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Philosophical Methods

Unit code: PHIL20891
Credit Rating: 20
Unit level: Level 2
Teaching period(s): Semester 1
Offered by Philosophy
Available as a free choice unit?: Y



Additional Requirements

Pre-Requisites: 20 PHIL credits at Level 1

20 PHIL credits at Level 1.


The module aims to raise issues about how philosophy is done and how it should be done. First, the module seeks to identify certain core methodological principles used in contemporary philosophy. Second, the module will consider some of the important applications that these principles have been put to. Third, the module will assess the principles: how, and to what degree, can these principles be justified? Are all of these principles fundamental or can some be subsumed by others? How reliable are these principles?


Finding a method appropriate to the task is philosophy’s perennial first problem, and there has never been much of a consensus about the right or best method’ (Daniel Dennett). This course is concerned with evaluating certain methods and forms of argument distinctive to philosophy. The course provides the opportunity to test out these methods and patterns of argument. We will be concerned with such questions as: How are they supposed to work? How well do they work? What are their advantages? What are their flaws?

Teaching and learning methods

One 2 hour lecture and one 1 hour tutorial weekly

Learning outcomes



Knowledge and understanding

Knowledge and Understanding: Students should acquire knowledge of some of the central methodological principles used in contemporary philosophy and to understand how they are applied in various key philosophical arguments and debates.

Intellectual skills: Skills in following and constructing arguments, and in formulating and assessing central methodological principles in philosophy.

Practical skills: skills in time-management, in independent working, and in developing motivation and personal initiative.

Transferable skills and personal qualities: The module should increase students' skills in reasoning, in presenting arguments and theses, and in assessing claims and counter-claims.

Employability skills

  • Analytical skills
  • Innovation/creativity
  • Oral communication
  • Problem solving
  • Research
  • Written communication

Assessment methods

  • Written exam - 67%
  • Written assignment (inc essay) - 33%

Recommended reading

Chris Daly Introduction to Philosophical Methods (Broadview Press, 2010)

Feedback methods

The School of Social Sciences (SoSS) is committed to providing timely and appropriate feedback to students on their academic progress and achievement, thereby enabling students to reflect on their progress and plan their academic and skills development effectively. Students are reminded that feedback is necessarily responsive: only when a student has done a certain amount of work and approaches us with it at the appropriate fora is it possible for us to feed back on the student's work. The main forms of feedback on this course are written feedback responses to assessed essays and exam answers.

We also draw your attention to the variety of generic forms of feedback available to you on this as on all SoSS courses. These include: meeting the lecturer/tutor during their office hours; e-mailing questions to the lecturer/tutor; asking questions from the lecturer (before and after lecture); and obtaining feedback from your peers during tutorials.

Study hours

  • Lectures - 20 hours
  • Tutorials - 10 hours
  • Independent study hours - 170 hours

Teaching staff

Christopher Daly - Unit coordinator

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