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Contemporary Philosophy

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

This course will discuss ten influential philosophy texts published since 2000, covering topics ranging from ethics and free will to critical thinking, aesthetics and politics. We shall discover how today’s philosophers address traditional problems in philosophy.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No previous knowledge required.

Content of Course

1. Peter Singer: The Life You Can Save. Global poverty and moral obligation.

2. Debra Satz: Why Some Things Should Not be For Sale. The moral limits of markets in a contemporary democratic society.

3. Julian Baggini: The Ego Trick. The nature of the self, and the implications of contemporary research in neuroscience and psychology.

4. Sam Harris: Free Will. The case for determinism, and the implications of the truth of the determinist thesis.

5. Terry Eagleton: On Evil. The reality of evil in the contemporary world.

6. Harry Frankfurt: On Bullshit. Truth and falsity in contemporary culture, and their relation to bullshit.

7. Naseem Nicholas Taleb: The Black Swan. Our limited knowledge of events and causality, and the allure of inductive inference.

8. Rae Langton: Sexual Solipsism. Pornography and Objectification in contemporary Western culture.

9. Roger Scruton: Beauty. How beauty plays a part in shaping the human world.

10. Slavoj Zizek: Living in the End Times. The environmental, scientific and social crises facing capitalism in the 21st century.

Teaching method(s)

Materials will be provided by the tutor in class, including extracts from the texts. Classes will consist of tutor-led discussion of these extracts, at which students will be encouraged to try out their understanding of the readings on the rest of the group.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Read a philosophical text;

  • Subject that text to appropriate philosophical scrutiny;

  • Locate the various texts studied in the context of the philosophical problems with which they deal, and traditional responses to these problems;

  • Identify some of the key thinkers and issues in contemporary philosophy.


Core Readings


Extracts from the essential texts (below) will be made available:

  • Singer, P., 2009. The Life You Can Save – How to Play Your Part in Ending World Poverty. London: Picador.

  • Sandel, M., 2012. What Money Can’t Buy – The Moral Limits of Markets. London: Penguin.

  • Baggini, J., 2011. The Ego Trick. London: Granta.

  • Harris, S., 2012. Free Will. New York: Free Press.

  • Eagleton, T., 2010. On Evil. New Haven: Yale University Press.

  • Frankfurt, H., 2005. On Bullshit. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

  • Taleb, N.N., 2007. The Black Swan. London: Penguin.

  • Kahneman, D., 2011. Thinking, Fast and Slow. London: Penguin.

  • Scruton, R., 2009. Beauty. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Zizek, S., 2010. Living in the End Times. London: Verso.

Class Handouts

Weekly summaries will be provided.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.