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2021/22 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PRHS1000 Visions of Humanity: Philosophical, Religious and Scientific Perspectives

20 creditsClass Size: 28

Module manager: Prof. Greg Radick

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 (Sep to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module will consider various understandings of human nature, drawing on philosophical, religious and scientific perspectives. Students will examine the relationship between these approaches to the study of human nature, and will review significant historical treatments of these themes as well as contemporary accounts. The discussion of historical figures will locate these figures in their historical context. Throughout, students will be invited to consider the connections between conceptions of human nature and approaches to ethical and political questions.


Students taking this module will learn how:
- To describe the views of significant historical and contemporary commentators on the theme of human nature
- To articulate the relationship between theories of human nature and accounts of the good of individuals and society
- To consider the respective roles of philosophies, religious traditions, and the sciences in shaping our conceptions of human nature, and to reflect upon the relationship between these approaches
- To analyse the relationship between different views of human nature, and where appropriate to trace the influence of earlier authors upon later authors
- To consider the relationship between accounts of human nature and the social and cultural context within which those accounts were formulated
- To reflect critically on key debates examined in the module, and to formulate their own position on these questions

Learning outcomes
By the end of this module, students will be familiar with some central accounts of human nature, and the contribution of philosophical, theological and scientific methods to these accounts. They will be aware of relevant episodes in the history of ideas, and of contemporary discussion of these issues. They will have considered how conceptions of human nature may bear upon contemporary ethical and social questions, and they will have started to think about key issues critically and independently.


The module will engage with a variety of historical and contemporary commentators and movements. These commentators may but need not be treated in chronological order. Representative themes include:
- Aristotle on human nature and the good life
- Medieval accounts of the relationship between philosophical and theological visions of the ends of human life
- Thomas Hobbes on human nature and the well-ordered society
- John Stuart Mill on human happiness and social justice
- Darwinian and evolutionary psychological accounts of human nature: historical and contemporary perspectives
- 'Post-humanism' and the project of transcending human nature
- The contemporary debate on human nature: bringing into dialogue philosophical, religious and scientific perspectives.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours178.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Informal assessment of student progress via contribution to seminar discussion.
Each student will give one formatively assessed seminar presentation during the course of the module.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2000 words60.00
Essay1500 words40.00
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: 30/06/2021 14:25:34


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