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Philosophy, logic and scientific method

Overview

Studying philosophy means engaging with some profound and fascinating questions; questions that any inquisitive and critical thinker will ask him- or herself at some point in his or her life, but which many non-philosophers do not pursue in depth.

Here are some examples of these questions:

  • In philosophy of science: How does science generate knowledge? Does science discredit religious belief?
  • In ethics: What does morality require? Why be moral?
  • In political philosophy: Is equality of basic rights and resources a requirement of justice?
  • In metaphysics: What is freedom of the will, and do we possess it? What makes you the same person over time, notwithstanding the changes in your body, beliefs and values over your life?

Our graduates have excellent job prospects. A recent Guardian survey ranks us as the Department with far and away the best job prospects in the UK for philosophy graduates; we believe that this is because of the analytical rigour and interdisciplinary nature of our degrees. Recent graduates have gone on to work in banking and financial services, government, management consultancy, media and education, and have also proved very successful in gaining entry to graduate programmes.

Features of LSE courses

In studying philosophy at LSE you will debate and investigate the issues and problems which have preoccupied philosophers since Greek times, as well as learning the skills and techniques of reasoning. You will do so by studying works by the major authors of the Western tradition (including Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, and Mill) and contemporary sources.

Our research and teaching programmes have two distinctive features. The first is a commitment to clarity of expression and argumentative rigour. This means taking great care to avoid obscure or grand statements that one cannot back up with precise arguments or evidence. Formal logic is an important part of the degrees, as too are the principles of evidence and of inductive reasoning.

The second is a commitment to doing philosophy in close contact with the social and natural sciences. We study questions of moral and political philosophy, knowledge acquisition, and scientific method in an interdisciplinary way. In addition to courses in familiar areas of philosophy (like moral philosophy and philosophy of mind and language), we therefore offer courses in the Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Economics, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Philosophy of the Biomedical Sciences, Philosophy of Cognitive Science, Scientific Method and Policy, the History of Science, Set Theory and Further Logic, Philosophy and Public Policy, Global Ethics and Business and Organisational Ethics. You will also have the opportunity to take a significant number of courses in other departments at LSE. 

The skills in reasoning which you will gain can be applied to any subject matter, and your studies will provide you with a good general basis for a wide range of occupations and professions. 

Degree options

We offer both a single honours BSc Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method| and a joint BSc degree in Philosophy and Economics|. The Department of Government also offers the BSc Politics and Philosophy|.

Teaching and assessment

You will have at least a one hour lecture and a one hour related class for each course each week, as well as LSE100 teaching. We are committed to giving undergraduates a good deal of face-to-face time with Faculty. All lectures are done by Faculty. Many second and third year classes (and even some first-year classes) are taught by Faculty as well (other classes are taught by PhD students in the Department). All teachers have weekly office hours in which you can further discuss material from the lectures and classes.

You will have an examination for each course in June of the year in which you have taken it. For each course, you will have to complete several essays and/or exercises as part of your class work. Your attendance at classes and performance will be carefully monitored, and you will have a personal academic adviser to provide assistance and guidance. 

Preliminary reading

Classics:

  • Plato The Republic, translated and edited by Robin Waterfield (Oxford Paperbacks)
  • R Descartes Meditations (any edition)
  • D Hume An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (any editions)
  • A Smith The Theory of Moral Sentiments (any edition)
  • JS Mill On Liberty (any edition)
  • K Popper Conjectures and Refutations: The growth of scientific knowledge (Routledge 2003)

General Philosophy and Philosophical Tools:

  • T Nagel What Does It All Mean? (Oxford University Press, 1987)
  • RM Sainsbury Paradoxes (Cambridge University Press, 2009)
  • B Skyrms Choice and Chance: An Introduction to Inductive Logic (Wadsworth, 2000)

Moral Philosophy

  • T Nagel Mortal Questions (Canto, 1991)
  • B Williams Morality: an Introduction to Ethics (Canto 1993)
  • J Wolff An Introduction to Political Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2006)
  • A Voorhoeve Conversations on Ethics (Oxford University Press, 2011)

Philosophy of Science:

  • S Okasha Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford Paperbacks, 2002)
  • A Chalmers What is this thing called Science? (Oxford University Press, 2006)

Preliminary listening

 
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