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

Postgraduate Course: Philosophical Methods I (PHIL11191)

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) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course offers an introduction to philosophical methodology, with a particular focus on thought experiments, conceptual analysis and the role of rational intuitions. Conceptual analysis was once considered to be of primary concern to philosophers: to understand what a particular property is, such as being morally good, being conscious, being caused, or being known, one must produce necessary and sufficient conditions for something to fall under the concept of that property. Moreover, such conditions must be spelled out in a way that is independent of the concept in question. For instance, to say that someone falls under the concept of pain if and only if they are in pain is uninformative. Next to all such analyses have been confronted with counterexamples that rely on rational intuitions about how to describe possible cases. For instance, to say that someone falls under the concept of pain if and only if they exhibit withdrawal behavior when prompted by tissue damage is informative, but also possibly false. Imagine a perfect actor pretending to suffer pain. In response, some philosophers have given up on conceptual analysis altogether, some have adopted various weaker kinds of conceptual entailments, and some have argued that such intuitions are defeasible if the conceptual analysis in question leads to an otherwise explanatorily powerful philosophical theory about the property in question.

These are some of the central issues in contemporary philosophical methodology, which we will be addressing in this course. We will examine the rational intuitions that particular thought experiments are meant to elicit, and we will assess the role of these intuitions in supporting or criticising a philosophical theory, or even in adjudicating between rival philosophical theories.

The course is shared between online distance learning and on-campus students for blended learning. Online distance learning students on the shared course will first watch a video lecture (approx. 40 - 50 mins) on Learn and attend fortnightly live seminars using the Collaborate system with the instructor for the week from week 3. On-campus students on the shared course will first watch a video lecture (approx. 40 - 50 mins) on Learn and attend weekly seminars on campus with the instructor for the week from week 3. The times and locations of those are available in the course timetable.

Please note students are not limited to watching video lectures or studying the online course materials on the weeks the live seminars will run.

Please also note auditing is not allowed on this course. Students must only take for credit.
Course description Example Timetable

Week 1: Introduction to Conceptual Analysis and Thought Experiments
- Asynchronous forum seminar

Week 2: Hume on Miracles: The Great Original
- Asynchronous forum seminar

Week 3: Hume on Miracles: Bayesian Approaches
- Synchronous seminar

Week 4: The Open Question Argument and the Paradox of Analysis
- Asynchronous forum seminar

Week 5: Moral Twin earth
- Synchronous seminar

Week 6: Galileo's Falling Bodies, Newton's Bucket, and Einstein's Elevator
- Asynchronous forum seminar

Week 7: Artificial Intelligence and the Chinese Room Argument
- Synchronous seminar

Week 8: Functionalism, Inverted Qualia and Blockhead
- Asynchronous forum seminar

Week 9: Physicalism and Zombies
- Synchronous seminar

Week 10: Descriptivism about Proper Names
- Asynchronous forum seminar

Week 11: Kripke's Epistemic, Modal and Semantic Arguments & Revision
- Synchronous seminar
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2019/20, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Course Start Date 16/09/2019
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 5, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 171 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) This course has three components of assessment:

Participation in the discussion forum in terms of writing discussion notes and commenting on others' notes. While the content as such is not assessed, failure to actively contribute posts during the semester will result in marks of up to 5% being deducted.

500 word essay plan 10%

2,500 word final essay 85%
Feedback Students have the opportunity to submit a formative essay by week 6 deadline on Turnitin via Learn. The essay cannot be draft of summative essay but it can be on the same topic.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. grasp fundamental issues in philosophical methodology, e.g. the nature of thought experiments, the role of rational intuitions, conceptual analysis
  2. critically analyse and engage with literature by key philosophers in this field
  3. present arguments clearly and concisely both within a classroom context and in a 2,500 word essay
  4. gain transferable skills in research, analysis and argumentation
Reading List
Chris Daly, An Introduction to Philosophical Methods, Broadview Press, 2010. Chapter 2.

Frank Jackson, From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defence of Conceptual Analysis, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. Chapter 2.

David Papineau, The Poverty of Conceptual Analysis, in Matthew Haug (ed.), Philosophical Methodology: The Armchair or the Laboratory?, London: Routledge, 2013. 166-194.

Online Resources:

David Hume, Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals, (ed. L. A. Selby- Bigge, revised P. H. Nidditch, Oxford, Clarendon 1975), first Enquiry, Section X, 'Of Miracles'.

Duncan Pritchard and A. Richmond, Hume on Miracles, The Continuum Companion to Hume, (edited by Alan Bailey and Dan O'Brien), (Continuum 2012, Bloomsbury 2015): 227-244.

Stephen Buckle, Marvels, Miracles, and Mundane Order, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 79, 2001: 1-31.

Michael Levine, "Miracles", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2005), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), ''.

Barry Gower, Hume on Probability, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 42, 1991: 1-19.

Jordan Howard Sobel, On the Evidence of Testimony for Miracles: A Bayesian Interpretation of David Hume's Analysis, The Philosophical Quarterly, 37, 1987: 166-186.

Jordan Howard Sobel, Hume's Theorem on Testimony Sufficient to Establish A Miracle, The Philosophical Quarterly, 41, 1991: 229-237.

Fred Wilson, The Logic of Probabilities in Hume's Argument against Miracles, Hume Studies, 15, 1989: 255 - 75.

Moore, G. E. (1903) The Subject Matter of Ethics in his Principia Ethica, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Baldwin, T. (2010) The Open Question Argument in The Routledge Companion to Ethics, John Skorupski (ed.), Oxford: Routledge

Earl, D. (2007). A Semantic Resolution of the Paradox of Analysis. Acta Analytica 22 (3):189-205.

