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.

2018/19 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

HPSC5400M Advanced Topics in History and Philosophy of Biology

30 creditsClass Size: 100

Module manager: Dr. Ellen Clarke

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2018/19

Pre-requisite qualifications

No prerequisites, though some formal background in the biological sciences is highly recommended; for students with no such background, the module leader will suggest preparatory readings.

This module is mutually exclusive with

PHIL2600Philosophical Issues in Biology
PHIL2611How Biology Works
PHIL3320Philosophy of Biology

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

If the module recruits three or fewer students, it will be delivered via 3 hours of supervision with the module leader (instead of the format specified below).


On completion of this module, students should be able to:

1. Explain what the issues are in several key debates in the philosophy of biology;
2. Summarize the main positions that have been adopted in these debates;
3. Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of these positions;
4. Discuss current debates within the context of the long-run historical development of biology

Note: Objective 4 goes beyond what is required of the undergraduates taking the associated module. For Objectives 1-3, it is expected that MA students will be held to a higher standard in their handling of the issues.


This module offers MA students a more historically grounded and philosophically demanding perspective on the topics taught in HPSC3310: Philosophy of Biology. Through a mixture of lectures and seminars, students will engage with a number of key philosophical debates in and around modern biology, including the major positions adopted in these debates, the strengths and weaknesses of these positions, and the historical development of the debates from the nineteenth century to the present. Although the areas covered change year on year, representative topics include questions about the reality of biological species, the nature of natural selection, and the extent to which evolutionary explanations of human attitudes and behaviours rival social explanations. Within each topic area the treatment will begin with technical matters and progress to wider themes. MA students will attend the undergraduate portion of the module, but will also have seminars of their own.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours272.00
Total Contact hours28.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

Reading for classes: 132 hours
Writing of assessments: 140 hours (70 hours per essay)

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Essay #1 to be written by end of Week 8 of Semester 1 and feedback to be given within two weeks

Essay #2 to be submitted during the exam period, and feedback to be given within two weeks

In addition, performance during seminars will be monitored and feedback will be given as required.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
EssayTwo essays each 3-4,000 words and weighted 50% of total assessment.100.00
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: 05/04/2019


Browse Other Catalogues

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

© Copyright Leeds 2019