Reason, Knowledge and Values: An Introduction to Philosophy

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Heather Dyke


This course is compulsory on the BSc in Philosophy and Economics, BSc in Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics 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 Reason, Knowledge and Values we explore very general questions about the nature of reality, with the aim of better understanding the world and our place in it. The course provides an introduction to analytical philosophy by using classic and contemporary texts to study a selection of philosophical problems. Our approach to these problems is to carefully formulate them, consider proposed solutions to them, and evaluate arguments in support of those solutions, as well as objections to them. Our exploration of these problems will be guided by the writings of classic and contemporary philosophers. By following this methodology, the course 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 and contemporary answers to them: • Is the existence of evil compatible with the existence of God? • What is the relationship between determinism, free will, and moral responsibility? • What makes us the same person over time, even though we change in many ways? • Does time flow? • What is knowledge? • Do we know anything for certain? • What makes some actions morally right, and others morally wrong? We will also examine some questions of applied ethics, such as: • When, if ever, is censorship permissible? • What, if anything, is wrong with drug use in sport? • Is euthanasia ever morally permissible? and • Is the state justified in restricting access to recreational drugs? Students should also develop the ability to: • Think clearly and thoroughly about philosophical issues. • Understand, and critically engage with a philosophical text on its own terms. • 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 and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT.

Parallel to this course, we will run a short five week course on ‘Philosophy and Argumentative Writing’ with practical advice to improve your writing style and with writing exercises. Students in the BSc in Philosophy and Economics, the BSc in Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, and the BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics 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 one formative essay in MT and two formative essays in LT.

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%, 1500 words) in the ST.

Student performance results

(2013/14 - 2015/16 combined)

Classification % of students
First 14.3
2:1 62.9
2:2 19.7
Third 1.2
Fail 2

Key facts

Department: Philosophy

Total students 2015/16: 178

Average class size 2015/16: 14

Capped 2015/16: No

Lecture capture used 2015/16: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

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