Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2017-2018 (archived)


Department: Philosophy


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2017/18 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Knowledge and Reality (PHIL1021) OR Introduction to Logic (PHIL1031).


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce students to basic issues in analytic philosophy of language, logic and metaphysics.


  • Theories of meaning
  • Theories of truth
  • Possible worlds
  • Existence and non-existence
  • Identity and essence
  • Chance and necessity

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • At the end of the module students will have a grasp of core issues in analytic philosophy of language, logic, and metaphysics. In the first part of the module, students will consider questions about the relationship between meaning and language, language and truth, and truth and reality, which will then lead in the second part of the module to metaphysical questions about possibility, necessity, and existence.
  • The questions to be addressed in the first part will include some or all of the following: What is meaning? What are the preconditions for language to have meaning? Does meaning exist 'in the mind' or out there in the world? What is truth? What is the relationship between truth and the world? Can we say true things about non-existent objects? How do we analyse statements about possibility and necessity?
  • The questions to be addressed in the second part of the module will include some or all of the following: Why is there something rather than nothing? Must every fact have an explanation? Can the universe as a whole be the product of an accident? Is absolute nothingness metaphysically possible? What is determinism? What is chance? Can there be chance in a deterministic world? Does the existence of life indicate that there is a multiverse? Do objects have individual essences? Do natural kinds have essences? Should the origin of person be deemed essential?
  • By considering these fundamental linguistic and cosmological questions, students will gain an understanding of a number of core concepts relating to meaning, modality, existence, and explanation.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module students will be able to:
  • Correctly utilise specialist vocabulary in discussions on language, logic and reality:
  • Grasp, analyse, evaluate and deploy arguments concerning language, logic and reality:
  • Locate, understand, assess and utilise pertinent philosophical and historical sources on language, logic and reality
  • Interpret and criticise relevant texts on language, logic and reality:
  • Using all of the above skills, write critical and well-informed essays on selected topics concerning logic, language and reality
Key Skills:
  • By the end of the module students will be able to:
  • Express themselves clearly and succinctly in writing
  • Comprehend complex ideas, propositions and theories
  • Defend their opinions by reasoned argument
  • Seek out and identify appropriate sources of evidence and information
  • Tackle problems in a clear-sighted and logical fashion.

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

  • This module will be taught in weekly one-hour lectures, with fortnightly discussion groups allowing the students to enter into deeper discussion and engagement with the concepts introduced in the lecture. Teaching and learning methods will support students in achieving the Subject-Specific Skills above. The Subject-Specific Skills will be formally assessed by the summative essays.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 22 1 per week 1 hour 22
Discussion groups 9 fortnightly 1 hour 9
Preparation and Reading 169
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essays Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 3000 words 50%
Essay 2 3000 words 50%

Formative Assessment:

One essay of 2000 words

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