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

Undergraduate Course: Free Will and Moral Responsibility (PHIL10090)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all 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.
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. In this course, we will approach these problems through two key texts: Four Views on Free Will (edited by Manuel Vargas), and Susan Wolf's book, Freedom Within Reason.

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Knowledge and Reality (PHIL08017) AND Mind, Matter and Language (PHIL08014)
Prohibited Combinations Students MUST NOT also be taking Free Will and Moral Responsibility (Semester Two) (PHIL10126)
Other requirements Students studying on MA Cognitive Science (Humanities) are permitted to take this course without having met the pre-requisites of Mind, Matter and Language and Knowledge and Reality. However, it is advisable that students discuss the suitability of the course with their PT and the course organiser before enrolling.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have completed at least 3 Philosophy courses at grade B or above. We will only consider University/College level courses. Applicants should note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission. These enrolments are managed strictly by the Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department, and all enquiries to enrol in these courses must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office. It is not appropriate for students to contact the department directly to request additional spaces.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial 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) Midterm essay (40%) 1500 words
Final essay (60%) 2500 words

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Learning Outcomes
To develop further the philosophical skills, and to extend as well as deepen the philosophical knowledge acquired in previous philosophy courses.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
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Course organiserDr Patrick Todd
Tel: (0131 6)51 5179
Course secretary
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