Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2018-2019 (archived)

Module PHIL51030: Philosophical Perspectives

Department: Philosophy

PHIL51030: Philosophical Perspectives

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2018/19 Module Cap
Tied to V7K107


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide students with an integrated understanding of practical research skills and a broad-based knowledge of philosophical research in ways that enhance the connections between the modules offered in the Programme.
  • To teach students about the process of research development through actively reflecting on their experiences of engaging with the research presentations of professionals.
  • To teach students how to present research papers in a style and format that is appropriate to the discipline.
  • To inform students of how to use and reference a variety of resources including Internet resources, and to instill appropriate judgement with regard to the variety of research resources available.
  • To teach students how to pose clear, succinct research questions and to identify literature that is relevant to their proposed topic and read selectively.
  • To impress upon students that the question of which research methods and techniques a philosopher should employ is itself a difficult philosophical question, to which many conflicting answers have been proposed, and, in the process, to convey an understanding of some of the many different argument structures and writing techniques that are employed in philosophy.
  • To enable students to critically reflect at an advanced level on distinctions made between philosophical 'traditions' and perspectives, and to address the issues of whether, when and how various philosophical presuppositions should be defended.
  • To teach students how to identify and critically examine the presuppositions of their own philosophical work and to gain an understanding of how that is related to the wider context of the discipline.


  • 9 x 1.5 hr sessions, will include training and development of practical research skills such as library and E-resource research methods, referencing and bibliographic conventions and reflection on seminar presentation techniques. These sessions will be a discipline-specific complement to the University Library Workshop providing students with an understanding of how to search for and acquire relevant books, articles, chapters, and other resources. Through seminar discussions students will also learn about different conceptions of what philosophy is and how it should be done and engage with some of the most important philosophers and classic publications that constitute pivotal moments in the development of philosophical research. Indicative topics are: naturalism; meta-metaphysics; the relation between history of science and philosophy of science; philosophy and medicine (medical humanities); ethics in theory and practice; philosophy and religion; phenomenology.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will:
  • know which library resources are available.
  • become familiar with some of the ways in which academic research in philosophy is presented.
  • learn about different conceptions of the relationships between philosophy and its subject matter including philosophy and history of science, practical and theoretical ethics, phenomenology and metaphysics.
  • acquire a knowledge of distinctions between different philosophical traditions and be sensitive to the shortcomings of such distinctions.
  • understand that different philosophers, philosophical methods and philosophical schools start from quite different presuppositions and learn that implicit presuppositions often play a key role in motivating philosophical positions.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will be able to:
  • identify the context or tradition in which a philosophical work is situated.
  • present work in a style appropriate to the discipline.
  • make some of the presuppositions of their own work explicit.
  • critically reflect at an advanced level on the question of what philosophy is and how it should be done.
  • address in detail a specific issue relating to the nature and role of philosophy.
Key Skills:
  • Students will be able to:
  • use library resources, including electronic resources such as databases.
  • make explicit and question some of the assumptions that underlie their thinking more generally.
  • recognise that academic thought is structured by a diversity of cultures and traditions, which are not always explicitly acknowledged by their 'inhabitants'.
  • develop the ability to manage their time effectively and communicate their ideas to others in a clear, succinct fashion.

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

  • This module will involve 9 x 1.5 hour sessions which will take place during Michaelmas and Epiphany Term. Two of these will be devoted to practical research skills and knowledge development and seven to the nature of philosophical method and perspective.
  • The first session will introduce students to research methods and resources generally and the different provisions that Durham has in particular. The Library Workshop will teach students how to locate and use library resources. Appropriate use of bibliographical resources will be developed and monitored as part of the formative assessment and as part of the summative assessment for ‘Philosophical Perspectives’.
  • An exercise to enable students to critically reflect on research presentation techniques will also be provided in Epiphany Term. This will involve students attending a number of the weekly Departmental Research Seminars, and reflecting on the different styles and perspectives that speakers adopt during the process of researching and developing a focused contribution to research. A subsequent in-depth discussion session will explore the nature of the research process and students will receive guidance and advice on approaches to research and presentation techniques. This will enable students to acquire cutting-edge understanding of some of the ways in which academic research in philosophy is presented.
  • Module-specific support and further guidance on research methods and techniques, locating and using resources and on style and presentation will also be integrated into the Module seminars throughout the academic year and also as part of the dedicated one-to-one supervision sessions
  • The seven Philosophical Perspectives seminars will each address a specific topic concerning the nature and role of philosophical enquiry. Seminar leaders will provide a general overview of a debate and will focus on specific questions relevant to the topic. Students will be encouraged to engage in the debates and to challenge the positions outlined. Seminar leaders will provide students with an appropriate reading list and research questions, which students are advised to use as a starting point from which to start researching the Philosophical Perspectives essay. These sessions will teach the students about different conceptions of the relationships between philosophy and its subject matter and give them an understanding of distinctions between different philosophical traditions and perspectives.
  • A session will be dedicated at the start of Epiphany Term to assigning supervisors for the assessed essay to be submitted in late April.
  • Students will receive up to four one-to-one supervision sessions to provide support and guidance in preparation for submitting the summative assessment.
  • 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 potential objections. 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, arguments and philosophical perspectives and put forward a rigorous position in the form of a clear, structured philosophical argument.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
One-to-one supervisions 4 Flexible, as required 1 hour 4
Practical Research Skills 2 One in Michaelmas term, one in Epiphany term 1.5 hours 3
Philosophical Perspectives Seminars 7 During Michaelmas and Epiphany terms 1.5 hours 10.5
Preparation and Reading Time 282.5
Total 300

Summative Assessment

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

Formative Assessment:

One essay of 2,000 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