Module and Programme Catalogue

Search site

Find information on

This module is inactive in the selected year. The information shown below is for the academic year that the module was last running in, prior to the year selected.

2015/16 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PHIL3311 Introduction to Philosophy of Biology

10 creditsClass Size: 30

Module manager: Greg Radick

Taught: Semester 1 View Timetable

Year running 2015/16

Pre-requisite qualifications

A level Biology or equivalent

This module is mutually exclusive with

HPSC3311Introduction to Philosophy of Biology
HPSC3320Philosophy of Biology

Module replaces

HPSC3311 Introduction to Philosophy of Biology

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

What, exactly, makes the theory of evolution preferable to creationism? Are living things ultimately nothing but the sum of their parts? Is the labelling of a condition as a “disease” just a matter of the facts, or does it always involve social and moral values too? The sciences concerned with life -- including genetics, biomedicine and evolutionary biology -- are different in all sorts of ways from the sciences concerned with the nonliving. Unsurprisingly, the life sciences have thrown up distinctive problems for philosophers, whether concerned with questions about what is real (metaphysics), how scientists find things out (epistemology), or the place in science of judgements of good and bad or right and wrong (values). This module will introduce some of the main problems debated in philosophy of biology today. Anyone interested in what biology claims to teach us about ourselves and our fellow creatures will enjoy this module. If you have already studied philosophy, the module will introduce you to a remarkable and vital set of questions in need of attention. If philosophy is new to you, the module will give you the skills of critical thinking and clear expression which philosophers specialize in, and which will serve you well for the rest of your life.For more details, contact Dr Gregory Radick, email


On completion of this module students should be able to analyse and critically assess a variety of key concepts and explanations in modern biology and biomedicine.

Learning outcomes
On successful completion of this module a student will have knowledge of a range of philosophical issues regarding evolutionary biology and its repercussions.


The aim of this module is to examine key concepts and explanations in modern biology and biomedicine.

Topics include:
i) the gene, and the question of whether Mendelian genes indeed reduce to strings of DNA nucleotides;
ii) the organism, and the question of whether concepts of 'health' and disease' pick out natural classes of conditions;
iii) the evolving population, and the question of what, precisely, natural selection selects.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours78.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)100.00

Private study

- Seminar preparation: 10 x 6 hours
- Essay preparation: 18 hours.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Through seminar discussions and essay plans.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2,000 words100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 15/05/2014


Browse Other Catalogues

Errors, omissions, failed links etc should be notified to the Catalogue Team.PROD

© Copyright Leeds 2019