The UK Philosophy revised ‘Benchmarks’ have just been published http://www.qaa.ac.uk/en/Publications/Documents/SBS-philosophy-15.pdf
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From Subject Benchmark Statement UK Quality Code for Higher Education Philosophy February 2015
The basic principles of this framework concern subject matter, method and aim of study.
- Philosophy seeks to understand, and critically to question, ideas concerning the nature of reality, value and experience that play a pervasive role in understanding the world and ourselves. Problematic concepts, such as existence, reason and truth, occur in every sphere of human enquiry. Others belong to particular areas of thought and practice, such as art and politics.
- Philosophy has been practised for thousands of years, and in many different cultures, giving rise to a diversity of traditions. Students of philosophy may be, and in single honours programmes generally are, introduced to works originally written in different languages, in different historical periods. This gives the subject great intellectual breadth.
- The vitality of philosophy is enhanced by the existence of a plurality of approaches, and the maintenance and development of distinct (though overlapping) traditions.
- Philosophy is open-ended, changing and extending its range both by its own internal dynamic and also by encompassing new problems generated from outside itself.
- No one method suits all philosophical problems, but philosophy is characteristically done by such means as asking questions, trying out and critically engaging with ideas, making and sharpening distinctions, inventing new vocabularies, criticising and reinterpreting major texts, examining issues that arise in the history of philosophy, using formal techniques (such as logic and the probability calculus), constructing and assessing reasoned arguments, conducting thought experiments, or marshalling evidence from relevant sources.
- Philosophy is not a rare specialism or ‘minority subject’, to be fostered in only a few centres. The central aim of philosophy is to understand the world and our place in it, and for this reason philosophy is considered to be at the heart of higher education, wherever it is offered.
- Philosophy is a part of the humanities, but its importance extends into many other areas of intellectual enquiry. Subjects such as the philosophy of physics and of biology are increasingly important. The philosophy of social science is relevant for social theory. For example, distinctively philosophical questions arise in considering the central concepts employed in biology (fitness, optimality), economics and business (markets, information, fairness, and policy making (privacy, ownership, interests). The connection between logic and the development of computing is well known. Philosophers have shown themselves very ready in recent years to tackle practical issues, for example, in such areas as applied and professional ethics. Philosophy is both analytical and systematic, taking its own history seriously. Through international links of many kinds, the study of philosophy in the UK connects fruitfully with its study throughout the world.
- The study of philosophy may make up any proportion of a degree programme, and the specific objectives of study properly vary accordingly, and may vary also depending upon what other subjects, if any, are in the student’s programme. The overall aim for all students studying philosophy is to gain a deep understanding of some pervasive and problematic features of the world and of ourselves.
- Philosophy nurtures a wide variety of skills. However, the skills that may be reasonably expected as the outcome of a full single honours degree are not all produced by a single philosophy module.
- The heart of philosophy is a set of modes of thinking acquired through rigorous training. Philosophy, with its stress on independent thought, is by its nature an open-ended subject, constantly being revised and extended in the light of new insights and new problems. Yet its history, at least in the Western world, stretches back for 2,500 years. There is a balance to be drawn in a Statement such as this between being excessively prescriptive about the content of a philosophy course and writing banal platitudes. The dilemma is encapsulated by the fact that great philosophers such as Socrates or Wittgenstein resisted the idea that philosophy is simply a body of knowledge to be taught. At the same time it is usual for someone fully trained in philosophy to know something about some figures such as Socrates or Wittgenstein.