Philosophy at St Andrews

Taught postgraduate modules

PY5099 | PY5101 | PY5102 | PY5103 | PY5201 | PY5203 | PY5205 | PY5212 | PY5213 | PY5214 | PY5308 | PY5310 | PY5312 | PY5315 | PY5318 | PY5324 | PY5404

PY5099 Dissertation for M.Litt. Programme/s

60 credits

Student dissertations will be supervised by members of the teaching staff who will advise on the choice of subject and provide guidance throughout the research process. The completed dissertation of not more than 15,000 words must be submitted by mid-August.

Semester: Whole year
Credits: 60
Time: At times to be arranged with the supervisor
Teaching: Individual Supervision

PY5101 Current Issues in Philosophy I

20 credits

Ethics: Dr Simon Hope
Epistemology: Dr Sonia Roca Royes

This module, together with PY5102 Current Issues II in semester 2, covers recent work in four central
areas of philosophy, each of them in a section of 11 hours. The four areas are Epistemology, Ethics,
Philosophy of Language and Philosophy of Mind.

Epistemology and Ethics will be covered in PY5101, Philosophy of Language and Philosophy Mind will be
covered in PY5102.

The Epistemology section will cover the main topics in Epistemology and become acquainted with
important terminology and “slogans”, such as: JTB, Closure, Tracking, Sensitivity, Reliabilism, Safety,
Contextualism, Peer-disagreement.

The Ethics section will include topics from among the following: the relation between moral requirements,
good consequences and luck; what the concept of rights adds to a morality
of duties, goals and reasons; double effect and the moral significance of intention; questions in meta-ethics
about the supervenience of the normative on non-normative facts.

Semester: 1
Credits: 20
Time: Monday, 11am – 12pm (lecture), 12pm – 1pm (seminar 1), 1pm – 2pm (seminar 2); Room D1, Pathfoot Building, Stirling
Coordinator: Simon Hope, Sonia Roca-Royes

PY5102 Current Issues in Philosophy II

20 credits

The topic of the language half of the module will be controversies over words.  It will cover topics including meta-linguistic negotiation, lexical effects, and slurs.  


The topic of the mind half of the module will be controversies over concepts.  It will cover topics including the nature of concepts, the role of concepts in psychological explanation, whether concepts are shared between different thinkers, whether internal or external factors determine the content of concepts, and the normativity of concepts.

Semester: 2
Credits: 20
Time: Tuesday, 10am – 11am; School VI, St Salvator's Quadrangle, St Andrews

Tuesday, 12pm – 1pm (tutorial), 1pm – 2pm (tutorial); Room 104, Edgecliffe, St Andrews
Coordinator: Derek Ball
Additional lecturers: Herman Cappelen

PY5103 Research Methods

20 credits

Research Methods will be taught in three distinct streams:

(1) Epistemology, Mind & Language.

(2) Moral, Political & Legal Philosophy.

(3) Logic and Metaphysics.


Each stream will be based on either a book or a collection of papers that has significantly influenced the relevant research stream over the last century, or a very recent contribution that points to a new area of research within the relevant stream. Weekly meetings will consists of student presentation and general discussion. The assessment involves an essay plan and an essay. The RM module is prescribed for all students.


Students who opted for a specialised M.Litt are required to take the relevant research method stream (and get preferential access to it). General M.Litt are asked to provide a preference ranking for which stream they want to attend. More specific information about the assigned reading for each stream will be shared later in August.

Semester: 1
Credits: 20
Time: Monday, 2.30pm - 4.15pm; Rooms C21, C22, C23, Pathfoot Building, Stirling
Coordinator: Philip Ebert
Additional lecturers: Dr Giacomo Melis, Dr Fay Niker, Professor Peter Milne

PY5201 Classical Philosophy

20 credits

This course will explore the most important notions of space and place in ancient times and their relation to modern conceptions of space: we will investigate in how far these ancient notions laid the basis for our modern thinking of space as well as spatial problems specific for antiquity that seem to have disappeared from contemporary discussions of space.

