • Though optional, students will also be expected to attend relevant research seminars, workshops or special lectures organised by the department of Philosophy and the Centre for the History of Medicine and Disease.
    • Students will also have the opportunity to attend on a voluntary basis the seminars for the MA in History of Medicine at the University of Newcastle.

    Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

    Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
    Tutorials up to 4 Flexible, as required 1 hour 4
    Seminars 7 fortnightly 2 hours 14
    Other: (workshop) 1 once 8 hours 8
    Preparation and Reading Time 274
    Total 300

    Summative Assessment

    Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
    Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
    Assessed Essay of up to 5,000 words including footnotes, excluding bibliography and appendices 5,000 words 100%

    Formative Assessment:

    Short formative essay of 2,000 words on a topic distinct from that of the summative essay.

    Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University