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PH146-15 Reason, Argument and Analysis

Undergraduate Level 1
Module leader
Karen Simecek
Credit value
Module duration
10 weeks
100% coursework
Study location
University of Warwick main campus, Coventry
Introductory description

We rely on our ability to reason and justify our beliefs in every aspect of our lives. We don’t just want to reason well for our own sake but we also want to challenge the attitudes and thinking of others in a positive way. However, human beings are often bad at doing this; we are surrounded by examples of bad reasoning that has the power to infect our ability to think clearly and rationally. For example, the misleading advertisements promising to transform our lives that convince us to buy something we don't need, or the irrelevant personal attacks made during debates that lead us to doubt the concrete evidence presented. Through weekly exercises, you will develop the art of persuasion by practising the necessary skills for good quality philosophical argument. By focusing on key issues in philosophical methods and metaphilosophy, we will see how these skills are applied to philosophical debate.

Module aims

The aim of this module is to help you to identify, evaluate and criticise different philosophical methods and argumentative strategies in complex texts and help you to develop your own philosophical arguments.

The module has been designed to help students develop the skills they need to prepare them for their degree and enable them to fulfil their philosophical potential. The skills acquired on this course will serve as a foundation to all other philosophy modules and will help students to take a robust philosophical approach to their studies. The module is designed to help students work independently during the course of their degree, building valuable reading, analysis of argument and writing skills. The module will also help students to identify the transferable skills at the heart of their study of philosophy.

Outline syllabus

This is an indicative module outline only to give an indication of the sort of topics that may be covered. Actual sessions held may differ.

  1. Introduction to the course: why should we do philosophy?

  2. Making progress in philosophy: Thought processes and argument maps

  3. Philosophical perspectives and Individual thinking: the value of diversity in philosophy and having a voice

  4. Conceptual analysis, Making distinctions and Interpretation

  5. Inventing examples: the use of analogies and thought experiments

  6. Appeal to real life cases: empiricism versus arm-chair philosophy

  7. Narrative thinking

  8. Arguing about the future and the puzzle of non-existence

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Identify and reconstruct arguments into standard form and argument maps, deploying acquired logical and interpretative skills
  • Accurately deploy concepts of argument evaluation
  • Understand how to go about close-reading philosophical texts
  • Deploy skills of argument identification reconstruction and evaluation to the understanding and assessment of arguments presented in philosophical works
  • Fruitfully and efficiently utilise the library and other available research resources, e.g., e-journals, in conducting independent research
  • Identify and critically assess different philosophical methodologies
  • Present philosophical argument and ideas in a clear and concise way, both orally and in written form, and respond to criticism of philosophical argument
  • Employ research, presentation, logical, and interpretative skills gained on the course.
  • Work effectively as part of a group on a joint project
Indicative reading list

We will draw on some of the following in providing examples and as the focus of discussion of philosophical methodology:

Bourget, David & Chalmers, David J. (2014). What do philosophers believe? Philosophical Studies 170 (3):465-500.

Chalmers, David J. (2015). Why Isn't There More Progress in Philosophy? Philosophy 90 (1):3-31.

Cooper, Rachel (2005). Thought experiments. Metaphilosophy 36 (3):328-347.

Crane, Tim (2012). What is the Problem of Non-Existence? Philosophia 40 (3):417-434.

Daniels, N. (1979) “Wide Reflective Equilibrium and Theory Acceptance in Ethics”, Journal of Philosophy 76(5): 256–82.

DePaul, M. (2005), “Intuitions and Moral Inquiry”, in D. Copp (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Ethical Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press: ch. 21.

Gendler, Tamar Szabo (2000). Thought Experiment: On the Powers and Limits of Imaginary Cases. Routledge.

Grice, H. P. (1989). Studies in the Way of Words. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Kagan, S. (2001) “Thinking About Cases”, Social Philosophy and Policy 18(2): 44–63.

Nozick, Robert (1981). Philosophical Explanations. Harvard University Press.

Shafer-Landau, Russ (1995). Vagueness, Borderline Cases and Moral Realism. American Philosophical Quarterly 32 (1):83 - 96.

Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter (1999). Explanation and Justification in Moral Epistemology. The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 1:117-127.

Thomson, J. J. (1985) “The Trolley Problem”, Yale Law Journal 94(6): 1395-1415.