We will start with the oldest ideas of space in Western thinking, with Homer and Hesiod and will then explore the spatial thinking we find in the first cosmologies of the Presocratics. Subsequently we will look at Zeno’s paradoxes of place which started the discussion on the ontological status of space and questioned whether the different functions of space (as location and as a condition for motion to take place) can indeed be consistently conceived.

With Plato’s Timaeus we will investigate the often complicated relationship between space and matter, while with Aristotle we will analyze the relationship between space and place. We will also look at Aristotle’s reaction to Zeno’s paradoxes, his arguments against the atomistic assumption of a void, and his theory of natural places that seems to lead to an anisotropic universe.

We will see how the terminology for discussions on space becomes much more technical and schematic in Hellenistic times before we will round off with the Neoplatonists and their spatial accounts that are derived in an attempt to improve the Aristotelian account.

Semester: 2
Credits: 20
Time: Thursday, 3pm – 5pm; Room 104, Edgecliffe, St Andrews
Coordinator: Barbara Sattler

PY5203 Kant

20 credits

In this module, we will focus on Kant’s mature moral philosophy as set out in the “Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals” (1785), the “Critique of Practical Reason” (1788) and the “Metaphysics of Morals” (1797), and in particular on its early critics, e.g. Hermann Andreas Pistorius, Maria von Herbert, Karl Leonhard Reinhold, Friedrich Schiller and G.W.F. Hegel. In many ways, these authors set the stage for later criticisms of Kant’s ethics (e.g. Henry Sidgwick and Bernard Williams). Topics include the priority of the moral law over moral value, the meaning of life, the concept of the will, moral motivation and the alleged ‘empty formalism’ of Kant’s supreme principle of morals, the categorical imperative. We will thus be revisiting aspects of Kant’s theory with which many of you will be familiar by putting them in their proper philosophical and historical perspective.

Semester: 1
Credits: 20
Time: Thursday, 11am – 1pm; Room 104, Edgecliffe, St Andrews
Coordinator: Jens Timmermann
Additional lecturers: Antonino Falduto

PY5205 Origins of Analytic Philosophy

20 credits

The module has three components, of somewhat unequal length:


(A) Frege: Seminars 1-5

(B) Russell: Seminars 6-8

(C)  Ramsey: Seminars 9-10


The components thus introduce aspects of the work of three great figures of early analytic philosophy (one might say, three of the four, the fourth being the early Wittgenstein, some of whose ideas will figure in connection with Ramsey towards the end of the course).

The theme that links the components is, most broadly, logic and the analysis of propositions; or more specifically, how these figures were led to conceive of propositions, their constituents, and their make-up in order that propositions should be the kinds of things whose interconnections are delineated in the new logic that Frege introduced.  Through close reading of selected texts, the course aims to impart an understanding of the contrasting conceptions available within the early analytic tradition of the relationship between, on the one hand, the categories used in the explanation of logical inferences amongst statements, and on the other, the most general categories of entities that statements refer to or describe – hence, of the relation between logic and metaphysics.

Semester: 1
Credits: 20
Time: Tuesday, 12pm – 2pm; Room 104, Edgecliffe, St Andrews
Coordinator: Peter Sullivan

PY5212 Formal Epistemology

20 credits

The course will introduce students to the field of formal epistemology. We will cover the basics of probability theory, discuss the relevance of Dutch Book and Accuracy arguments, highlight philosophical issues raised by decision-theory (newcomb paradox, bounded rationality, transformative experience), discuss theories of confirmation, and investigate the relationship between fine-grained degrees of belief and coarse grained belief. 

Semester: 1
Credits: 20
Time: Wednesday, 9am – 11am; Room 104, Edgecliffe, St Andrews
Coordinator: Peter Milne

PY5213 Texts in the History of Political Philosophy

20 credits

In 2019-20, the text studied will be Spinoza’s Theologico-Political Treatise. Edition to be used:

Benedictus de Spinoza, The Collected Works of Spinoza: Volume 2, ed. Edwin Curley (Princeton University Press, 2016).

