PP2OID1-Oppression, Inequality, and the Enemies of Democracy 1

Module Provider: Philosophy
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Mr George Mason

Email: g.p.mason@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

In this module you will consider the question: how should we be governed? The course will introduce you to key philosophical arguments concerning the meaning and value of freedom, equality and democracy. You will study both their defenders and their detractors.


The programme of study in Philosophy is specifically designed to introduce you to progressive intellectual challenges and to consolidate your previous experience at each new level. This module will challenge you to analyse and evaluate philosophical arguments, and to articulate and defend your philosophical views in writing, in formal presentations, and in open discussion.

Assessable learning outcomes:


Intended learning outcomes:

This module fits into our graduated, supervised programme for developing independent-learning skills. The module begins with the closely guided study of key philosophical arguments, assessed through your choice of pre-set essay questions and a presentation.

Assessable outcomes

By the end of this module you will be able to:

  • Analyse and evaluate central arguments in political philosophy.

  • Explain different conceptions of oppression, inequality and democracy.

  • Apply philosophical methods to current issues of policy and principle.

  • Articulate and defend your views in a public forum.

  • Write in a clear, rigorous and effective manner.

  • Identify and respond cogently to the best criticisms of your positions. 

Additional outcomes:

You will also develop your ability to:

• Confront your deepest beliefs and assumptions in a characteristically philosophical way

• Develop a sense of the significance of philosophical thinking in dealing with modern problems

• Supplement your guided study with independent research by following citations and using appropriate library resources.

• Manage a small independent project, identifying appropriate resources, managing your time, collaborating effectively and seeking help when needed. 

Outline content:

Topics covered on the module will typically include:

  • Freedom: What does it mean to be free? How much freedom should we be allowed?

  • Rights: What is a right? What rights do we have? 

  • Equality: Is equality valuable for its own sake, or for other reasons? What kinds of equality are the most important?

  • Democracy: What makes a government democratic? What makes a government legitimate?  What are the best arguments that reject the value of democracy?

  • Conflicts between liberal values: What should be done if a democratic majority wishes to enact illiberal or discriminatory policies? Must we sacrifice freedom to achieve equality, or equality to achieve freedom? Can we be free or equal without living in a democracy?

  • Challenges to liberal values: What arguments have been used to reject freedom, equality or democracy? How should we respond to them?

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module is taught by lectures and seminars. Students are expected to attend 20 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars. All students are required to write two essays 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 presentation, 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 module. 

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 assignment including essay 90
Oral assessment and presentation 10

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

2 x 45% written assignments

Formative assessment methods:

Students will write a short précis of the topic for discussion for every seminar class in which they are not doing a presentation. Lectures will require you to ask and answer questions and participate in group discussions.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor 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.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:

    A mark of 40% overall

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Written assignment, to be completed in the Summer term

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 9 February 2018

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