View reading list on Talis Aspire

Research element

Students are provided with research training (delivered by colleagues from the library) and are required to complete a group research project.

Subject specific skills
  • Researching philosophical topics
  • Understanding a range of philosophical tools and methods, e.g. standard form, argument maps, argument by analogy, narratives
  • Understanding the ways in which philosophers use the variety of tools and methods
  • Close-reading of philosophical texts
  • Understanding how to critically evaluate philosophical argument (including concepts of validity and soundness)
Transferable skills
  • Work effectively in a group
  • Effective oral presentation skills (presenting complex arguments clearly and concisely)
  • Using research tools and referencing accurately
  • Analysing and evaluating complex arguments
  • Summarising complex texts
  • Understanding the value of philosophy for other domains

Study time

Type Required
Lectures 9 sessions of 1 hour (6%)
Seminars 8 sessions of 2 hours (11%)
Private study 125 hours (83%)
Total 150 hours
Private study description

No private study requirements defined for this module.


No further costs have been identified for this module.

You do not need to pass all assessment components to pass the module.

Students can register for this module without taking any assessment.

Assessment group A4
Weighting Study time
Oral Presentation 20%

Delivered in 2-3s

Literature Review 20%

Locate sources on a topic of choice (providing accurate bibliographical information and sample references), and provide a brief explanation for the inclusion of each source. Students will be assessed for key skills in researching and referencing sources.

Essay (1500) 60%

1,500 word essay.

Feedback on assessment
  • Formative: Students will have the opportunity to get feedback on a draft version of their presentation and on plans of their essays. They will also receive feedback on one draft literature review entry.
  • Summative: Written feedback will be provided on the presentation, literature review, and essays.


This module is Core for:

  • Year 1 of UCXA-Q8V7 Undergraduate Classical Civilisation with Philosophy
  • Year 1 of UPHA-V700 Undergraduate Philosophy

This module is Core optional for:

  • Year 2 of UCXA-Q82P Undergraduate Classical Civilisation
  • UIPA-V5L8 Undergraduate Philosophy and Global Sustainable Development
    • Year 1 of V5L8 Philosophy and Global Sustainable Development
    • Year 1 of V5L8 Philosophy and Global Sustainable Development
  • Year 1 of UPHA-VQ72 Undergraduate Philosophy and Literature

This module is Optional for:

  • Year 1 of UPHA-VL78 BA in Philosophy with Psychology
  • Year 1 of UHIA-V1V5 Undergraduate History and Philosophy
  • Year 1 of UPHA-VQ72 Undergraduate Philosophy and Literature
  • UPHA-V7ML Undergraduate Philosophy, Politics and Economics
    • Year 1 of V7ML Philosophy, Politics and Economics (Tripartite)
    • Year 1 of V7ML Philosophy, Politics and Economics (Tripartite)

This module is Option list B for:

  • Year 1 of UMAA-G105 Undergraduate Master of Mathematics (with Intercalated Year)
  • UMAA-G100 Undergraduate Mathematics (BSc)
    • Year 1 of G100 Mathematics
    • Year 1 of G100 Mathematics
  • UMAA-G103 Undergraduate Mathematics (MMath)
    • Year 1 of G103 Mathematics (MMath)
    • Year 1 of G103 Mathematics (MMath)
  • Year 1 of UMAA-G106 Undergraduate Mathematics (MMath) with Study in Europe
  • Year 1 of UMAA-G1NC Undergraduate Mathematics and Business Studies
  • Year 1 of UMAA-G1N2 Undergraduate Mathematics and Business Studies (with Intercalated Year)
  • Year 1 of UMAA-GL11 Undergraduate Mathematics and Economics
  • Year 1 of UECA-GL12 Undergraduate Mathematics and Economics (with Intercalated Year)
  • UMAA-GV17 Undergraduate Mathematics and Philosophy
    • Year 1 of GV17 Mathematics and Philosophy
    • Year 1 of GV17 Mathematics and Philosophy
  • Year 1 of UMAA-G101 Undergraduate Mathematics with Intercalated Year

This module is Option list C for:

  • UMAA-GV17 Undergraduate Mathematics and Philosophy
    • Year 1 of GV17 Mathematics and Philosophy
    • Year 1 of GV17 Mathematics and Philosophy

This module is Option list D for:

  • Year 1 of UHIA-V1V5 Undergraduate History and Philosophy