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Philosophy & Society Podcasts - PHI00111I

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  • Department: Philosophy
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Barry Lee
  • Credit value: 10 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22
    • See module specification for other years: 2022-23

Module summary

In this module, you will investigate the philosophical aspects of an issue with pressing social, political or ethical implications, working in a group to write and produce a podcast informing listeners of the philosophy behind the headlines.

Your podcast should present various sides of the debate you choose to study, presenting serious philosophical arguments that can be given in support of different points of view, in an accessible but accurate way. You will need to identify what the real issue is, be balanced in your consideration of the arguments, and inform your listeners of the key points of disagreement. This will require you to engage respectfully with ideas and perspectives with which you disagree, and to present them with appropriate impartiality.

Work on this module will be done in groups. Each person will be responsible for the academic content of the podcast produced by the group, but you will be encouraged to each take on particular roles in producing and editing the recording. (Training will be given on how to use podcast recording and editing software, which is intuitive and easy to use.) Working together in a group — sharing responsibility for some aspects of the work and taking on individual responsibility and being accountable to the group for other aspects — will provide excellent experience which will be applicable whatever you do after university, and will be something you can highlight as a distinctive aspect of your degree which employers and/or further study institutions will almost certainly value highly. Finding ways of working together effectively is an important part of the challenge posed by this module, and group members are expected to work together in a constructive way and to resolve the sorts of issues that tend to arise in the normal course of group-working, but module work and assessment have been very carefully designed to support you in working effectively and to ensure that individual marks are fair.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2021-22 to Summer Term 2021-22

Module aims

  • To support students in applying the methods of philosophical study to some of the most pressing and contentious contemporary issues, displaying the way in which philosophy relates to ‘real world’ social and political issues, and giving students the opportunity to think more clearly and rigorously for themselves about hotly debated contemporary controversies.
  • To support and encourage students to set out, for themselves and for others, the different sides of a debate in a methodical and appropriately dispassionate way, honing the skill - important for study and for life - of understanding alternative perspectives on issues about which people care deeply.
  • To encourage students to think creatively and carefully about how to communicate complex ideas and arguments in a concise and accessible format, important for employability and for developing basic philosophical skills of analysis and judgement about the relative importance of various aspects of texts and arguments; and an excellent exercise in careful and accurate expression of ideas
  • To hone students’ group working skills, crucial for employability and a useful supplement for making the most of seminar work and other group-work opportunities

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students should:

  • know - about an issue of contemporary social, political or ethical relevance, with a clear idea of what the most prominent arguments and views are.
  • understand - the reasons given for holding various competing views (which might involve understanding how things seem from various opposed perspectives), and understand what is at stake in deciding between these views
  • be able to – (i) Explain the core of a contemporary debate about value and present, the most prominent views in the debate and the arguments which can be given to support them, in a measured and dispassionate way (giving an appropriately sympathetic hearing to a range of serious proposals); (ii) write and produce a podcast which is accessible to a general audience, without sacrificing precision or accuracy; (iii) work effectively in collaboration with others in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding; (iv) critically engage with social, political, cultural, ethical, or value issues in a way that contributes to the solution of contemporary problems through the application of philosophical methods and insights.

Module content

Each student will select a topic to work on, and will be placed in a group with others who would like to work on that topic. (Second choice topics will also be selected, in case there are some topics with insufficient interest to form groups.) Each group will then agree upon a particular question to address within their broad topic. Topics to choose from might include:

Technology and Responsibility

Some possible questions: Should there be a ban on developing or deploying AI military systems which chose their own targets? Who should be held accountable for what gets posted on social media? Who, if anyone, is morally responsible if a self-driving car kills someone? Could artificial intelligence systems be moral agents?

Nationhood and Morality

Some possible questions: Which controls should there be, if any, on immigration? Is patriotism a virtue? Should we be nationalists or cosmopolitans?

