About the course
Studying Philosophy, Religion and Ethics at Hertfordshire will enable you to explore the connections and contradictions between thought and faith in the world today.
You may have taken Religious Studies at A-level or be fascinated by how religious belief is a driving force behind social and political events in today’s globalised world.
This degree course offers you the opportunity to explore the beliefs that guide people’s lives using the logical and critical skills gained through philosophical inquiry.
You’ll be taught by internationally regarded academics, who will help you understand how the practices of religion and philosophy have influenced – and been influenced by – the modern world. You’ll learn to address the arguments and beliefs of others and to engage with them, so that you can arrive at your own conclusions and create your own original work.
All our lecturers are active researchers, so you’ll share the excitement of doing original work in a supportive and highly-rated academic community. Our Philosophy team is in the top 15 in the Guardian League Table 2019 and rates as one of the 100 best Philosophy departments worldwide in the 2017 QS rankings.
In your first year you’ll take philosophy modules exploring ethics, mind, knowledge and reality alongside an introduction to four of the major world religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. This will be given a modern context through a module on religion and the contemporary world.
Seminars in your first year will explore how to investigate and discuss different beliefs and ideas and to develop your critical thinking, all within a respectful and empathetic environment.
In your second year you’ll study the philosophies of religion, and explore virtues, vices and ethics. Focusing on specific virtues such as forgiveness, hope or love from both a secular and religious point of view, you’ll examine what it means to live a good life.
Alongside options in your final year to explore religion and popular culture, as well as feminist and political philosophy, your dissertation will allow you to develop your particular interests, perhaps encompassing an exploration of some aspect of your own religious belief system.
Why choose this course?
We give you:
- An exceptional academic team, conducting internationally renowned research
- A flexible programme of study, allowing you to concentrate on areas you find especially interesting
- The opportunity to write a dissertation on a topic about which you are passionate
- CV-building potential through extra-curricular activities
I certainly developed professionalism and employability through studying Philosophy, primarily through the methods of rational and logical problem solving. I acquired a skill that is useful in whatever field one works in. However, it is enterprise that I most notably improved on while at Herts.
I had never really considered starting a businesses or working for myself, but while studying Philosophy (particularly my Masters by Research and my undergraduate dissertation) I realised I was learning self-management and combining this with my new proficiency at problem solving sent me down a new path. Since leaving Herts I have set up multiple small business which are growing healthily.
This individuality has really helped me find out what I want to do in life.
Our students benefit from being part of a lively and active academic community. You’ll learn through formal courses and extracurricular seminars, while our small group teaching helps you to find your feet in the academic environment. There are plenty of opportunities to discuss philosophical, religious and ethical issues with staff and fellow students, including an optional residential weekend each year.
You’ll have the opportunity to get involved in activities that will complement your studies and enhance your CV. These include our Philosophy Society, run by students, which hosts fortnightly research seminars led by distinguished external philosophers. All students are welcome to attend and become part of a professional philosophy community.
We host the Francis Bacon annual lecture series, funded by the Royal Institute of Philosophy and which focuses on showing the relevance of philosophy beyond the academic world. We are also the home of the British Wittgenstein Society, reflecting our academics’ research interests.
Taking a year’s study abroad is an excellent opportunity to broaden your understanding of the world. Living in another country offers fresh perspectives and helps create global citizens. Recently our philosophy students have studied in the USA, Canada, Japan and South Korea, enhancing their learning, building their confidence and gaining a greater appreciation of other cultures and societies.
Find out more about our Study abroad opportunities.
Reason and Persuasion - 15 Credits
We live in a world of persuasion. Advertisers would persuade us to buy their products while politicians press their policies on us. In personal life too, others want us to see things their way. We, of course, want others (colleagues, friends and family) to agree with us, to be persuaded by our arguments. Rhetoric is the art of persuasive speech and writing. It has been studied both for academic interest and for its practical, business and legal usefulness since ancient times. This module will explore the reasons why some persuasive efforts work while others do not. It will develop your ability to judge when you ought to be persuaded by the arguments of others and to present your own views in a way that increases their persuasive force.
