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

Postgraduate Course: Philosophical Naturalism MSc (PHIL11217)

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
SummaryNaturalism as a philosophical doctrine has no one precise definition. Minimally, naturalism suggests that philosophy should in some sense be guided by science, with different forms of naturalism offering a range of proposals as to what such guidance might entail. Naturalism is widely viewed as a positive term, and that a view counts as naturalist carries great weight across diverse philosophical debates.
This course will expressly interrogate the notion of naturalism itself, as well as the role that naturalism plays in a number of different debates. We will consider such questions as: What is the distinction, and relation, between ontological and methodological naturalism? What is the relation between naturalism and physicalism? What arguments are offered for different forms of naturalism? How do different conceptions of naturalism impact on realism/anti-realism debates across different areas of philosophy? What alternatives to naturalism have been proposed? What implications does methodological naturalism have for philosophy itself?
Course description The aim of the course will be to consider and critically assess both the concept and different forms of naturalism. Naturalism as a philosophical doctrine has no one precise definition. At the same time, naturalism is widely viewed as a positive term, and that a view counts as naturalist carries great weight across diverse philosophical debates. The term typically conveys some kind of connection with science. On the one hand there is the claim that we ought not to count as part of the content of reality things that are not somehow countenanced by science. There is no place in reality for spooky or supernatural entities. On the other, there is the claim that the scientific way of investigating reality is superior to all others. Both of these claims are philosophical claims and hence need to be subjected to philosophical scrutiny. Naturalism raises two broad groups of questions:
(1) Questions about the relationship between philosophy and science: How might philosophy be guided by the sciences? Are science and philosophy methodologically continuous?
(2) Questions about how to explain or accommodate entities and phenomena that are not obviously countenanced by science (e.g. some mental facts, normative and evaluative facts, mathematical facts, modal facts). Do they have to be reducible to natural (or physical) facts to count as natural and thus real?
This course will engage both types of questions.

Representative topics: ontological naturalism, methodological naturalism and the relation between them; physicalism, naturalism and the relation between them, reductive and non-reductive naturalism, different conceptions of naturalism (e.g. disciplinary, causal, Quinean); the relation between philosophy and science; naturalism in action in specific debates (e.g. ethics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of maths, modality)
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 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Final Essay - 100% (3000 Words)
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. understand the differences between different forms of naturalism
  2. identify diverse conceptions of naturalism in the context of particular philosophical debates and critically evaluate their presuppositions
  3. think critically about the relation between philosophy and science
  4. improved core skills in philosophy, including the ability to interpret and analyse philosophical texts, evaluate arguments, and develop critical ideas in response
  5. further developed written communication skills
Reading List
To keep the readings up to date and to allow different course organisers to emphasise different topics, the following list of readings is merely indicative. Due to time constraints, only selections from the books listed below would be covered and only articles relevant to the particular topics covered in a year would be assigned:

Baker, Lynne Rudder (2013).¿Naturalism and the First-Person Perspective. Oxford University Press USA.
Craig, W. and J. Moreland (eds.)¿Naturalism: A Critical Analysis, Routledge (2000)
De Caro, Mario and MacArthur, David (eds). Naturalism in Question, HUP (2004)
De Caro, Mario & Macarthur, David (eds.) (2022).¿The Routledge Handbook of Liberal Naturalism. Routledge.
Ladyman, James & Ross, Don (2007).¿Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized. Oxford University Press.
Maddy, Penelope. Second Philosophy, OUP 2007.
Price, Huw. Naturalism Without Mirrors, OUP 2010
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills This course will enable students to approach the notion of naturalism with a critical mindset. They will be aware of important differences in conceptions of naturalism, which will allow them to evaluate the work the notion is doing across a diverse range of philosophical debates, and to communicate potential concerns clearly, both orally and in writing. Students will be able to engage critically with the contemporary philosophical literature on naturalism, and to connect it to debates in other areas
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Deborah Roberts
Tel: (0131 6)51 5171
Course secretaryMrs Ida Conlin
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