Note: this is the second volume of Edwin Curley’s edition of the collected works of Spinoza. It includes the required text and several others; unfortunately there is no stand-alone volume containing only the Theologico-Political Treatise. Selections will be handed out for the first few weeks to allow you time to find a copy of the volume. If you’d like to purchase a cheaper but slightly lower quality translation, I recommend: Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise, ed. Jonathan Israel (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

Spinoza’s Tractatus, written during the age of the European wars of religion, was one of the most radical books of its time. It addresses a topic of continuing relevance: the best way for political authority to deal with religious conflict. In addition to a fairly complete political philosophy and theory of political authority it includes an examination of religious conflict, a discussion of the authority of religious texts, and a theory of hermeneutics and of religious ceremonies.

Topics covered in this course will include: the political problem of religious conflict, the nature of superstition, the meaning of divine law, the proper interpretation of Scripture, the separation of philosophy from theology, the meaning of faith, theocracy, the authority of the state, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech.

Recommended introductory reading

  • Susan James, Spinoza on Philosophy, Religion, and Politics (Oxford University Press, 2012).
  • Steven Nadler, A Book Forged in Hell (Princeton University Press, 2011).
  • Theo Verbeek, Spinoza’s Theologico-Political Treatise (Routledge, 2017).
Semester: 2
Credits: 20
Time: Friday, 2pm – 4pm; Room 104, Edgecliffe, St Andrews
Coordinator: Alex Douglas

PY5214 Wittgenstein

20 credits

This course will cover key themes in Wittgenstein, early and late, regarding language, thought, truth, and the world.  More specifically, we shall focus with the early Wittgenstein on the ‘picture theory’, and with the late Wittgenstein on the idea of a language game and the ‘rule following considerations’.

Semester: 2
Credits: 20
Time: Wednesday, 11am – 1pm; Room 104, Edgecliffe, St Andrews
Coordinator: Colin Johnston

PY5308 Philosophy of Perception

20 credits

This module will be a study of perception as a topic in the philosophy of mind. Sensory perception—our awareness of things by sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell—is our main source of information about our surrounding environment. It grounds our beliefs about the world, and guides action. Yet, our perceptual states can be misleading: we experience illusions and hallucinations. Moreover, the world we seem to encounter in perception seems to be different from the world as described by science. So, in perceiving, do our minds reveal the external world, or rather construct it?


We will aim at an understanding of the nature of perception and perceptual experience by focusing on questions about the objects of perceptual awareness and the notion of perceptual content, and on the connections between perception, action and cognition. We will finish by exploring questions about the individuation of the senses and by looking at evidence that the sensory systems interact with one another. In this module you will learn about contemporary debates in philosophy of perception and assess the relevance of recent work in the cognitive sciences to those debates through an advanced discussion-based seminar.

Semester: 1
Credits: 20
Time: Tuesday, 10am – 12pm; Room 104, Edgecliffe, St Andrews
Teaching: We will run the seminar as a reading group with group presentations from students. The readings for the course are drawn from a variety of contemporary sources, with a focus on primary texts, mostly articles.
Coordinator: Dr Alisa Mandrigin