Philosophy of Film and Literature - 15 Credits
The central theme of the module is to investigate what it is possible for film and literature to represent. How do we establish what is true in a fiction? Can the impossible happen in fiction? How, if at all, do we manage to engage with fictions that we take to be metaphysically or morally problematic (such as H.G.Wells' The Time Machine or Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita)? In what sense can film and literature explore not only how things actually are but how things could have been? Is there a difference between what can be represented in film and what can be represented in literature? We tackle these questions by engaging with various films and works of literature to see how they fit within a philosophical framework for thinking about them.
Introduction to World Religions - 15 Credits
What do some of the world’s major religions teach about human life? The world’s great religions offer a diversity that is richer and more fascinating than people often realise. In this module, you will be introduced to what it means to study religion at university level and to some central ideas, doctrines and practices in several different world religions (typically Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism). Treating them as living traditions, the module will pay particular attention to the internal varieties of these traditions and the historical development of some of their central ideas, beliefs and practices. For instance, how has Judaism responded to the Enlightenment and the challenges of anti-semitism? How did the distinctively Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant forms of Christianity arise? Is the Sunni-Shia divide in Islam motivated by religious concerns or by political ones? Is Buddhism a secular form of spirituality or a full-blown religion?
Religion and the Contemporary World - 15 Credits
Is religion a mental illness or a source of mental health? Is it a tool for political oppression or a tool for liberation? Can it be understood at all from a secular point of view? In this module, we look at the place of religion in the contemporary world. We examine how different academic disciplines (e.g. psychology, political theory, sociology, philosophy, phenomenology, theology) have shaped our contemporary understanding of religion. With this background in place, we consider the way in which religious traditions engage with important contemporary controversies about such issues as gender, sexuality, multiculturalism, the media, war and peace and the environment. In exploring these controversies, we examine questions such as: Is religion inherently sexist? Does it condemn homosexuality? How accurate are media representations of religious groups and their beliefs? Do religious groups have different rights? Does religion promote war or prohibit it? Is religious environmentalism possible?
Social and Political Philosophy - 15 Credits
How should our society function and what implications does this have for the individual? How should goods (e.g. property, services, rights, liberties, power) be distributed in society? On what basis can some people claim ownership of property? What is exploitation and how might it be addressed? What is equality? On what basis can someone 'in authority' tell me what (or what not) to do? And if I don't do as they say, on what basis can I be punished for it? What is a legitimate way to protest against a state? What are rights? Do all humans have rights or are some to be excluded? What are our obligations to future generations, to non-human animals, and to the environment in general?
Mind, Knowledge and Reality - 15 Credits
Sometimes we misperceive the world. Sometimes, whilst asleep, we take ourselves to be doing things which we are not in fact doing. And, furthermore, there is no evidence we could bring to bear which would eliminate the possibility that an evil demon is continually deceiving us about how the world is. To what extent does all of this undermine our claims to know anything? What is the link between reality and the way we perceive it? Can we at least know that we have a mind, if not a body? What is the relationship between the mind and the body? What is the relationship between mind and body and being a person? What does it take the remain the same person over a lifetime? Indeed, how can anything undergo change and yet remain the same thing?
Ethics - 15 Credits
Can you be harmed by something without ever experiencing it as a harm? Is what we experience all that should matter to us? What should we value? What is an ethical dilemma and is there a good way to resolve them? Can you be held morally responsible for something which is to some extent not within your control? To what extent should you be held morally responsible for anything? Could you eschew morality altogether? Do you ever act altruistically? What are we even doing when we make ethical judgements?
The Meaning of Life - 15 Credits
Does anything give meaning to life? Does the fact that we will die render our striving to achieve anything of significance ultimately futile, even ridiculous? Would God’s existence or non-existence have any bearing on an answer to this question? Does it even make sense to ask about the meaningfulness of our lives? Might we better approach the meaning of life through thinking about what it would take for activities within a lifetime to have meaning?
Graduate Skills - 0 Credits
You will be offered a variety of employment enhancing workshops and online activities such as interview skills workshops, personality profiling and career planning in order to improve your employment prospects after graduation and make you aware of current areas of strength and weakness in relation to employability.
You will also have the opportunity to learn about self-employment options, graduate schemes and will attend speaker sessions with successful professionals in areas of employment appropriate for Humanities graduates so you can learn about the skills and attributes required for these areas and how to enhance your prospects of entering such areas.
