PHI-10016 - Continental Philosophy
Coordinator: Sophie Allen Tel: +44 1782 7 33364
Lecture Time: See Timetable...
Level: Level 4
Credits: 15
Study Hours: 150
School Office:

Programme/Approved Electives for 2022/23


Available as a Free Standing Elective






Barred Combinations


Description for 2022/23

The so-called `continental┐ tradition in philosophy focuses on the human condition and the place of the conscious self in the world, and attempts to account for fundamental problems the human condition which are relevant for each of us in our everyday life. These include problems concerning our nature, our relation to the world and to others, the possibility of accounting for freedom and for knowledge. Are we free to choose what we become, or is our development constrained by physiological facts which fix what type of person we can be? Is everyone equal┐at least, insofar as they are human┐or are some of us `better┐ than others, and in what way? Is suffering inevitable, and what form does that suffering take? Do you know your own mind? And, if so, how do you know it? What is your relationship to the objects and people around you?
Continental philosophy attempts to see the world and the objects we encounter within it from the human perspective, and takes that lived perspective to be fundamental, questioning the existence of hidden facts or universal objective truths. The tradition places emphasis on interpretation, and the fluidity of meanings, and explores what philosophy and life should be like in the absence of rigid religious, political or scientific structures which presuppose (and require) the existence of such objective truths.
The course aims to introduce students to this philosophical tradition by closely examining a selection of key texts in which such fundamental problems are discussed, including Nietzsche┐s On the Genealogy of Morality, and Sartre┐s Existentialism and Humanism. The focus is on a clear understanding of the problems raised and the answers offered in the examined texts, on reflecting on their relevance for our usual concerns, on the methods they use, and on their philosophical significance. Seminars and assessed essays will encourage students to develop and to express their own views on the problems discussed in an informed way, as well as reflecting more generally on the authors examined and the philosophical tradition studied in the course. There will also be a chance to explore some of the literature and film associated with the tradition, in order to better understand the philosophical points being made.

The course aims to introduce students to fundamental philosophical texts usually placed in the so-called continental tradition, in order to familiarise them with this philosophical style and with the ideas of key modern thinkers, who are influential today.

Intended Learning Outcomes

present clearly a set of fundamental philosophical problems discussed in the text or texts studied in the course: 1,2
demonstrate a good understanding of the philosophical significance of the answer(s) examined in the course: 1,2
focus in written form on a particular aspect or on a set of related particular aspects of a fundamental philosophical problem: 1,2
discuss effectively in written form a philosophical problem and offer one's own view on the point(s) at issue: 1,2
recognise the application of at least one of the philosophical methods introduced by the course, to understand some key differences between that method and alternative ones: 2
be able to discuss the intended purpose of using a certain method in philosophical enquiry, and to begin to evaluate its philosophical utility and significance by citing advantages or objections to its use: 2
understand differing interpretations of a philosophical position encountered within the texts, and to critically assess whether one interpretation is more plausible than another, giving reasons for this assessment: 2
interpret and evaluate the answer or answers offered by the philosopher or philosophers studied in the course: 1,2

Study hours

The module is taught during one semester as follows:
- 7 2-hour weekly lectures
- 6 1-hour weekly seminars
Seminars will start one week after the first lecture and will finish in the same week as the lectures.
Breakdown of study hours:
Lectures: 14 hours
Seminars: 6 hours
Seminar preparation: 30
Preparation for essay 1: 50
Preparation for essay 2: 50

School Rules


Description of Module Assessment

1: Assignment weighted 40%
500 word critical argument summary
Students will be asked to clearly summarise and briefly criticise one of the key arguments or themes in the first set text of the course.

2: Essay weighted 60%
A 1,500-word essay on a topic related to the texts studied in the course
Students will be asked to choose a topic from a list of questions provided in the module guide, and to write a 1,500-word essay. Students will be strongly encouraged to prepare an essay plan and to consult their tutor about it in order to make sure that they are working on the right lines.