PY5310 Philosophy of Mind

20 credits

Philosophy of mind is increasingly studied in an interdisciplinary fashion: traditional philosophical approaches are combined with empirical data from the cognitive sciences. This module aims to familiarise graduate students with up-to-the-minute issues that are occurring at the intersection between philosophy and the empirical sciences of mind. More specifically, an increasing amount of work in cognitive science favours explanations of psychological phenomena that fall under the banner of the embodied, embedded, extended and enactive mind. According to this emerging paradigm, thinking is routinely dependent, in complex and intricate ways, on (a) bodily structures and events (e.g. the precise wiring and chemistry of the brain, bodily gestures and movements) and (b) the bodily exploitation of external props and scaffolds (e.g. notebooks, smartphones). Controversially, these patterns of bodily and environmental dependence are often heralded as challenging the traditional cognitive- scientific vision of mind as a brain-bound but abstractly defined computational system, sandwiched between sensory input and motor output. Indeed, in its most provocative form, the new perspective claims that there are actual cases of intelligent action in which thinking is distributed over brain, body and world, in such a way that the external (beyond-the-skin) factors concerned are rightly accorded cognitive status. In other words, mind is located partly outside the boundaries of skull and skin. Following some material that is designed to bring us up to speed on the most prominent traditional views in cognitive science, this module will involve the analysis and discussion of a selection of papers that have helped to set the agenda for the current debate around mind as embodied, embedded, extended and enactive.

Semester: 2
Credits: 20
Time: Monday, 11am – 1pm; Room 104, Edgecliffe, St Andrews
Coordinator: Michael Wheeler

PY5312 Aesthetics

20 credits

Creativity in art

Most work in analytic aesthetics has been focussed on the reception of art works. This module in contrast addresses issues about their creation. The readings will be drawn not only from philosophy, but also from art history, psychology, computer science and cultural evolutionary theory. Artistic creativity will be compared to creativity in other domains such as science, technology, philosophy and everyday life, so as to identify differences as well as similarities.

Issues that will be addressed (arranged by week) include:

  1. What is the definition of 'creativity'? Does creativity include a value requirement? If it does, does this show that immoral artworks cannot be creative?
  2. Is creativity in art a kind of virtue? If so, is it an aesthetic virtue? What is its connection with other virtues identified by virtue theories of art?
  3. Is there an irrational element to artistic creativity, as Plato argued and some empirical evidence suggests? If so, how does this square with the claim that creativity is a virtue?
  4. Is there a role for unconscious inspiration in artistic creativity, as is commonly believed? If so, how does it relate to the artist's intentional making of an artwork? Is the role of the unconscious consistent with the artist being praised for her creative output?
  5. Are computational theories of artistic creativity correct? There are many computer programs that appear to be creative, but could a computer ever really be creative?
  6. It is often held that scientific creativity is a form of problem solving: is this also true of artistic creativity? Is the expression of emotion in art a kind of problem solving? Are there heuristics for artistic creativity?
  7. Does artistic creativity depend on knowledge and is it partly constituted by a skill? Or does it involve a 'blind' Darwinian mechanism?
  8. What is the role of imagination in artistic creativity? How does the use of imagination relate to play, particularly childhood play?
  9. Is the creative mind embodied, embedded, extended, or none of these?
  10. What is the relation of artistic creativity to artistic tradition: are they incompatible or does creativity require tradition? What can cultural evolutionary theory teach us about this relation?
  11. Is all creative activity in art collaborative, as Collingwood and sociocultural theorists of creativity maintain? Is there such a thing as group creativity? Are groups typically more creative than the individuals composing them?
Semester: 2
Credits: 20
Time: Wednesday, 9am – 11am; Room 104, Edgecliffe, St Andrews
Coordinator: Berys Gaut

PY5315 Philosophy of Law

20 credits

This module provides a basis for thinking about the relationship between law and morality.  In Part 1 the topic is whether the law has normative force and, whether, if so, of the moral kind; in Part 2 the topic is whether the criminal law should have a moral agenda.


Assessment: There will be two pieces of marked assessment, both of them 2500 word essays.  There will also be an unmarked, but mandatory, 1000-word essay plan.


Reading list: Most of the readings will be drawn from the following three books:

  • Andrew J. Cohen, Toleration and Freedom from Harm: Liberalism Reconsidered
  • Plunkett, Shapiro, and Toh, Dimensions of Normativity
  • Himma, Jovanovic, and Spaic, Unpacking Normativity
Semester: 1
Credits: 20
Time: Thursday, 2pm – 4pm; Room 104, Edgecliffe, St Andrews
Coordinator: Ben Sachs

PY5318 Political Philosophy

20 credits

The course will examine key topics in global justice, focusing in particular on the moral implications of extreme poverty, environmental degradation and resource depletion and climate change, and the challenges these pose to traditional conceptions of duties of justice and human rights.  It will also examine the philosophical foundations of human rights, and critical perspectives on the human rights movement.

