Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2018-2019 (archived)


Department: Philosophy


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2018/19 Module Cap


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To examine topics in philosophy of religion from a cross-cultural perspective.
  • To enable students to reflect critically upon different views as to how cross-cultural philosophy should be pursued.
  • To foster a culturally-sensitive yet critical understanding of the central principles of Buddhist philosophy.
  • To introduce students to a growing body of research that draws upon Buddhist philosophy to shed new light on topics in the philosophy of religion.
  • To enable students to understand the central debates in this field of research, through structured group discussion of influential journal articles, book chapters and books.
  • To foster a critical understanding of the similarities and differences between monotheistic and Buddhist views on certain key topics in the philosophy of religion.
  • To provide students with the knowledge and skills required to pursue self-directed research on a specific topic, under the direction of a member of staff.
  • To introduce students to debates at the cutting edge of philosophical research, where there is much work to be done and considerable scope for original contributions, with a view to encouraging PhD research in the field.


  • The first seminar will introduce students to the field of cross-cultural philosophy of religion, drawing attention to the importance of cross-cultural work and to some of the difficulties it involves. Following this, topics, questions and debates that are central to the field will be outlined. The remaining seminars will address six topics:
  • The Religious Significance of Suffering
  • The Soul
  • Appearance and Reality
  • The Relation Between Philosophical Inquiry and Religious Practice
  • Religion and Morality
  • The Religious Significance of the Natural World
  • One-to-one supervisions will provide more focused teaching on one of these topics, which students will explore in depth through their formative and summative assignments.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will:
  • Acquire an appreciation of contrasting views regarding how research in cross-cultural philosophy ought to be pursued.
  • Understand some central principles of Buddhist philosophy.
  • Be able to apply an understanding of similarities and differences between monotheistic and Buddhist views to one of the six seminar topics.
  • Acquire an advanced, in-depth knowledge of recent research on at least one of the six topics discussed.
  • Address a specific research question, concerning one of the six topics discussed.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will be able to:
  • Identify some of the key issues, questions and debates concerning cross-cultural philosophy of religion.
  • Identify and make use of relevant literature.
  • Critically review, in a clear and structured fashion, some of the recent work that draws upon Buddhist philosophy to address topics in the philosophy of religion.
  • Identify a philosophical problem, formulate a philosophical position and employ advanced critical skills and conceptual knowledge to address the problem and defend the position.
  • Write an essay with an appropriately focused research question, a clear, knowledgeable discussion of the topic area, and a structured argument. Essays will display evidence of critical understanding and innovative philosophical thought.
Key Skills:
  • Students will be able to:
  • Identify and locate research materials.
  • Write in a clear, rigorous, argumentative style.
  • Manage their time effectively.
  • Use their own initiative to choose a research topic.
  • Exercise self-discipline, responsibility and autonomy in pursuing a research project.

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

  • Seminars provide structured group teaching, addressing issues that are central to recent research on cross-cultural philosophy of religion. Seminars also provide the opportunity for group discussion, allowing students to clarify points and refine their views, through interaction with the seminar leader and their peers. Through seminars, students will further develop their argumentative abilities and learn to put forward their views in a clear, structured manner.
  • One-to-one supervisions are tailored specifically to the research projects of individual students, providing a valuable opportunity for them to clarify and discuss ideas. One-to-one supervisions will also assist students in locating relevant library resources, formulating appropriate and concise essay topics, and working out argument structures. Supervision sessions are also used to offer critical feedback on draft summative essays, prior to submission.
  • Students are required to attend the weekly student-led Taught MA in Philosophy Work-in-Progress Seminar, where they will be encouraged to present their ideas to peers and seek feedback. They are also encouraged to attend relevant EIDOS (postgraduate philosophy society) talks and departmental Research Seminars.
  • Students will write a formative essay, which reviews a key text or philosophical position discussed in seminars, makes some of its presuppositions explicit and outlines at least one potential objection. Feedback on the formative assignment will assist students in preparing the summative assignment.
  • For the summative essay, students will be required to focus on a specific research question, demonstrate advanced knowledge of the relevant literature, develop a critical understanding of relevant ideas and arguments and put forward a philosophical position in the form of a clear, structured philosophical argument.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 7 Weekly 2 hours 14
One-to-one Supervisions 4 Flexible, as required 1 hour 4
Preparation and Reading 282
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

An 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