Freedom of Conscience

Some possible questions: Should religious believers be allowed to do things which reflect their sincerely held moral beliefs, but which limit the opportunities of others (such as same-sex couples)? Should doctors be allowed to end the lives of terminally ill patients, with their consent? Whom do politician owe greater loyalty to: those who vote for them; their party; or their own sincere beliefs about what is right?

Freedom of Speech

Some possible questions: Is ‘no platforming’ ever appropriate in a university context? Can hearing certain things said directly harm us? Should the law prevent ‘hate speech’?

The Arts

Some possible questions: Can reading fiction make us better people? What is the point of art? What is art?


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 60
Podcast script
N/A 40

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Your podcast recording and accompanying documentation (script/transcript and record of work) will be submitted on Monday, Week 4 of the Summer Term. If the Monday falls on a bank holiday the script will be due on Tuesday of Week 4 of the Summer Term. 


Task Length % of module mark
Re-assessment: Essay
N/A 25
Re-assessment: Script for Dialogue
N/A 75

Module feedback

Oral feedback will be given to groups in each of the Workshops (except the technical training session), on the basis of the research they have been doing or plans they are drawing up. Additionally, written feedback will be provided within four weeks on the Plan submitted in Week 6.

Written feedback on Summative work will also be provided, within four weeks of submission.


Indicative reading

Which texts will be appropriate will depend heavily upon which questions are chosen by groups. The module convenor will speak to each group during early planning workshops (Spring Weeks 2 and 3) and throughout the Spring term to suggest suitable reading on the particular questions chosen (consulting with appropriate colleagues, if necessary); and some texts relating to each broad topic will be advertised in Autumn term, to give an idea of some issues in each topic when students are making their topic choices, and to exemplify prominent ideas and arguments which are likely to require consideration.


On whom politicians owe greatest loyalty to, primary texts might include:

Edmund Burke, Speech of 3rd November 1774 at Bristol, in The Penguin Book of Historic Speeches

Brian Barry, Political Argument (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1964), Chapter 4, esp. §§3-4

Marcus Arvan, ‘The Rationality of Voting and Duties of Elected Officials’ in E. Crookston, D. Killoren & J. Trerise (eds.), Ethics in Politics: The Rights and Obligations of Individual Political Agents (New York: Routledge, 2017)

Ann-Kristin Kölln, ‘The Value of Political Parties to Representative Democracy’, European Political Science Review 7:4 (2015)

On responsibility for technology, primary texts might include:

Mary Ellen O’Conell, ‘Banning Autonomous Killing: The Legal and Ethical Requirement that Humans Make Near-Time Lethal Decisions’ in M. Evangelista & H. Shue (eds.), The American Way of Bombing: Changing Ethical and Legal Norms, from Flying Fortresses to Drones (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014)

Deborah G. Johnson, ‘Technology with No Human Responsibility?’, Journal of Business Ethics 127:4 (2015)

David Enoch, ‘Being Responsible, Taking Responsibility, and Penumbral Agency’ in U. Heuer & G. Lang (eds.), Luck, Value and Commitment: Themes from the Ethics of Bernard Williams (Oxford: OUP, 2012)

On immigration, primary texts might include:

Michael Huemer, ‘Is there a Right to Immigrate?’, Social Theory and Practice 36:3 (2010)

David Miller, ‘Immigration: The Case for Limits’ in A. I. Cohen & C. H. Wellman (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics (Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2005)

John Finnis, ‘Migration Rights’ [1992] in Human Rights and the Common Good: Collected Essays vol.3 (Oxford: OUP, 2011)

On free speech, primary texts might include:

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty [1859], esp. Chapter 2 (various editions available)

Joel Feinberg, selections from The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law vol.2: Offence to Others (Oxford: OUP, 1988)

Theresa O’Keefe, ‘Open Space: Making Feminist Sense of No-Platforming’, Feminist Review 113 (2016)

Robert Simpson & Amia Srinivasan, ‘No Platforming’ in J. Lackey (ed.), Academic Freedom (Oxford: OUP)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.