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2008/09 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HPSC3310 Philosophy of Biology

10 creditsClass Size: 100

In light of the effect of COVID-19 and lockdown restrictions on students' learning experiences, the School of PRHS have made the decision to modify assessment in Semester 2 modules in the 2020-21 academic year. Changes may involve reducing the number of assessment points (e.g. assessing one essay rather than two) or reducing word counts where it is possible to do so whilst protecting the integrity of the module's Learning Outcomes. Information on any changes to assessment is available to enrolled students in the Minerva module area, and can also be sought from the module leader or the PRHS SES team.

Module manager: Shane Glackin

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2008/09

Pre-requisite qualifications

A level Biology or equivalent

This module is approved as an Elective

Module summary

The scientific study of life, and evolutionary biology especially, raises a number of perplexing questions for philosophers. Are there laws of evolution; and if not, is evolutionary biology a science? What, if anything, is a "species"? Can Darwinism explain anything interesting about human mental and social life; or must all such explanations somehow fall short? What light if any does Darwinism shine on our capacities for telling right from wrong, or for competing and/or cooperating?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.The prerequisites for this module are: <|>either 20 credits of Level 2 BLGY, BIOC, MICR or BMSC modules <|>or 20 credits of Level 2 HPSC or PHIL modules together with 'A' level Biology or other equivalent combinations.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.


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

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

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

1 x 2,000 word essay

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

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: 08/06/2009


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