2017/18 Undergraduate Module Catalogue
PHIL2600 Philosophical Issues in Biology
20 creditsClass Size: 150
Module manager: Dr Ellen Clarke
Taught: Semester 2 View Timetable
Year running 2017/18
Pre-requisite qualificationsA-level Biology or equivalent
This module is mutually exclusive with
|HPSC5400M||Hist & Philosophy of Biology|
|PHIL2611||How Biology Works|
|PHIL3320||Philosophy of Biology|
This module is approved as a discovery module
Module summaryThe scientific study of life raises a number of perplexing questions for philosophers. It is also a rapidly expanding and evolving field that increasingly stands to benefit from the sort of big-picture, abstract perspective that philosophy can offer.This module will introduce you to a remarkable and vital set of questions in need of attention and will be enjoyed by anyone interested in what biology claims to teach us about ourselves and our fellow creatures.
ObjectivesThe module is designed to teach students how to analyse and critically assess a variety of key concepts and explanations in biological science, so that they can think critically about how biological knowledge is accumulated and about some key philosophical implications of that body of knowledge.
On successful completion of this module students should
• understand some recent conceptual issues in biological science;
• be able to articulate some philosophical dimensions of those issues;
• be able to accomplish some evaluation and adjudication of those issues.
Ability to apply philosophical methods to specific science
The aim of this module is to examine some interesting puzzles in the ontology, epistemology and metaphysics of biology. We will explore some key concepts and explanations in modern biology and reflect on their implications for our understanding of the world and our place in it.
We will scrutinise the theoretical role(s) played by concepts such as ‘gene’, ‘organism’, ‘human nature’, ‘data’, ‘altruism’, ‘species’, ‘function’, ‘development’, and ‘disease’. The module will include such topics as: How does natural selection explain the traits of organisms? How does the ‘scientific method’ support biological science’s success? How does modality feature in biological theory? What are the appropriate aims for conservation biology? How should we understand the interplay of multiple levels of explanation? Can culture evolve? Is there an objective class of conditions that qualify as ‘disease’? Are there laws of evolution; and if not, is evolutionary biology a science? Are there biological natural kinds? Can Darwinism explain anything interesting about human mental and social life?
|Delivery type||Number||Length hours||Student hours|
|Private study hours||178.00|
|Total Contact hours||22.00|
|Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)||200.00|
Private studyWriting up and re-reading lecture notes: 11 x 1 hours
Preparation for seminars: 11 x 6 hours
Preparation for presentation: 12 hours
Essay preparation: 54 hours
Further reading: 35 hours
Opportunities for Formative FeedbackFormative feedback will be available during seminars and during office hours, feedback will be provided for the presentation/report, and one session will be spent providing feedback for essay plans ahead of the final deadline.
Methods of assessment
|Assessment type||Notes||% of formal assessment|
|Essay||3000 Word Essay||70.00|
|Presentation||10-minute summary/evaluation of set reading in seminar OR 1,000-word report||30.00|
|Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)||100.00|
The verbal presentation will be optional. Students can choose to give a presentation or write a 1,000 word report for 30% of their grade. The resit for the presentation will be in the form of a 1,000-word report.
Reading listThe reading list is available from the Library website
Last updated: 20/07/2017
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