PP3XP-Experimental Philosophy

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: Dr James Andow

Email: j.andow@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:

Is it possible to have a pain which one cannot feel? What is the nature of hope? Does early Chinese Philosophy lack the concept of Mind-Body Dualism? What have the methods of physics and philosophy got in common? Do all cultures share the same concept of knowledge? 

These are all philosophical questions and in this module we shall explore how empirical research can help philosophers answer these questions. This module explores how philosophers can themselves conduct empirical research in order to gain philosophical insights. The module will introduce students to exciting new movements in philosophy which involve the collection and analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data to test philosophically important hypotheses and gain deeper insight into philosophically interesting areas. The module will introduce students to a number of case studies of these methods in practice, and help equip students to develop and run their own empirical projects, for example, as part of a summer independent-learning module.



This module will help students extend their knowledge of current innovations in philosophical methodology. Students will gain knowledge about the Experimental Philosophy movement, and the digitally assisted study of texts and internet corpora. 

This module fits into our graduated, supervised programme for developing independent-learning skills. Building on the competencies developed at Parts 1 and 2 concerning the analysis of traditional philosophical texts and arguments, this module will help students develop the skills required to analyse empirical texts and arguments, e.g., their numerical literacy and abilities to critically examine scientific research. Students will also gain critical insights into the process of gauging public. 

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 builds on and helps students develop a more in-depth understanding of concepts introduced at Parts 1 and 2, for example, PP1PWR (Philosophy of World Religions), PP1MM (Mental Machines), PP1RA (Reason & Argument), PP2MM (Meaning and the Mind), and PP2IDR (Ignorance, Doubt & Relativism). 

Assessable learning outcomes:

Students will gain an awareness of new innovations in philosophical methodology and a detailed understanding of a small number of specific research projects which employ these new methods.  Students will be able to evaluate traditional and innovative approaches to philosophical research.  Students will develop their ability to digest, criticize and report on the results and designs of empirical studies.  

Additional outcomes:

Students will be able to apply their knowledge and understanding gained in other modules including modules in philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, epistemology, and philosophy of science. All students will have the chance to develop a deeper understanding of the nature of philosophy and philosophical research, as well as other current trends such as the Digital Humanities. Joint Honours students will have a chance to consider the relations between philosophy and their other subject(s) in greater depth. All students will have chance to gain some firsthand experience of empirical research and develop the basic competencies required for designing and conducting empirical research of their own. 

Outline content:

Topics covered on the module will typically include: 

•    Case studies in Experimental Philosophy and Corpus Analysis

•    Introduction to conducting psychological experiments

•    Introduction to the nature, collection, and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data

•    Discussion of diverse topics typically including:

o    Chinese philosophy of mind

?    Did early Chinese philosophers lack a concept of Mind-Body duality?

o    Philosophy of pain

?    Does our everyday concept of pain rule out the possibility of unfelt pains?

?    To what extent is the everyday concept of pain shared across cultures?

o    Epistemology

?    Are epistemic concepts such as ‘belief’ and ‘knowledge’ shared in all cultures?

o    Aesthetics

?    Are our aesthetic tastes largely the result of sociocultural factors?

o    Metaphilosophy

?    Do philosophers rely on their intuitions more than they used to?

?    Do philosophers rely on their intuitions more than academics in other fields?


Global context:

This module will help students develop a global perspective. One of the main motivations for conducting empirical research in philosophy is to gain a cross-cultural perspective, and to ensure that underrepresented voices are heard. Students will gain an appreciation of the important of considering cultural differences and similarities in research. Students will also engage with topics in Chinese philosophy.

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

    Things to do now