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: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Prof David Oderberg

Email: d.s.oderberg@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:
This module will introduce you to some of the great paradoxes in the history of philosophy as well as contemporary ones, and proposed solutions to them.

A paradox is usually a very surprising, if not unbelievable, conclusion reached by reasoning that is in itself plausible. Philosophy is full of paradoxes – logical, semantic, metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, and others. They are not only fascinating in themselves but shed light on big philosophical issues, as do the solutions philosophers have proposed. You will be introduced to some of the classic paradoxes and to the ways philosophers have tried to solve them.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module you will understand:
• what a paradox is
• what kinds of paradox there are
• the details of some of the great paradoxes
• the solutions to them that have been proposed.

Additional outcomes:
By the end of this module you will also understand how paradoxes and their proposed solutions shed light on some major issues in philosophy, particularly in philosophy of language, metaphysics, logic, and epistemology.

Outline content:

  1. Michael Clark, Paradoxes from A to Z, 2nd edition (Routledge, 2007) (no need to read everything, just some of the paradoxes listed below)

  2. R. Sorensen, A Brief History of the Paradox (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005

The module will cover some or all of the following paradoxes:

  1. Zeno’s Paradoxes: Achilles and the Tortoise; the Arrow; the Racetrack

  2. The Liar Paradox

  3. The Surprise Examination

  4. The Grue Paradox (aka the New Riddle of Induction)

  5. The Heap/Sorites Paradox (Paradox of Vagueness)

  6. Galileo’s Paradox; Hilbert’s Hotel; Tristram Shandy

  7. The Paradox of Foreknowledge

  8. The Paradox of Omnipotence

  9. Newcomb’s Paradox

  10. The Prisoners’ Dilemma

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module will consist of 10 x 2 hour lectures and 10 assessed student presentations conducted in small groups. Each presentation will be devoted to an important article on a particular paradox. Students will be expected to make a short presentation of the article, designed to stimulate class discussion.

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 80
Oral assessment and presentation 20

Summative assessment- Examinations:


Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

2 x coursework assignments each worth 40% = 80% of final module mark.

1 x oral presentation worth 20% of final module mark.

Formative assessment methods:

Pre-submission meetings for coursework, and post-assessment discussion, will be made available to all students.

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.

    For presentations, the student will be required to submit a slideshow during August.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 26 September 2018


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