Reason, Knowledge and Values: An Introduction to Philosophy

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Andrew Khoury


This course is compulsory on the BSc in Philosophy and Economics, BSc in Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method and BSc in Politics and Philosophy. This course is available on the BSc in International Relations and BSc in Social Policy. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

In his Letter to Menoeceus, Epicurus (341-271 BC) advises us that the successful study of philosophy will help one to "live like a god among men." The aims and objectives of this course are more modest. Reason, Knowledge and Values provides an introduction to analytical philosophy by using classic and contemporary texts to study a selection of philosophical problems. It aims to acquaint students with some of the central questions of philosophy and to engage students in critical analysis of classic answers to these questions by authors including Plato, Nagel, Descartes, Locke, Mackie, Frankfurt and others. It also aims to develop students' ability to think about and discuss philosophical issues systematically, critically, and patiently, and to develop their philosophical curiosity and imagination. Students should complete this course with knowledge of the basic types of philosophical argument and of the following questions and some classic answers to them: • What is the meaning of life? • Does morality depend on religion? • Is morality relative? • Is the existence of evil compatible with the existence of God? • What is the relationship between determinism, free will, and moral responsibility? • Is time travel possible? • How does motion through space overcome Zeno's paradox? • Are unobservables like quarks and gluons real? • How is knowledge different than belief? • What makes mathematical knowledge special? Students should also develop the ability to: • Think clearly and thoroughly about philosophical issues. • Understand a philosophical text on its own terms: determine the aims the author sets him- or herself, consider the meaning of words, concepts, and expressions particular to the text and the argument; ask questions about the context in which the argument is situated. • Critically evaluate arguments: distinguish valid from invalid, sound from unsound, deductive from inductive, plausible from implausible arguments. • Debate and write about these issues in a philosophical manner.


10 hours of lectures, 9 hours of classes and 5 hours of workshops in the MT. 10 hours of lectures, 10 hours of classes and 5 hours of workshops in the LT. 2 hours of classes in the ST.

Parallel to this course, we will run a short five week course on ‘Argumentative Writing in Philosophy’ with practical advice to improve your writing style and with writing exercises.  Students in the BSc Philosophy and Economics and in the BSc Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method are required to attend (5 hours of workshops in either MT or LT) and do all assignments.  Other students are invited to do so.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to write two essays per term.

Indicative reading

The readings will be articles and excerpts from books and will be made available via Moodle.


Exam (67%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (33%, 2000 words) in the ST.

Student performance results

(2010/11 - 2012/13 combined)

Classification % of students
First 11.8
2:1 58.3
2:2 25.6
Third 3.4
Fail 0.9

Key facts

Department: Philosophy

Total students 2012/13: 125

Average class size 2012/13: 13

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills