PP3AF-Are we free?

Module Provider: Philosophy
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Prof Maximilian De Gaynesford

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

Type of module:

Summary module description:

‘Freedom’ is a central concept in modern political and ethical debate.  But many aspects remain unclear and call for philosophical investigation. For example, we are often able to do what we want. And that certainly looks like being free. But suppose we do not control what we want. We may be doing what we want, but are we free? Or suppose everything that happens must happen, as a result of events that took place millennia before our birth. That includes not only every action we perform, but every want that drove us to that action. Again, we may be doing what we want, but are we free? If not, do our lives have any more significance than that of fleas? Can we really be held responsible for anything? Do we ever merit praise or deserve blame? Are we ever justified in punishing people? These are some of the issues this module investigates philosophically.


This module develops a keen sense of the significance of philosophical thinking in dealing with free will. The module also enhances global engagement and multi-cultural awareness by investigating different cultural approaches to the problems of free will and responsibility. The module draws on a range of different conceptions of what counts as ‘Philosophy’, so it encourages students to compare and contrast very different ways of doing philosophy. The emphasis is on developing independent learning, personal effectiveness and self-awareness as well as the ability to reflect effectively on your progress and strengths and on the goals you wish to achieve.

Assessable learning outcomes:

The programme of study in Philosophy is specifically designed to introduce students to progressive intellectual challenges and to consolidate previous experience at each new level. This third-year module enables students to develop mastery of the advanced skills of philosophy – particularly in written work and in oral discussion. This is a research-led module and it improves and tests for research skills - particularly the ability of students to discover new material for themselves and to develop it themselves. It improves personal effectiveness through developing these independent-learning skills.

Additional outcomes:

The module encourages students to confront their deepest beliefs and assumptions about freedom in a characteristically philosophical way. It builds on techniques learned at Parts 1 and 2 to develop students’ skills in oral and written argument. Students will be enhancing their contextual abilities: this module teaches students different ways of relating concepts and theories to the current context, so they can develop the skills to apply their knowledge to real world problems.

Outline content:

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module is taught by lectures and seminars. Students are expected to attend 10 hours of lectures and 5 hours of seminars during the term in which the module’s lecture and seminar classes take place. All students are required to write a single essay from a list of questions supplied by the module convenor. The essay assignment will be due in week 5 of the Summer term. In addition, students will be required to write a short précis of the topic for discussion in each 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 10
Seminars 5
Guided independent study 85
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Formative assessment methods:

Students will write a short précis of the topic for discussion for every seminar class. Some classes may involve quizzes.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (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 August/September.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 20 April 2018


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