Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2008-2009 (archived)


Department: Theology and Religion


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2008/09 Module Cap None. Location Durham


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Excluded Combination of Modules

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  • To introduce students to key philosophical thinkers from the early modern period to the present
  • To develop a capacity for philosophical analysis that is theologically sensitive, and formed by a close reading of a range of seminal primary texts
  • To nurture in students an independent scholarly and intellectual ability to engage with central questions in philosophical theology.


  • Is is possible to believe in God, moral freedom and the soul in the light of secular explanations of the world? This module investigates how the very philosophers who set many of the parameters for modern thought (such as Descartes, Kant and Hegel), were at the same time deeply concerned to preserve a space for God, freedom and the soul. The module will also explore why this space seemed more problematic to other thinkers, such as Hume and Nietzsche. Finally, the module considers philosophers such as Wittgenstein and Iris Murdoch, who attempt to circumvent these problems, by preserving the language of God, freedom and the soul, without any deep metaphysical commitments. The module will evaluate conflicting arguments as to whether it is the secular mindset or the theological commitments which are most problematic. The philosohers and texts discussed will vary from year to year depending on staff availability.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A detailed and coherent understanding of the interaction between Christian theology and Western philosophy from the early modern period to the present. In particular, an awareness of how the concepts of God, human freedom and the soul relate to one another philosophically, and of the way in which philosophers have protected or attacked theological beliefs in the light of secular explanations of the world.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An ability to analyse questions in philosophical theology with intellectual rigour and historical depth. A capacity to see the relationship between foundational metaphysical beliefs, and moral and ethical positions. An awareness of how the philosophical tradition can inform contemporary questions about God, the nature of explanation, and questions surrounding mind and moralilty.
Key Skills:
  • Skills in the analysis of conceptual problems, and an ability to read complex texts critically and with nuance. An ability to detect inconsistencies in an argument, and to make lateral links on the basis of understanding deeper philosophical common round between apparently diverse position. A capacity to discern and make fine conceptual distinctions, and an ability to apply this skill when evaluating truth claims.

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

  • Lectures convey information and exemplify an approach to the subject-matter, enabling students to develop a clear understanding of the subject and to improve their skills in listening and in evaluating information.
  • Seminars enhance subject-specific knowledge and understanding both through preparation and through interaction with students and staff, promoting awareness of different viewpoints and approaches.
  • Formative essays develop subject-specific knowledge and understanding, along with student skills in the acquisition of information through reading and research, and in the structured presentation of information in written form.
  • Examinations assess subject-specific knowledge and understanding, along with student skills in the structured presentation of information in written form under time constraints.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 22 weekly 1 hour 22
Seminars 6 2 in MT (weeks 5 and 9) and 4 in EpT (weeks 13, 15, 17,19) 1 hour 6
Preparation and Reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Exam Component Weighting: 75%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Exam 3 hours 100%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Seminar Presentation 2000 word 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