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MA Philosophy & Religion

Course length
  • 1 year full-time
  • Not available to study part-time
  • An honours degree (normally 2.1 or above) or equivalent in an appropriate subject
  • PGCert Philosophy & Religion
  • PGDip Philosophy & Religion

NB: This programme is only available for full-time study in 2016/17.

Please see further details on the maximum period of study.

Explore the dynamics of the constant interplay between philosophical and theological issues, and address questions such as religious fulfilment and ethical motivation as raised in the classical Christian tradition and in modern analysis.

The degree attracts a wide range of students – those engaged in the study and practice of religion, and those whose professional life involves philosophical and ethical questions.

The timetable for 2016-17 can be found in the Postgraduate Options Handbook at the bottom of the page.

Teaching & Assessment

The programme consists of four taught modules and a dissertation. Students can choose optional modules from the  ‘ethics pathway’, the  ‘philosophic pathway’, the  ‘interreligious study pathway’ or a combination of modules from two pathways. Students are assessed in each module through a combination of coursework and an end of year essay. The final dissertation of 12,000 – 15,000 words is on a research topic agreed by your supervisor.

Core modules

Understanding Religion in the Age of Modernity

Explore theoretical approaches to religion developed over the last two centuries and the ground-breaking work of philosopher Charles Taylor on the origins of the modern secular worldview and responsible religious faith within it.

This module will consider the role of religion in the genealogy of modernity. Beginning with a discussion of the meaning of the terms “religion” and “modernity” It will proceed to investigate some of the major challenges that modernity poses to religious faith and examine the neuralgic issues which have come to dominate recent discussions. As well as drawing on the personal research of the three module teachers in this area the work of major figures such as Charles Taylor and others will also be covered. Proposals for overcoming the current crisis of religious traditions in modernity will be developed as part of an overall assessment of possible future developments in both secular modernity and religious traditions.


Reason and Religion

Examine historical and contemporary topics such as arguments for and against the existence of God, the nature of religious belief and language, and ideas of the afterlife.

This module focuses on a selection of key arguments about the existence and nature of the divine, and the implications of these for human life. It examines the work of philosophers from a range of religious traditions and none, and encourages an understanding of both historical debates and current developments in each topic. The module aims to cover most of the Philosophy of Religion topics from the AS and A2 Philosophy (AQA) syllabus for those with an interest in teaching AS/A2 Philosophy, although it is intended for anyone with an interest in studying the rationality of religious belief.

Optional modules for the ethics pathway

Foundations in Ethics

An introduction to themes in ethical theory.

This module lays the foundation for the study of ethics by giving you an introduction to some major themes in ethical theory and areas of contemporary debate.  Themes studied include: major influences on ethical debate (relativism, utilitarianism, Kantianism, virtue ethics); the distinctive contributions of Christian ethics; conscience; Human Rights; law and morality.

Ethical Issues Today

Consider contemporary ethical issues including the environment, mass media, war and peace.

Using the contextual and theoretical understanding of the discourse of ethics, this module will lead you into a more thorough, academically informed consideration of a range of contemporary ethical issues, related to: the environment; aging (gero-ethics), the mass media; political obligations; equality and inequalities, work and leisure; intellectual property rights; war and peace; punishment of criminals.

Bioethics and Sexual Ethics

Examine some of the pressing issues of the day, including: reproductive technologies and embryo research, euthanasia, abortion, transplants, divorce and remarriage and homosexuality and gay parenting.

Optional modules for the philosophic pathway

Selected Themes in European Philosophy

Explore a number of the themes that have emerged from the fascinating and challenging history of European philosophy.

Areas to be covered include: the one and the many, creation, the good, time, scepticism, freedom and technology.

Taught in alternate years
The Franciscan Spiritual Tradition: Faith, Reason and Spirituality

Explore the spiritual and theological tradition in the writings of Francis and Clare of Assisi, Bonaventure and John Duns Scotus.

This module will explore the spiritual and theological tradition that originated with St Francis of Assisi.  It firstly examines the spiritual writings of Francis and Clare of Assisi and the moves on to see how their experience was reflected upon and developed for a wider audience in the theological and spiritual writings of the early Franciscan writers, Bonaventure and John Duns Scotus.  The module will finally consider how the Franciscan tradition provides insights for issues of contemporary spirituality, including the Spirituality of Beauty and the Integrity of Creation.

Taught in alternate years

Optional modules for the interreligious study pathway

Unity and Diversity in Contemporary Islamic Thought

Explore the tension between tradition and renewal in Muslim responses to the challenges of modernity. You will study the foundational texts of Islam (Qur’an and Sunna) in relation to key issues such as Islamic law, gender and jihad, as well as religious pluralism and interfaith relations.

Modernity has had a fundamental impact upon almost all societies, including Muslim ones. This module will provide an overview of the debates and issues that have emerged in modern and contemporary Muslim discourse.  The module has two focal points: First, it will explore the tension between tradition and renewal that characterises Muslim responses to the challenges of modernity; Second, it will show the centrality of the foundational texts of Islam (Qur’an and Sunna) and how Muslim attitudes to and interpretations of these texts inform and shape their views on key issues such as Islamic law, gender, jihad, human rights, democracy as well as religious pluralism and  interfaith relations with Judaism and Christianity.

Contemporary Judaism

Look at how Judaism has been transformed and fragmented by its encounter with the modern world by reviewing the intellectual challenges of the Enlightenment, major ethical dilemmas and the impact of feminism on personal and community relationships.

Judaism has been transformed and fragmented by its encounter with the modern world.  In the mid-twentieth century Jews suffered the greatest catastrophe of their history and only three years later found themselves confronted by the challenges of renewed political power. The Holocaust and the development of Israel are central to modern Jewish thought, but they have elicited conflicting responses and left Jews deeply divided.  Judaism had already been fragmented by the intellectual challenges of the Enlightenment and the complex and divisive experience of integration into nineteenth century civil society. Today Jewish religious and secular thinkers continue to debate these issues at the same time as they are faced by challenges that range from the major ethical dilemmas of our time to the impact of feminism on personal and communal relationships.