Philosophy, Ethics & Religion BA (Hons) (with Foundation Year)
UCAS Code: V621|Duration: 4 years|Full Time|Hope Park
UCAS Campus Code: L46
Work placement opportunities|International students can apply|Study Abroad opportunities
About the course
If you want to understand the world we live in, you have to be able to understand the great religious traditions and philosophical questions that shape it. Our degree in Philosophy, Ethics and Religion is a rigorous programme that exposes you to the big questions of philosophy: what is good? What are the ideals or principles by which we can lead a meaningful life, individually and politically? What defines a human person? What can we rationally say about the existence and nature of God? What is beauty? At the same time, it offers an in-depth understanding of major religions, such as, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism.
In philosophy, you will not only be reading the great texts of western thought for yourself, but also significant texts from wider global philosophies, such as,: African, Indian, and Japanese philosophies. There will also be an emphasis on developing your own ability to think critically and put forward reasoned arguments. The study of religion is grounded in an understanding of religions as they are lived and understood: field trips and research in real communities sit alongside the interpretation of texts, symbols and ideas.
Your studies will be led by internationally renowned lecturers who bring their own research to bear on their teaching. Our staff have special expertise in, for example, the study of Islam, Zen Buddhism, and contemporary philosophy of religion. They will guide and inspire you to clarify the questions you want to ask, and to explore the worldviews of others as you work out your own.
Teaching on this degree is structured into lectures, where all students are taught together, seminars of smaller groups of around 15-20 students, and tutorials which typically have no more than 10 students. Lectures will give you an overview of a specific topic, which will then be studied in more detail in your seminars. Tutorials are a more intensive forum for discussion and are primarily used to analyse key texts. You will also have the opportunity to have a one-to-one meeting with your tutor each week.
In your first year, there are approximately 12 teaching hours each week, which reduces to approximately 10 teaching hours in your second and third years. On top of teaching hours, you are also expected to spend a number of hours studying independently each week, as well as studying in groups to prepare for any group assessments you may have.
Assessment and feedback
During your three years of study, you will have a number of assessments, including portfolios, essays, group presentations and written exams. In your final year you also complete a dissertation project.
You will receive your feedback via the University’s Virtual Online Learning Environment (Moodle), and you are also welcome to discuss the feedback with your tutors.
The Foundation Year is a great opportunity if you have the ability and enthusiasm to study for a degree, but do not yet have the qualifications required to enter directly onto our degree programmes. A significant part of the Foundation Year focuses upon core skills such as academic writing at HE level, becoming an independent learner, structuring academic work, critical thinking, time management and note taking.
Successful completion of the Foundation Year will enable you to progress into the first year (Level C) of your chosen honours degree. Further details can be found here.
Your first year of study builds the foundation of your philosophy, ethics, and religion knowledge.
Normative Ethics and Meta-Ethics
You will begin by studying normative ethics, including utilitarianism, virtue ethics, and deontological ethics. These theories will be discussed within the context of animal ethics, and will include a study visit to Chester Zoo where issues concerning the morality of zoos and animal conservation will be addressed. This will be followed by a study of Meta-Ethics, which explores the meaning of moral statements. This will include key theories such as: emotivism, ethical egoism, ethical naturalism, and ethical non-naturalism (intuitionism).
Free-will and Determinism
This unit will explore theories and debates with the context of free-will and determinism, including: libertarianism, determinism, indeterminism, compatibilism, and deep-self compatibilism. Topics will include: mind-body dualism, the noumenal self, agent-causation, and neuroscience.
Epistemology and Existentialism
In this unit we will examine different areas within philosophy of knowledge (epistemology) such as empiricism, rationalism, and transcendental idealism. Key figures explored will include: Plato, Aristotle, René Descartes, John Locke, David Hume, George Berkeley, and Immanuel Kant. Another key topic you will explore is existentialism and the meaning of life, using the works of Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Albert Camus, and Jean-Paul Sartre as a basis for discussions.
Introduction to the Study of Religion
This unit covers the main theories of religion, key ideas and themes (sacred texts, myth, ritual, sacred objects), questions such as the insider/outsider debate, religion and identity, as well as key theorists in the study of religion (for example, Emile Durkheim, Rudolf Otto, Mircea Eliade, Max Weber, William James and Clifford Geertz).
