M.A. Philosophy

  • On Campus
  • 12 months
  • GBP14850 Year (Non-EEA)
  • English (Find a course)
University of Birmingham | Birmingham, United Kingdom
On this programme you will be able to choose from a variety of modules covering key areas in Philosophy. These include: philosophy of mind and cognitive science; ethics, metaethics and global ethics; epistemology and metaphysics; philosophy of language; philosophy of health and happiness; value of life. You will be taught by a vibrant community of philosophers, pursuing original research on a wide range of topics on which expert supervision is available. This programme can also be used as a route into PhD research.

Description of Philosophy


You will take a core research skills module and then select five modules from a range of options offered by Philosophy (including the Centre for the Study of Global Ethics) and other departments.

Available modules within Philosophy include:

  • Bioethics
  • Epistemology
  • Global Ethics I
  • Global Ethics II
  • God, Freedom and the Meaning of Life
  • Human Rights
  • Metaphysics
  • Philosophy of Cognitive Science
  • Philosophy of Health and Happiness
  • Philosophy of Language
  • Philosophy and Mental Health
  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Research Seminar

You will also complete a 15,000-word dissertation.

Detailed Course Facts

Application deadline None, but early application advised
Tuition fee
  • GBP 14850 Year (Non-EEA)
  • GBP 6570 Year (EEA)
Start date September  2016
Duration full-time 12 months
Delivery mode On Campus
Educational variant Part-time, Full-time
Intensity Flexible
Duration part-time 24 months
Part-time variant Flexible

Course Content

You will study one core module:
Research Skills and Methods

This module is an introduction to the methods of contemporary philosophy. It identifies key philosophical reasoning tools and styles of argument, providing opportunity to apply these to classical philosophical debates. It also highlights the great variety of philosophical theorising on offer by contrasting so-called 'armchair' and empirically-informed philosophy, as well as theoretical and applied philosophy. Throughout there will be an emphasis on honing essential practical skills, namely reading and writing philosophy at postgraduate level. This module will also be useful as a basic refresher course for those who have studied some philosophy already. The sessions are taught by a member of the Department of Philosophy, focusing on discipline-specific topics.

You will also choose optional modules from a range which includes:

Bioethics is the study of ethical issues arising surrounding issues of life and death, especially those involved in the life sciences, health care, scientific research, and the beginning and end of life. This module introduces you to the key debates surrounding a number of theoretical and practical issues in bioethics, including but not limited to those that are transnational in nature. By the end of the module, you should: be familiar with major ethical theories and their application to specific issues in bioethics; be able to identify, explicate, and evaluate arguments related to bioethical problems; be able to think and write clearly about the normative issues involved in the beginning and end of life; and be able to morally evaluate the potential changes to human life that new technologies provide.


Mind and world often relate to one another in ways that are good from a cognitive point of view. We often perceive how the world truly is, for instance, and then come to know it to be the way that we perceive it to be – and in the midst of all this we formulate an understanding of the world on the basis of very strong evidence. It is obvious that each of these ways that mind and world relate are good from a cognitive point of view. Indeed they are how we would wish our minds to hook up to the world all the time. Yet it is unclear how it is possible that mind and world relate to one another in any of these cognitively good ways. The Epistemology module thus looks at recent philosophical discussion of knowledge, perception and reason, with each of our readings being drawn from the 2nd edition of Contemporary Debates in Epistemology (edited by Steup, Turri and Sosa).

Global Ethics I

This module aims to introduce you to key concepts and debates in global ethics. First, we will explore several prominent traditions in ethical theory; next we will apply these normative ethical theories to concrete ethical questions. In investigating these theories and applications, you will be encouraged to question your presumptions about the nature of ethics and moral values. The module also develops critical reasoning and argumentative skills through philosophical discussion and writing. The theoretical tools of analysis and argument can be applied in all aspects of global ethics.

Global Ethics II

This module develops your understanding of key global ethical issues, in particular human rights, poverty, distributive justice, cosmopolitan democracy, governance and humanitarian intervention.

God, Freedom and the Meaning of Life

The module provides an introduction to a number of philosophical issues that have a relevance to the philosophy of religion, such as: Are there sound arguments for/against the existence of God? Is freedom compatible with God's foreknowledge? Why is there something rather than nothing? Is life meaningless without God? Can there be morality without God?

