PP1HN-Human Nature

Module Provider: Philosophy
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Level:4
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Pre-requisites:
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Co-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2014/5

Module Convenor: Prof John Preston

Email: j.m.preston@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:
This course will introduce students to some of the ways in which philosophers (and certain other thinkers) have conceived of the nature of human beings, focussing particularly on the nature of individual human beings (their bodies and minds), and of human society. It will aim to encourage students to develop their own critical response to the philosophical issues involved. We will focus on extracts from the writings of major thinkers in the Western tradition. The module takes a wide historical sweep, starting from the classical Greek philosophers, then moving chronologically through the history of philosophy in the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and ending with contemporary conceptions. Ideas from religion and science (biology, psychology, social science) are also reflected in the module’s content.

Aims:
This course will introduce students to some of the ways in which philosophers (and certain other thinkers) have conceived of the nature of human beings, focussing particularly on the nature of the mind, and of human society. It will aim to encourage students to develop their own critical response to the philosophical issues involved. We will focus on extracts from the writings of major thinkers in the Western tradition. The module takes a wide historical sweep, starting from the classical Greek philosophers, then moving chronologically through the history of philosophy in the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and ending with contemporary conceptions. Ideas from religion and science (biology, psychology, social science) are also reflected in the module's content.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of this module, students will have an overview of some central topics concerning the nature of human beings and their potentialities, and will be able to outline the views of a number of authors on topics in these areas. Students' oral skills will be improved by their giving seminar 'reports', and commenting on selected passages from a wide selection of philosophical texts. Participation and group interaction will be particularly encouraged in the seminars.

Additional outcomes:
Students will gain an overview of some important and influential strands in Western philosophical thought. The questions they will be exploring in this module will engage with many other areas of philosophical inquiry, such as philosophy of mind, political philosophy, the theory of knowledge, and the philosophy of social science. Students will be introduced to distinctively philosophical ways of thinking about fundamental questions and will develop new skills of abstract and critical thought.

Outline content:
Plato on the soul and the republic
Aristotle on the functions of the organism, and politics
Thomas Hobbes on the Individual, the State of Nature, and the Social Contract
David Hume on the mind and society
Karl Marx on capitalism, alienation, and socialism
Friedrich Nietzsche on humanity, higher men, and the superman
Sigmund Freud on the mind and society
Émile Durkheim on our social nature
Contemporary ‘Cognitive Science’ and Evolutionary Psychology
Technology and the future of human nature



Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
The module is taught by lectures and seminars. All students are required to attend 20 lectures and 10 seminars during the term in which it is provided. All students are required to write a module essay from a list of questions supplied by the module convenor and to give one seminar presentation report. In addition, in weeks in which a student is not giving a report they will be required to write a short précis on the topic for discussion at a given seminar class. Students are encouraged to be active in all seminar classes, asking questions and trying to answer the questions posed by others. A reading list and sample questions will be given out at the start of the course.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Guided independent study 170
       
Total hours by term 200.00
       
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 60
Written assignment including essay 40

Other information on summative assessment:
Coursework
Students will write two essays of 1,500 words each, to be submitted by 12 noon on Wednesday of Weeks 6 and 11 of the term. Each essay counts for 20 per cent of the final module mark. Students will also write one seminar report.

Electronic Submission
All coursework should be submitted electronically via Blackboard and in hard copy to the Philosophy office.

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:
    The examination paper for all Philosophy Part One modules lasts for two hours and each requires that the candidate answer two questions.

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Written examination only.

    Last updated: 8 October 2014

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