Semester: 2
Credits: 20
Time: Thursday, 12pm – 2pm; Room 104, Edgecliffe, St Andrews
Coordinator: Elizabeth Ashford

PY5324 Philosophy of Logic

20 credits

This module focuses on some of the main philosophical questions that have been raised concerning the central notions of logic. After a short introduction to the standard mathematical toolkit used in the philosophy of logic and in philosophical logic, we’ll examine contemporary debates on notions such as truth, consequence, the normative status of logic, logical constants, logical pluralism, modalities, conditionals, and formal limitative results.

Semester: 2
Credits: 20
Time: Friday, 10am – 12pm; Room 104, Edgecliffe, St Andrews
Coordinator: Dr Walter Pedriali

PY5404 Conceptual Engineering

20 credits

This module provides an introduction to the ways in which we can criticise and improve our concepts—what is sometimes called Conceptual Engineering (or, more broadly, Conceptual Ethics). The concepts in some domain can be problematic or defective in manifold ways. They can be intensionally defective: incomplete, confused, unsatisfiable, or even incoherent/inconsistent. They can be extensionally defective: too inclusive, too narrow, empty, or divided of reference. They can be too complex, too simple, too ugly, too unspecific, or too vague. They can be too parochial or too elitist. They can be redundant or not fit to feature in any useful explanation. They can be superceded, hackneyed, or systematically misapplied. They can be loaded with ideological baggage or serve as ongoing devices for deceit, discrimination, or oppression. Defective concepts are in need of repair or even replacement. So say the Conceptual Engineers: Tarski (1944), Carnap (1950), Haslanger (2012), Schiffer (1996), Scharp (2013), Cappelen (2018), Chalmers (2011), Thomasson (2017), Burgess and Plunkett (2013), Plunkett (2015), Leslie (2017), to name a few of the leading proponents of Conceptual Engineering.


Tarski, Scharp, and Burgess urge us to replace the notion of truth in order to avoid paradox; Carnap recommends that we tidy up the concept of probability if it is to be fit for scientific purpose; Haslanger thinks we need revisionary analyses of the concepts woman, man, and of various racial groups; Schiffer thinks we need to replace the concept of justification (and knowledge) with a glitch-free concept immune from sceptical paradox. All these projects belong to what Strawson (1959) characterised as prescriptive metaphysics, broadly conceived. The task of philosophy on such a view is to discover conceptual deficiencies and then provide strategies for improving (or replacing) our conceptual repertoire. As such, Conceptual engineering can (allegedly) play a central role in all parts of philosophy and beyond.


The three main questions we shall address on this module are: What is Conceptual Engineering? What forms does (and should) it take? Can it be successfully carried out? Along the way, we get to address a range of more specific questions as follows:


Can Conceptual Engineering make sense of philosophical progress?

Is philosophy just Conceptual Engineering or should it become so?

What does Conceptual Engineering have to say about the nature of philosophical paradox?

Is the Conceptual Engineer a Reality Engineer also? What is Semantic Engineering?

Is it better to revise or replace our concepts?

What’s the difference between engineering ideas and engineering words and concepts?

Should we describe our concepts of knowledge/justification, or try to improve or replace them?

Should we merely describe our concept of truth, revise our concept, or replace it with a better one?

Should metaphysics be concerned with describing our conceptual schemes or improving them?

Is one goal of political philosophy to improve the concepts we use for thinking about social reality?

Semester: 2
Credits: 20
Time: Thursday, 10am – 12pm; Room 104, Edgecliffe, St Andrews
Coordinator: Patrick Greenough
Additional lecturers: Kevin Scharp