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History of Philosophy

What is the Structured Elective about?

Philosophical work is not merely an investigation of the truth about things, but is as much interested in how we have (and might develop and elaborate) various perspectives on reality. Philosophy presents us with ways of seeing how things fit together and the place that individuals and humanity in general occupy in the overall scheme of things. The historical record shows that philosophy – unlike science – does not develop in steady, linear fashion. According to Alfred North Whitehead, “The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato” and perhaps for the philosophical traditions of the East it might similarly be argued that their best philosophers have merely followed in the footsteps of Shakyamuni Buddha or Kong Qiu/Confucius. This structured elective not merely introduces the student to an array of conceptual resources, cherished by many generations, but also stimulates students to pose new philosophical questions. Studying historical figures stimulates us to consider new problems and/or consider the same problems from new perspectives. As Descartes’ describes it studying the history of philosophy :‘‘is much the same as traveling. It is good to know something of the customs of various peoples, so that we may judge our own more soundly. . . . ’’ In examining the history of ideas we are not merely interested in understanding what important philosophical figures thought and how they came to think those thoughts, we are also practising philosophical methods in attempting to determine how the philosophers in question might respond to objections to their theories; objections raised either in their era or objections coming from our own contemporary contexts.

Why should I take this Structured Elective?
Philosophical questions are very general, and cut across the other domains of human knowledge. The philosophical way of answering these questions is for the most part the use of reason, as opposed to observation or experiment as in natural science, and as opposed to revelation or direct insight as in religion. Furthermore, Philosophy is uniquely general: it seeks to understand how all the other domains of human knowledge and culture fit together, and how, in the most general terms, they connect to reality. In taking this elective you will be enabled to apply the knowledge and understanding gained in studying philosophical questions and methods to intellectual enquiry more broadly as well as specific pragmatic concerns.

How would this Structured Elective benefit me?
There are four key benefits to taking this structured elective:

  1. Employability:The first is that it signals to future employers that you have an interest and some aptitude for considering philosophical issues and methods which allow for a reflexive and ‘big picture’ view. As new technologies impact and radically change the business world a broad approach to making analysis and responding to challenges is becoming increasingly valued;
  2. Making Judgements:This structured elective in Philosophy will offer students the opportunity to learn about the philosophical frameworks and methods through which they can attain a greater understanding of the skills of enquiry, argumentation, analysis and critical thinking that are the central focus of philosophy and complementary to the study of all other academic subjects.
  3. Communications and Working Skills: Perhaps more than most (and certainly more than many) disciplines, philosophy places an emphasis on dialogue in the formation of knowledge. A philosophical argument invites objections and seeks to refine its relevance and insight by making responses to objections. Tutorials are thus a central component of the module where students are encouraged to practice to recognise the premises of arguments, to analyse if the moves that are made to support an argument are internally consistent and to construct objections to premises and the process of arriving to the claims of valid conclusions. These skills are fundamental to most professions and will remain transferrable across a range of careers.
  4. Learning Skills:In studying philosophy, students are required to develop skills in verbal and written communication, problem-solving, clear and disciplined thinking and analysis, along with robust and persuasive argumentation.

How do I take the modules in the Structured Elective?

  • In order to earn this Structured Elective you must take the specified modules in or after 2019/20
  • To receive this Structured Elective you must take the required modules as General Elective modules and not as Core or Option modules.
  • Students must pick 3 modules (15 credits) from the list of modules below to be eligible for the structured elective in History of Philosophy.
  • Over the course of your undergraduate studies you will have the opportunity to take elective modules in each year of your programme, so if you wish to undertake this Structured Elective in History of Philosophy, you must ensure that at least three of your elective choices are from the list below.
  • Students who successfully complete 15 credits in History of Philosophy will have this automatically noted on their final UCD degree transcript. The transcript will state that you have completed 'Structured Elective in History of Philosophy’, in addition to your main degree subjects.
  • Students must pick three of the following modules to be eligible for the structured elective. It recommended that modules are taken in the order of level 1, level 2, level 3
Module Title Credits
(opens in a new window)PHIL10030 Intro to Modern Philosophy 5
(opens in a new window)PHIL10070 Ancient Philosophy 5
PHIL10100 Existentialism and Humanism 5
PHIL20010 Rationalism and Empiricism 
(opens in a new window)PHIL20580 Plato's Republic & Timaeus 5
PHIL20700 Intro to Philosophy of History 5
PHIL20740 Conflicting Truths, A History 5
(opens in a new window)PHIL30110 Post-Kantian German Philosophy 5
PHIL30280 Philosophy of Interpretation 5
(opens in a new window)PHIL30590 Aristotle: Ethics & Politics 5
(opens in a new window)PHIL30650 History and Philosophy 5
PHIL30820 Hume & Kant 5
PHIL30910 Irish Enlightenment 5
PHIL30960 Love & Knowledge 5
PHIL30990 The Medieval Mind 5

Module listing updated July 2023

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