PP1MW-Mind and World

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

Module Convenor: Prof Maximilian De Gaynesford

Email: r.m.degaynesford@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:
We take it for granted that minds are in the world, that thinking subjects are able to think and speak about the environment in which they are placed. But to ask how this is possible is to raise some of the deepest and most significant questions in philosophy. This course examines these questions via engagement with some of the principal participants in the debate: Descartes, Marx and Heidegger. The topics spread across metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind and philosophy of language.

The course will introduce students to central controversies in current philosophy via engagement with its past. It will encourage students to compare and contrast two very different ways of doing philosophy: ‘analytic’ and ‘continental’. It will develop their appreciation of the significance of philosophical debate, and cultivate their skills in oral and written argument.

Assessable learning outcomes:
This course will give students a grasp of some of the central topics in contemporary ‘analytic’ and ‘continental’ metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind and philosophy of language:
•Is the mind in the world? Is the mind even in the body? Is the mind in the head?
•How is it possible that we can experience, think about and speak about the world?
•How does the world bear on what we experience, think and say?
•Does the thinking subject need an environment in order to think?
•Do non-human animals have a world to experience?
•How is it possible that we can become ‘alienated’ from the world?
•Could philosophy be a solution to such ‘alienation’?
•How are we able to think and speak about what does not exist?
•How can we think what is false?

Students will also improve their writing skills in regular marked coursework, and will acquire new skills by giving oral presentations and by engaging in discussion of the presentations of others. The seminar-setting will develop their capacity to engage in philosophy at a high level whilst part of a group, commenting on and assessing philosophical positions, defending views and advancing new arguments.

Additional outcomes:
Students will gain an overview of some of the foundational problems of philosophy. The questions they will explore will engage with all the core areas of philosophical inquiry. Students will also develop skills of close reading, analysis and abstract and critical thought. These skills are required for the careful study of philosophical texts, the production of effective philosophical presentations, and the writing of successful philosophical essays.

Outline content:
The course is divided into three equal parts. The first examines philosophical positions (like Descartes’) which make us realize how problematic it is to claim that the mind is in the world, that we can genuinely experience our environment, that we have a world to think and speak about. The second part looks at philosophical views (like Marx’s) which enable us to appreciate what we stand to lose if we cannot find assurance that these claims are true. The third part examines philosophical approaches (like Heidegger’s) which aim to restore our confidence, returning us to the view that we do indeed have a world to experience (think about; talk about) by casting doubt on modes of philosophy which put that view in doubt.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
The module is taught by lectures and seminars. Students are expected to attend 10 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. In addition, in weeks in which a student is not giving a report they will be required to write a short précis of the topic for discussion at a given seminar class. Students are encouraged to be active in all 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
Tutorials 10
Guided independent study 170
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 70
Written assignment including essay 30

Other information on summative assessment:
There will be two essays, 1500 words each, required for this course; students will choose from a list of six titles; the two essays will be worth 30% (15% each) of the final marks for the module.

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:
    There will be one two-hour examination worth 70%, requiring students to answer two questions from a choice of six.

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of 40% overall

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Re-examination in August/September by written examination only.

    Last updated: 8 October 2014

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