PP3TRL-Tyranny, Rhetoric and Lies

Module Provider: Philosophy
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Mr George Mason

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

Summary module description:

Democracies have failed in the past, and democracy has been a rare form of government historically. So are there inherent weaknesses to democracy that enable tyrants to rise? Is the fall from democracy to tyranny inevitable? Why are sophistry, bullshit and lies so effective, and how can they be resisted? 


The module will consist of a close study of key arguments of Plato, Aristotle and others concerning tyranny, democracy, and rhetoric, as well some contemporary philosophers on bullshit and lies. 

The module will develop your ability to produce cogent arguments and communicate clearly and persuasively – even when confronted with an evasive and unreasonable opponent.   

The content of this module will build upon some of the material studied in Reason and Argument and Oppression, Inequality and the Enemies of Democracy, but it is not required that you have taken them. 

Assessable learning outcomes:

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

•    Analyse the writings of Plato and Aristotle on rhetoric, democracy and tyranny, and apply their arguments to contemporary issues. 

•    Compose rigorous, cogent arguments. 

•    Write in a clear, precise and effective manner.

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

•    Judge the relevance and importance of competing considerations, in order to deal with complicated topics clearly and concisely. 

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


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

•    Communicate effectively in formal and informal discussions.

•    Express yourself clearly, precisely, and concisely, even to non-philosophers.

•    Collaborate effectively with others.

•    Understand and evaluate competing philosophical methodologies. 

•    Apply philosophical methods of reasoning to real life debate, in a way that is persuasive and intelligible for everybody.


Outline content:

Topics covered on the module will typically include:

•    How can an audience be persuaded of something? 

•    What is democracy? What is tyranny?

•    Are there inherent weaknesses to democracy that enable tyrants to rise? Is the fall from democracy to tyranny inevitable? 

•    What is bullshit and how can it be resisted? What effect does it have on a democracy?

•    How should a democracy treat liars? How should a democracy treat experts?


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

Other information on summative assessment:

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 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.

    Length of examination:

    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: 31 March 2017

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