You will be required to undertake a certain number of activities chosen by you from a career “menu” and to reflect on what they have learnt in order to complete the module successfully.
Philosophies of Religion - 15 Credits
This module focuses on the philosophies of religion that arise from the analytic (Anglo-American), European, and Asian (especially Buddhist) traditions. Its primary focus is a body of philosophical texts on religion by classic thinkers from these diverse traditions.
Through these writings, you will be invited to consider how such different philosophical perspectives approach a series of questions they have in common, questions such as: What role do happiness and suffering play in religious thinking and practice? What is the relevance of the body and of embodiment to religion? What role is played by experience in religious faith and practice? How do reason and faith relate to each other? What goal is served by religious language? Is there such a thing as a distinctively philosophical approach to religion, given the differences between these diverse traditions?
Virtues, Vices and Ethics - 15 Credits
The primary focus of this module is a body of writing, primarily by contemporary thinkers, on specific personal virtues and corresponding vices.
We shall reflect upon such 'everyday' issues as pride, humility, gratitude, love, hope, patience and forgiveness. You will be invited to consider the contribution that both philosophy and religion have made to our understanding of the virtues.
An important part of the module will be to ask, in the light of contemporary writings, what difference religious perspectives might make to secular understandings of the nature of virtue and vice, and the implications of this for what the ‘good life’ for human beings might be. The module will typically draw on writings from more than one religious tradition.
Themes in Plato's Republic - 15 Credits
If you could get away with morally unjust behaviour, why should you act morally? What would an 'ideal society' be like? What is the relationship between justice in the individual, and justice in society? This course investigates several major themes in Plato's philosophy. After an introduction to the importance of Socrates and the nature of Socratic enquiry, we shall focus predominantly upon the Republic - one of the most important texts in the history of western thought - in which the above questions are central. The course will aim to show connections between Plato's metaphysics and theory of knowledge, and his ethics, political thought and philosophy of art and literature. Students will develop their skills in reading, assessing and advancing arguments.
The Right and The Good - 15 Credits
Is happiness the only thing of value? According to Utilitarianism, my moral duty is to promote happiness. What do we mean by "happiness"? If our moral duty is to promote happiness does this mean that we are justified in adopting any means, including killing, that might promote happiness? Kant is one philosopher who considers that we should value human beings in their own right and this introduces constraints on what we are morally justified in doing. We have duties to assist and also not to harm other human beings. We study these two theories by looking at Mill's ‘Utilitarianism’ and Kant's ‘Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals’. Application of these theories to moral dilemmas chosen by students will form the topic of the presentation. For example, is it ever morally right to use violence or terrorism in the pursuit of peace? Should we ever assist anyone to commit suicide?
Philosophy of Mind - 15 Credits
What are mental states? How do they relate to human actions? What is consciousness? Is there a real difference between the mental and the physical? This course explores philosophical approaches to understanding the nature of mind which range from dualism to strong forms of materialism. Students will be trained in the use of relevant terminology and will develop their skills in reading, assessing and advancing arguments. Students will be assessed on their knowledge and understanding of at least two approaches/issues in the philosophy of mind, their use of relevant terminology and their ability to produce structured arguments, which anticipate possible replies, in the form of essays.
Knowledge and Discovery - 15 Credits
What kind of justification is required to be able to say not just that we believe something but that we know it? Must we be able to cite reasons for believing something before we can be said to know it, or is it enough for those beliefs to have been generated in a reliable way? Must knowledge rest on a foundation that is immune from error, or are beliefs justified by being part of a network of mutually supporting beliefs? We shall discuss the extent to which the particular observations we make give us reason to believe (or disbelieve) general claims about the world and, further, what counts as a good explanation for why that thing has happened. We shall consider not just beliefs about those things we can see with our own eyes but whether there is any reason to believe in those things which we cannot observe directly (e.g., the very small and the very distant).
Philosophy of Art - 15 Credits
We go to museums, read novels, listen to music, talk about art. But what is art? In this module, we survey the main theories of art throughout history, observing as we go along, that while each theory has added to our understanding of art, it has not defined it once and for all. At the end of the survey, we shall ask whether a comprehensive definition is possible, or even necessary to our understanding of art. The survey will take us through passages from authors such as Plato, Aristotle, Tolstoy, Hume, Kant, Collingwood, Wittgenstein, Danto, Dickie and Wollheim. We will ask ourselves: Is art is a matter of personal taste or are there intersubjective criteria in the determination of art? Where is the boundary between art and craft? How is art related to morality? Is Tracy Emin's My Bed art; if so, is it good art? What makes anything art?