African Traditional Religion
This unit introduces you to some of the key aspects of the study of religion through the lens of the traditional religions of Africa. You will explore how ritual behaviour, myths, song, dance and the creation of religious artefacts come together to express people's understanding of the world and of themselves as communities. We use one of the great classics of African Literature, Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart to enter into a world that is very different to the religions that are generally studied at A-Level.
Introduction to Islam
The course aims to introduce students to the contemporary study of Islam. It begins by covering matters to do with the origins of Islam, the Quran and the tradition-literature. It goes on to consider Sunni and Shi’i traditions, and the institution of Sufism, theology and jurisprudence. Throughout, consideration is given to contemporary relevance of the early articulations of Islam.
Introduction to Judaism
Is Judaism a religion, an ethnicity, or a culture? This unit introduces students to Judaism in its rich and varied traditions and history, as well as contemporary practice. The themes covered in this course include the authoritative writings of Judaism (the Hebrew Bible, the Mishnah and the Talmud); the essentials of Jewish belief; the Jewish calendar, rituals and feasts; Messianism; gender; Zionism and the State of Israel.
Introduction to Hinduism
Hinduism is one of humanity's ancient and complex religious traditions. This unit helps students to navigate the rich ideas, texts and images of Hinduism by discussing a number of key dimensions, particularly through the study of text and imagery. The course discusses the concept of Brahman as One and Many and the broad traditions of ?aivism, Vai??avism and ??ktism along with their religious literature. We also consider Dharma and society - looking particularly at notions of Caste as Var?a and J?ti. We will explore Hindu philosophy - looking especially at M?m??s? and Ved?nta. Finally, the unit discusses the revitalisation of Hinduism in India today.
Religion and Violence in Liverpool
This unit focuses on Liverpool and its often violent religious past. The themes covered include the slave trade, the religious arguments used for and against slavery in Liverpool, the impact of emigration from Ireland on the religious landscape of the city, and the roots of the 1909 Liverpool sectarian riots. A guided walk through the historic centre of Liverpool with a focus on the traces of the slave trade is an integral part of this course.
Themes in Philosophy of Religion
Our second year philosophy of religion course opens up new perspectives in long-running debates about the relationship between faith and reason. You will explore the limits of language when faced with the infinite (can we only say what God is not?), as well as a number of contemporary perspectives, including those which rethink the relationship between God, time and human experience. Moving beyond the traditional curriculum, you will cover Islamic philosophy of religion, pantheism and animism.
Practical and Political Philosophy
Questions of justice, representation and government are as crucial now as they have ever been. This course engages with key debates about liberty, the limits of democracy, socialism, anarchism and global justice. You will think critically about questions raised by feminist thought, and the place of religion in society. You will end the course by exploring highly topical questions in applied ethics topics such, as capital punishment, sexuality, abortion and euthanasia.
This course explores the significance of aesthetics in philosophy. Including a range of the arts, such as, painting, poetry, sculpture, architecture, drama, music, and film, the course critically examines theories from the most influential philosophers concerning the nature and purpose of art. Philosophers explored include: Plato, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, Benedetto Croce, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. It also focuses on major topics associated with aesthetics, including: beauty, taste, inspiration, creativity, imagination, symbolism, expressionism, phenomenology, and hermeneutics.
In this course Christianity, a thoroughly global faith, is studied from a global point of view, examining diverse ritual practices, behaviours, beliefs and customs. Students will engage with film representations of Jesus, modern popular literature and music which draws its metaphors and imagery from Christian thought. The course delves into the agreements about belief but also the ethical divergences across traditions and cultures, particularly related to sex and gender, abortion, feminism, and stances to war.
This course offers an introduction to Buddhism, but is taught in a way that allows students to look at any specific area in depth and detail. We begin by looking at who Siddhartha Gautama (the historical Buddha) was and what he did, before exploring various key areas of Buddhism. These include: The Four Noble Truths; the meaning of no-self (Anatta); the nature and significance of liberation (focusing on Nirvana), the schisms that occurred after the Buddha’s death; the various schools that have resulted, namely, Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana; the notion of emptiness (Sunyata) and suchness (Tathata), before ending with a study of Zen Buddhism.
Islamic law and society
One of the great Western scholars of Islamic law, Joseph Schacht, argued that a clearly Islamic system of law began to form only after the Umayyads came to power; subsequently, under the Abbasids, Islamic law became a rigid theoretical structure. It was gradually recognized, Schacht argued, that by about the 10th century all important juristic questions had been posed and resolved, marking the closing of the doors of independent reasoning; this theoretical rigidity poses immense problems for modern jurists trying to reform Islamic law. Every aspect of Schacht’s account is now questioned in light of Islamic law’s adaptability to different societal contexts in particular. The course examines how Islamic law engages questions of politics, gender and its application within Western civil legal system. It also explores the differences between Shi’ism and Sunnism and how that is reflected in Iran today.