Human Rights

This module introduces you to the contemporary philosophical debates about human rights. It focuses more on human rights understood as moral rights, rather than as legal rights written in international law. We will begin from the very basic question of what human rights are. We will also consider questions such as ‘What kind of human rights are there?’, ‘Which beings can have human rights?’, 'Are human rights inalienable?', and ‘What happens when human rights conflict?’. The first half of the module focuses on exploring different philosophical justifications for human rights; we will cover justifications based on the dignity of human agency, international politics, and human flourishing. The second half of the module will focus on philosophical debates about the nature of specific human rights - looking first at some general rights, for autonomy, liberty and wellbeing, and then at more concrete rights to life and privacy. We will also consider objections to human rights based on relativist and utilitarian views in ethics.


In this module you will investigate a range of advanced topics in contemporary metaphysics. We will begin by looking at metaphysical issues relating to ourselves: personal identity and free will. We’ll then move to a more fundamental metaphysical debate, realism versus anti-realism, before looking at two specific topics which have become very popular in recent years: the metaphysics of possibility and the metaphysics of persistence through time.

Philosophy of Cognitive Science

This module covers key topics in the Philosophy of Cognitive Science. We will start off with traditional topics which provide insight into the conceptual foundations of cognitive science. In particular, we will look at: the distinction between personal and sub-personal levels of explanation, the Computational Theory of Mind, modularity and, if we have time, Connectionism. Against this background, our discussion will turn to more contemporary topics, with an emphasis on methodological worries about current theorising in cognitive science and neuroscience. Specifically, we will focus on a selection of topics such as the scientific study of consciousness, delusions and rationality, the use of double dissociation arguments in cognitive neuropsychology, and the question of what fMRI can tell us about the mind.

Philosophy of Health and Happiness

The module will examine debates at the forefront of current research in the philosophy of health and happiness. You will explore conceptual problems (e.g. what ‘health’ and ‘disease’ are) and question contemporary lifestyle issues (for instance, regarding how health, happiness and meaning relate, as well as whether there is a correlation between income and life satisfaction). You will also be asked to consider how technological advances (such as those in genetics) are changing these understandings.

Philosophy of Language

This module covers a range of advanced topics in analytic philosophy of language and its overlap with the realism/antirealism debate in metaphysics. In any given year, some of the following topics will be addressed in detail: Frege's distinction between sense and reference; Russell's theory of definite descriptions; logical positivism and the verification principle; Quine on analyticity and translation; Kripke's Wittgenstein on rule-following; Grice's theory of meaning; Davidson's programme; Dummett's attack on realism.

Philosophy and Mental Health

The module provides an overview of contemporary debates in philosophy and mental health. In each seminar a new issue will be investigated, but there will be three interrelated threads throughout the module. One is about the nature of psychiatry. The second is about the sense in which psychiatric disorders are disorders of the self. The third is about how we should respond to people with psychiatric disorders, considered from a wide range of perspectives, including interpersonal, clinical, ethical, legal and public health policy. These themes will be addressed by reference to different aspects of psychiatry (e.g. classification, diagnosis, aetiology, research, treatment), different psychiatric disorders (e.g. addiction, anorexia, dementia, dissociation, schizophrenia, personality disorders, psychopathy), and different disciplinary frameworks. The course will also have a practical element involving structured, outcome-focused deliberation about difficult cases highlighting these threads and their inter-relations.

Philosophy of Mind

What is the place of consciousness in nature? Will we ever understand it in a ‘scientific’ way? What about thinking in general? Are human minds, essentially, grey wet computers, or do we need altogether distinctive conceptual resources to understand them? These kinds of questions have concerned philosophers of mind for centuries, and in this module we’ll address a range that are central to contemporary debates. We begin with the metaphysical question of whether consciousness can be accommodated in a ‘physicalist’ world view, examining the difficulties faced by various different attempts to analyse it in physical (‘scientific’) terms. We then move to some fundamental questions about mental states in general: Are they located inside people’s heads? Can they be understood in purely descriptive terms, or are they (like moral and other evaluative properties are often held to be) in some sense essentially ‘normative’?

Research Seminar

This is an innovative module which replicates the experience of being a professional academic. You will attend the PhilSoc and choose a topic from those discussed at the seminar. You will then write your own paper on that topic, which is assessed by members of staff as if it was going through the 'peer-review' process for acceptance to an academic journal. You will then present your paper in the Postgraduate Seminar and rewrite it according the comments. This module provides a unique and invaluable experience for students considering continuing in academia.

English Language Requirements

Before starting a programme, you need to have a basic knowledge of the English language. Find English courses on Language Learning Portal.

CAE score
200(Grade A)

Requirements for Philosophy

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

  • by holding an English language qualification to the right level
  • by taking and successfully completing one of our English courses for international students

Work Experience for Philosophy

No work experience is required.

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