Brains and cogs

Exploring relationships between the sciences and continental philosophy since Kant

Module details

  • Offered to 2nd Years
  • Mondays 16.00-18.00
  • South Kensington Campus
  • 2-term module worth 5 ECTS
  • Available to eligible students as part of I-Explore
  • Extra Credit or Degree Credit where your department allows
Degree credit module options by departmentHow to enrol

This module explores the relationship between the sciences and a central tradition of modern and early twentieth-century philosophy. It is intended to help you think critically about ways in which the sciences have shaped our understanding of the world and of our place in it. We will consider the extent to which the human being can be an object of scientific inquiry and the impact of the sciences on our ways of living our lives.

Information blocks

Learning outcomes

By the end of this module you should be able to:
Naked Greek dude

  • Arrive at an informed view of the relevance of the tradition of philosophy to students of the sciences.
  • Contribute to class discussion by arguing for a position on a central philosophical issues on the module.

  • Identify and reflect upon central claims in philosophical texts, separating these from more detailed considerations.
  • Develop transferable skills, including the ability to help others see the point you wish to make in discussion and in written work.

Indicative core content

Immanuel Kant

  • Descartes. The mind-body problem and strategies of solving it in early modern philosophy. Dualism vs. monism and realism vs. idealism.
  • Hume. His analysis of the idea of personal identity and his analysis of the idea of causal relations.
  • Kant. His response to Hume. His approach to the free will problem. His idealism. Empirical, transcendent and transcendental judgments. The distinction between phenomena and noumena.
  • