28 May 2013: Postgraduate modules in Essex Philosophy for 2013-14

With the March deadlines for postgraduate scholarships in the School of Philosophy and Art History approaching, we are pleased to announce a provisional list of postgraduate modules planned for the next academic year, 2013-14.

October 2013 will also see Professor Robert Stern visit Essex to give a three day minicourse on Knud Ejler Løgstrup's text The Ethical Demand (1956).

Prospective students not applying for postgraduate scholarships can still apply for a postgraduate place after the March funding deadlines. If you are a self-funding University of Essex graduate or former study abroad student, you may be entitled to an Alumni Loyalty Discount.

Funding deadlines

For further information about postgraduate applications and funding, please contact the Graduate Administrator, Wendy Williams at the earliest opportunity.

Postgraduate modules for 2013-14*

MA Writing Workshop (Stephen Gormley and Wayne Martin)

PY951 - Autumn

The MA Writing Workshop provides intensive training in postgraduate-level philosophical writing. The Workshop is primarily designed for MA philosophy students, but first-year PhD students are also welcome. Participants write a short essay every week based on a reading assignment. We meet weekly in a common session to work both on the philosophical issues and on the micro-skills of writing. In addition, participants meet with their writing tutor in weekly tutorial sessions to get feedback on their submissions. Each year a different topic is chosen for the workshop. In 2013 the topic will be: Quine, Derrida, and Meaning. Although their philosophical approaches may seem to lie at polar opposites, and although Quine himself notoriously signed a public letter to The Times denouncing Derrida's work, the two thinkers were in fact both concerned with a common and interconnected set of issues pertaining to (inter alia) the inscrutability of reference and the structure of meaning in language. Each grappled in his own way with the challenge of understanding semantic determinacy and each explored the limit-notion of semantic nihilism. Indeed one of Derrida's first publications was a French translation of one of Quine's articles. We will look at some common background in Speech Act Theory, assess Quine's theory of Ontological Relativity, study Derrida's notion of Différance, and assess the notorious exchange with John Searle. The Workshop will be run as a collaborative research endeavour led by Steven Gormley and Wayne Martin.

Kant's Revolution in Philosophy (Peter Dews)

PY500 - Autumn

Kant's Critique of Pure Reason represents a radical new beginning in the history of European thought. Kant poses in a new way what he regards as a hitherto neglected question: the question of the very possibility of metaphysics. In his search for an answer, Kant develops a new model of the relation between subjectivity, conceptual understanding, and the experienced world. This model was to prove a decisive point of reference for the entire subsequent 'continental' European philosophical tradition, since it makes the subject and object poles of experience essentially interdependent. This module examines the central innovations of the Critique of Pure Reason: Kant's 'Copernican turn' to 'transcendental' philosophy, his conception of the conditions of possibility of experience, and his account of the dialectic of pure reason, and the metaphysical illusions into which reason falls when it tries to make claims about what lies beyond experience.

MA Seminar in Ethics, Politics & Public Policy (Timo Jütten and Jörg Schaub)

PY904 - Autumn

The fundamental issues that confront us in public policy and politics raise ethical issues. In this Seminar, we will analyze a range of policy documents, using normative political theory and moral philosophy. We will consider fundamental questions about social welfare provision: what is the relationship between individual responsibility and social welfare? What are the basic goods and services that the state should provide? How should they be provided? We will also look at specific policy proposals (for example, on welfare reform, education or healthcare) and examine their underlying moral and political assumptions.

Hegel (David McNeill)

PY933 – Spring

This module will be devoted to a reading of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit focusing on the relation between, on the one hand, Hegel's metaphysics and, on the other, his accounts of human agency, freedom, and social life. We will seek a better understanding of the distinctive conception of truth Hegel draws upon in his account of the dialectical movement of experience. Of particular interest will be the distinction Hegel draws between what he calls the certainty of a moment of consciousness and the truth of that certainty. We will see how Hegel's account of a necessary progression from 'immediate consciousness' to 'the philosophic standpoint' depends upon this distinctive conception of truth, a conception we will try to understand in the light of Hegel's contention that 'Truth in the deeper sense consists in the identity between objectivity and the notion'. After examining Hegel's general account of dialectic set out in the Introduction we will go on to explore Hegel's views on a number of central themes of the book: sensory perception and our knowledge of the physical world; self-consciousness and the struggle for recognition; individuality and alienation; the dynamics of modern political revolution; the moral perspective and its limits; religious consciousness, the 'unhappy consciousness', and absolute knowing.

Heidegger (Irene McMullin)

PY935 – Spring

Martin Heidegger's Being and Time is one of the most important texts of 20th Century Philosophy. In this module we examine some of its central themes – such as being-in-the-world, anxiety, and authenticity – while focusing in particular on the individual's relationship to the public norms through which she understands herself. Heidegger's reformulation of the traditional notion of selfhood rejects the modern conception of self as subject – a transformation that requires us to reconceive the relationship between self and society. This module addresses the question of how the self is individuated despite being immersed in the averageness and anonymity that characterize public roles and norms. We will examine the distinction between individual others and the public structures of intelligibility through which they are typically encountered, a distinction that turns on Heidegger's understanding of the relationship between the individual and time. By turning to the role that temporality plays in the structure of selfhood we will develop a richer account of how the self is individuated and how such selves can encounter each other in all their particularity.

Philosophy and Psychoanalysis (Peter Dews)

PY938 – Spring

The French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (1901–1981) is widely recognised as one of the most creative and original contributors to psychoanalytic theory after Freud. Furthermore, Lacan presented himself as engaged in a 'return to Freud', as responding to the watering-down of the radicality of Freud's thought in post-Freudian theory and practice. But is the picture really this simple? Is Lacan simply developing and deepening the message of Freud? Or does his emphasis on the primacy of language and the 'symbolic order' result in a neglect of other Freudian insights – for example, into the corporeal dimensions of human existence, and into the importance of bodily drives in shaping our mental life? This module will explore and assess the parallels and differences between Freudian and Lacanian theory, and ask what is at stake philosophically in these similarities and differences.

Kierkegaard (Dan Watts)

PY946- Autumn

Are some things beyond the limits of thought or human understanding? Are some insights ineffable or inexpressible? Is it self-contradictory to suppose that there are? Our aim in this module is to take up these questions through close readings of Kierkegaard, whose enigmatic works famously entertain such notions as 'the absurd', 'the incomprehensible' and 'the Absolute Paradox'. Our studies will revolve around three texts that Kierkegaard published in 1843 to 1844: Philosophical Fragments, Fear and Trembling and The Concept of Anxiety.

Contemporary French Philosophy - Foucault and Phenomenology (Béatrice Han-Pile)

PY947 – Autumn

Although this hasn't attracted much attention from Foucault scholars, Foucault's first published work was a long introduction to Binswanger's Dream and Existence which, inspired by existential psychoanalysis, presents a phenomenological critique of Freud's explanatory approach to psychic phenomena. It also attempts to identify a middle ground between psychology and fundamental ontology, the study of 'Menschsein' (literally: 'man-being'). In the first part of this module we shall analyse Foucault's claims and method in this text, and in particular his bold postulate that dreams should be understood as dream worlds in which the structure of existence and its relation to thrownness in the form of moods comes to the fore in a purer form. Yet by 1966 Foucault's views on phenomenology had radically changed. His indictment of post-Kantian thought in general - and of phenomenology in particular - as having succumbed to what he calls in the Order of Things the 'Analytic of Finitude' is well known, although rarely well understood. In the second part of this module, we shall examine the structure of such analytic, in particular by referring it to Foucault's reading(s) of Kant, both in the Order of Things and in his long introduction to Kant's Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View (1963; about 128p). Correlatively, we shall investigate Foucault's somewhat cryptic analyses of the three instances of the analytic of finitude (the 'doubles' of Man in the Order of Things) in order to bring to light the main tenements of his critique of phenomenology. Time allowing, we shall also test this critique against the work of the phenomenologist who inspired him to write his first philosophical text, namely Martin Heidegger.

The Frankfurt School and Contemporary Political Theory (Jörg Schaub)

PY948 – Autumn

This module introduces MA students to what is probably the most influential and significant tradition of critical social philosophy to have emerged within twentieth-century European philosophy, a tradition which continues up to the present day: The Frankfurt School. This Autumn Term will be engaging with the leading figure of the 'third generation': Axel Honneth. Drawing on his work, we will be examining what's so special about Critical Theory, and discuss whether the Frankfurt School has a particular concept of critique. We will also familiarise ourselves with Honneth's theory of recognition, his notion of emancipatory struggles for recognition, and his recognition-theoretical reformulation of concepts like ideology and reification.

Topics in Continental Philosophy (Fiona Hughes)

PY950 - Spring

The topic of this MA module is Philosophical Aesthetics. We will concentrate closely on Kant's third critique and, in particular, on the Critique of Aesthetic Judgement and will at the same time consider issues that arise for our judgement of artworks. We will consider a range of artworks in conjunction with Kant's philosophical perspective, including ones from contemporary art practice.


* Please note this is a provisional list of module offerings for 2013-14, and may be subject to change.

<< Back