The Limits of Personhood
What is a person? What gives us identity over time? What is the relationship between individual, society and nature? This course is an in-depth study of these questions in modern thought. You will examine the influence of early modern theories of personal identity including those of Locke and Hume. You will also look at contemporary debates in the philosophy of mind, such as the relationship between mind and brain, artificial intelligence and the human/animal boundary. In the latter part of the course, we will assess how social norms shape personhood, focusing on the areas of gender, post-colonialism, race and our relationship to the natural world.
God after the Death of God: Modern and Contemporary Philosophy of Religion
In the 19th century, Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed ‘the death of God’. But since then, thinkers have constantly returned to the idea of God and the nature of religion. You will study understandings of God in continental philosophy and phenomenology, looking at key thinkers such as Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, Emmanuel Levinas, and Luce Irigaray. You will also explore the problems of religious truth, and the promise of black spirituality and philosophy of religion.
The Soul and the Absolute
What is the connection between our individual sense of self or soul and the Absolute as a whole, variously understood as, for example, God, Brahman, buddha-nature, or the One? This advanced course will explore answers to this fundamental question from the perspective of the Hindu spiritual philosophy known as Advaita Vedanta, the Jewish mystical discipline called, Kabbalah, and various perspectives held within African Philosophy.
Religion, Conflict, and Reconciliation
You will also engage with the broader theme of Religion, Conflict, and Reconciliation, critically evaluating key points of conflict around the world and the role that religions play in cultivating tensions and resolutions. A moment’s reflection attests that religion and violence are often woven together in history’s tapestries. Any number of religions have justified violence under certain circumstances, and others have become caught up in its processes. The course looks at various contexts in the world to assess the relevance of engaging religion for the coherence of societies and pursuit of peace even when conflict is associated with religious sensitivities.
This level also provides students with an opportunity to pursue a theme related to the programme through a substantial independent research project (a dissertation) led by the student working with a supervisor.
There may be some flexibility for mature students offering non-tariff qualifications and students meeting particular widening participation criteria.
As a Philosophy, Ethics and Religion graduate, you will have developed excellent skills in critical thinking, textual analysis and report writing, and have high-level oral communication skills. You will have an in-depth knowledge of one or more living religious traditions other than Christianity, an understanding of the role of religion in human societies today, and an ability to empathise with and understand different points of view.
This prepares you for a range of careers including law, media, public administration, social and community work. Many graduates enter the teaching profession and you will be well positioned to pursue postgraduate study in philosophy and related humanity subjects. Some of our students go on to study on our own taught MA in Theology, Philosophy, and Religion. A background in Philosophy, Ethics and Religion is excellent preparation for teaching philosophy and/or religious studies at A Level. More broadly, it equips you with the intellectual skills and perspectives needed for facing the ethical and ideological challenges of the contemporary world.
The Service and Leadership Award (SALA) is offered as an extra-curricular programme involving service-based experiences, development of leadership potential and equipping you for a career in a rapidly changing world. It enhances your degree, it is something which is complimentary but different and which has a distinct ‘value-added’ component. Find out more on our Service and Leadership Award page.
As part of your degree, you can choose to spend either a semester or a full year of study at one of our partner universities as part of our Study Abroad programme. Find out more on our Study Abroad page.
The tuition fees for the 2024/25 academic year are £9,250 for full-time undergraduate courses.
If you are a student from the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, your tuition fees will also be £9,250.
The University reserves the right to increase Home and EU Undergraduate and PGCE tuition fees in line with any inflationary or other increase authorised by the Secretary of State for future years of study.
On top of tuition fees, you will need to purchase core textbooks at a cost of approximately £100. There are also fieldwork costs of approximately £50.
You will also need to consider the cost of your accommodation each year whilst you study at university. Visit our accommodation pages for further details about our Halls of Residence.
We have a range of scholarships to help with the cost of your studies. Visit our scholarships page to find out more.
International tuition fees
The International Tuition fees for 2024/25 are £12,500.
Visit our International fees page for more information.
With Foundation year, this degree is only available to study as a Single Honours course.