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: Dr Shalini Sinha

Email: shalini.sinha@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module introduces students to philosophical questions that arise when we reflect on perhaps the biggest question of human existence, death, from a cross-cultural perspective. Some of the questions we will investigate philosophically are: What happens when we die? Is death merely the cessation of bodily processes as modern science contends or a transformation of consciousness as Tibetan Buddhists claim? Why is it that knowing death is inevitable, we seem to believe that it cannot happen to us? Are we immortal in some way? How can we meet our own death? Can we live with death fearlessly? How should we live knowing that death is inevitable? We will look at the contrasting approaches and responses to these questions in Chinese Daoist, Buddhist, and Hindu philosophy, and in Continental philosophy, literature, and neuroscience. 


This module encourages students to evaluate their beliefs about death and dying from a variety of cross-cultural perspectives. By critically assessing the ways in which a wide range of philosophical traditions and disciplines have addressed questions about death, students will cultivate skills in oral and written argument and develop a sense of how a philosophical conversation between different traditions and disciplines of thought is both possible and warranted.  This module builds on philosophical discussions about death in PP1RA, questions about the meaning of life in PP1ML, and cross-cultural philosophy in PP1PWR and PP2GP.

Assessable learning outcomes:

Students will gain competency in the concepts, theories and methodologies used by Non-Western and Continental traditions of philosophy, and neuroscience, in addressing questions regarding death.  They will learn skills of argumentation and presentation by critically engaging in philosophical conversation between these traditions.  By designing their seminar presentations and undertaking research for coursework essays, students will come to acquire skills of research and enquiry and learn to critically appraise what they learn. Students will learn to reflect critically on their own beliefs and develop personal effectiveness and self-awareness by learning to communicate in one-to-one discussions, and in group discussions in seminars and lectures, using a range of means (speaking, essay-writing, presenting and designing slides).  Students will learn to reflect critically on their progress, their strengths and weaknesses, and the goals they wish to achieve.

Additional outcomes:

This module gives students an opportunity to enhance their multicultural awareness and intercultural competencies by considering cross-cultural philosophical approaches to death and dying. They will be encouraged to gain values of inclusiveness and diversity in their approach to fundamental human concerns and use these to develop greater social and civic responsibility.

Outline content:

Topics covered on the module will typically include what Buddhist, Daoist, Hindu and neuroscientific approaches have to say about the process of dying, what happens to us when we die, and what constitutes death. We will reflect on how we should meet death, and the moral psychology and phenomenology of death and dying in Buddhist, Daoist, Hindu, and Continental philosophy; and the idea of death and dying as a philosophical and meditative practice in Buddhist and Hindu philosophy. We will also consider how different approaches to the nature of death form the basis of an ethics of living, considering Buddhist and Hindu perspectives in particular.

Global context:

This module will develop students’ awareness of the variety of ways of ‘doing’ Philosophy in an increasingly global and diverse community.  It will greatly enhance the resources students have for understanding and developing their own thought and practice by gaining intercultural competence in diverse philosophical approaches to fundamental questions of human existence.

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: 17 September 2018


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