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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences : Philosophy

Postgraduate Course: Free Will and Moral Responsibility MSc (PHIL11067)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course covers the main issues in the philosophical debates about freedom, determinism, and moral responsibility. Among the more specific topics that may be addressed: Formulations of determinism; historical responses; Frankfurt style examples (designed to show that moral responsibility for an action does not require the ability to act differently); Strawson's account of the reactive emotions; compatibilist theories about the nature of responsibility and freedom; moral luck; the difference between excuses and justifications; the relevance of ignorance; collective responsibility.

Shared with UG course Free Will & Moral Responsibility PHIL10090.

For courses co-taught with undergraduate students and with no remaining undergraduate spaces left, a maximum of 8 MSc students can join the course. Priority will be given to MSc students who wish to take the course for credit on a first come first served basis after matriculation.
Course description This course provides an introduction to the problems of free will and moral responsibility, some of the deepest and hardest (and most discussed) problems in all of philosophy. Broadly speaking, the problems arise through reflection on what William James called 'the dilemma of determinism': if determinism is true, then it can seem that nothing we do is genuinely 'up to us', and accordingly that no one is fairly blamed or praised. On the other hand, how does indeterminism help with free will and moral responsibility? Wouldn't indeterminism simply imply that everything we do is a matter of chance or luck? In short, the thought that we are free, responsible agents is arguably a fundamental aspect of our conception of ourselves and our place in the universe. But is this conception indeed justified? We will investigate the main contemporary theories regarding the relationships between free will, moral responsibility, and determinism.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate an understanding of some the core problems in the debate about free will and moral responsibility.
  2. think critically about how current debates about free will are unfolding.
  3. show a development of general analytical skills.
  4. demonstrate acquaintance with various historical views on free will and responsibliity.
  5. show an ability to independently research, critically assess and discuss some of the most important texts in debates about free will.
Reading List
Four Views on Free Will, ed. Manuel Vargas.
Freedom Within Reason, Susan Wolf.
An Essay on Free Will, Peter van Inwagen.
Entries in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Free Will
Arguments for Incompatibilism
Moral Responsibility

Additional Information
Course URL Please see Learn page
Graduate Attributes and Skills Development of general analytical and problem solving skills, and an ability to do independent writing and research.
Additional Class Delivery Information Taught by Dr Patrick Todd
KeywordsFree will,moral responsibility,determinism,praise,blame
Course organiserDr Patrick Todd
Tel: (0131 6)51 5179
Course secretaryMs Becky Verdon
Tel: (0131 6)50 3860
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