Jackson, F. (1998) From Metaphysics to Ethics Oxford: Oxford University Press, Chapter 6

Mason Myers, C. (1971). Moore's Paradox of Analysis. Metaphilosophy 2 (4):295:308.

Pigden, C. R. (2012). Identifying Goodness. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (1):93 - 109.

Wilfrid Sellars (1964). The Paradox of Analysis: A Neo-Fregean Approach. Analysis 24 (Suppl-2):84 - 98.

Smith, M. (2013) Moral Realism in The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory 2nd ed. Hugh LaFollette and Ingmar Persson (eds.), Oxford: Blackwell

Hare, R. M. (1952) The Language of Morals (OUP) p148-50.

Horgan, T. and Timmons, M. (1991) 'New Wave Moral Realism Meets Moral Twin Earth' Journal of Philosophical Research 16

David Copp (2000). Milk, Honey, and the Good Life on Moral Twin Earth. Synthese 124 (1-2):113-137.

Joshua Gert (2006). Problems for Moral Twin Earth Arguments. Synthese 150 (2):171 - 183.

David Merli (2002). Return to Moral Twin Earth. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 32 (2):207 - 240.

Michael Rubin (2008). Sound Intuitions on Moral Twin Earth. Philosophical Studies 139 (3):307 - 327.

Mark van Roojen (2006). Knowing Enough to Disagree: A New Response to the Moral Twin Earth Argument. In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies In Metaethics, Volume 1. 161-94.

Norton, J. D. (1995) Are Thought Experiments Just What You Thought? Canadian Journal of Philosophy 26(3): 333 366.

Clatterbuck, H. (2013) The Epistemology of Thought Experiments: A Non-Eliminativist, Non-Platonic Account, European Journal for Philosophy of Science 3(3): 309 329.

Primary Sources
Galileo's falling bodies argument occurs late on the first day of his Dialogue Concerning Two New Sciences:

Newton's bucket argument occurs in the Scholium to the Definitions at the start of his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica: (around 81)

Online Resource:

Searle, J. R. (1980) Minds, Brains and Programs, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 3(3): 417-424.

Plus these responses (also in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, vol. 3, 1980): Abelson, R. P. Searle's argument is just a set of Chinese symbols, 424-5. Block, N. What intuitions about homunculi don't show, 425-6. Dennett, D. The milk of human intentionality, 428-30. Hofstadter, D. R. Reductionism and religion, 433-4. Minsky, M. Decentralized minds, 439-40. Rorty, R. Searle and the special powers of the brain, 445-6.

Read the full set of responses and Searle's reply, BBS 3(3): 417-57.

Turing, A. M. (1950) Computing Machinery and Intelligence, Mind 59(236): 433-460.

Block, N. (1995) The Mind as the Software of the Brain, in Smith and Sternberg (eds.) An Invitation to Cognitive Science. MIT Press: 170-185.

Online Resource:

Block, Ned (2003). 'Troubles with Functionalism'. In Timothy O'Connor and David Robb (eds.), Philosophy of Mind: Contemporary Readings. Routledge, pp. 222-33. Available as an e-book, and excerpted in Chalmers (2002), pp. 251-325.

Block, Ned (1980), Introduction: What is Functionalism?. In N. Block (ed.), Readings in Philosophy of Psychology, vol. 1. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. 171-84. Available online at

Lycan, William G. (1995). The Continuity of Levels of Nature. In Consciousness. Massachusetts, MA: MIT Press, pp. 37-48 (chapter 4, available online).

Chalmers, David J. (1996). Absent Qualia, Fading Qualia, Dancing Qualia. In The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory, Oxford: Oxford University Press Philosophy, pp. 247-75. Available online at

Shoemaker, Sydney (1975). Functionalism and Qualia. Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition 27 (5): 291-315.

Shoemaker, Sydney (1982). The Inverted Spectrum. The Journal of Philosophy 79 (7): 357-81.

Chalmers, David J. (1996). Can Consciousness Be Reductively Explained?. In The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory, Oxford: Oxford University Press Philosophy, pp. 93-122 (esp. pp. 93-99).

Chalmers, David J. (2002). Consciousness and Its Place In Nature. In D. Chalmers (ed.), Philosophy of Mind: Classical and Contemporary Readings, pp. 247-72 (esp. pp. 247-50).

Moody, Todd (1994). Conversations with Zombies. Journal of Consciousness Studies 1: 196-200.

Dennett, Daniel (1995). The Unimagined Preposterousness of Zombies. Journal of Consciousness Studies 2: 322-26. (See also the other papers in this issue.)

Chalmers, David J. (1996). Absent Qualia, Fading Qualia, Dancing Qualia. In The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory, Oxford: Oxford University Press Philosophy, pp. 247-75. Available online at

Kirk, Robert (1999). Why there Couldn't be Zombies. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 73 (1): 1-16.

Jesper Kallestrup, Semantic Externalism, London: Routledge, 2011. Chapter 1.

David Braun, Names and Natural Kind Terms', in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language, Ernie LePore and Barry Smith (eds.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006, 490-515.

Frank Jackson, Reference and Description Revisited Philosophical Perspectives, 1998, 201-218.

Jesper Kallestrup, Semantic Externalism, London: Routledge, 2011, Chapter 2.

David Sosa, Rigidity, in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language, Ernie LePore and Barry Smith (eds.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 476-489.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Both on-campus and online students can develop their ability for independent learning through online resources.
KeywordsMethodology,Ethics,Epistemology,Mind,Philosophy of Science
Course organiserDr James Openshaw
Tel: (0131 6)51 3083
Course secretaryMs Becky Verdon
Tel: (0131 6)50 3860
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