Logic and Philosophy - 15 Credits
Logic and philosophy have been intimately connected since ancient times. Logic provides some conceptual tools which can be very helpful in clarifying ideas and developing convincing arguments. But, as you will see in the module, the ideas and arguments which can be expressed depend on which system of logic is adopted. In learning elements of various systems of logic, we will consider the philosophical issues raised by them. Which ideas can be expressed in logic? Might we lose something in translation when expressing ideas in a logical language rather than in English? Are there any sentences which are neither true nor false? To what extent can logic help in deciding what we should believe in? Many of these issues are at the cutting edge of contemporary philosophy.
Aristotle P - 15 Credits
Is there a method to philosophy? Are we rational animals? Do all living things have a purpose? What is the good life or is there more than one? Is ethics primarily concerned with virtue? These questions, which are still of relevance today, will be explored by an examination of Aristotle's central works.
Nietzsche, Genealogy and Morality - 15 Credits
Nietzsche famously claimed that 'God is dead'. But what does he mean by this? What ramifications would the 'death of God' have for morality and human flourishing? What would a 'Nietzschean' view of self and world look like? And what religious responses to Nietzsche's challenge are possible? With these questions in mind, this module investigates key aspects of Nietzsche's thought. Typically, after an introduction to his styles of philosophizing, the 'hermeneutics of suspicion', and his 'moral perfectionism', we shall focus upon his influential critique of morality. We shall investigate his account of ressentiment, guilt and 'bad conscience', alongside central Nietzschean ideas such as the will to power, eternal recurrence and 'self-overcoming'. We'll also consider some possible critical responses to his worldview. The central text will be On the Genealogy of Morality.
Philosophy of Language - 15 Credits
Marks, sounds and gestures can all have meaning. But what is it for them to have meaning and how do they manage to have it? Is the meaning of my words to be analysed in terms of my intentions to communicate with another or the conventions I subscribe to when using words? In what way is meaning related to truth and my being warranted in asserting what I say? What other things can we do with words than state truths? How should we understand metaphorical uses of language? How do names and descriptions in particular manage to pick out objects in the world? Are some things I say true solely in virtue of the meanings of the words I use? Is there anything that fixes what it is that I do mean when I use words, or is meaning, to some extent, indeterminate? Can a study of language tell us anything about reality?
Philosophy of Psychology - 15 Credits
‘Blindsighters’ can judge with around 90% accuracy whether experimenters are showing them either a cross or a circle, and are able to discriminate colours, despite being completely blind due to a form of brain damage. The job of philosophers of psychology is to settle what this phenomenon, and related ones, means for the nature of the mind. Does it show that blindsighters ‘see’ colours etc., unconsciously? That would suggest mere perception is insufficient for consciousness, and we must then investigate what must be added to make a percept conscious. Or does blindsight simply demonstrate that there is a completely blind ‘visual information system’ in humans, operating alongside normal conscious vision? And would that mean conscious vision plays only a secondary role in daily life (is our behaviour somewhat more ‘automatic’ than we believe)? This module investigates key psychological phenomena and examines philosophical theories as to their significance for the human mind.
72 - 168 UCAS points
IB – 72 points from a minimum of 2 HL subjects at H4 or above. Find out more about international application requirements.
GCSE Maths grade 4 (D) and English Language grade 4 (C) or above.
The University of Hertfordshire is committed to welcoming students with a wide range of qualifications and levels of experience. The entry requirements listed on the course pages provide a guide to the minimum level of qualifications needed to study each course. However, we have a flexible approach to admissions and each application will be considered on an individual basis.
All students from non-majority English speaking countries require proof of English language proficiency, equivalent to an overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 5.5 in each band.
If you do not have the required IELTS or equivalent for direct entry on to your degree programme, our Pre-sessional English and International Foundation courses can help you to achieve this level.
For country specific qualifications, please visit our Your Country page.
How to apply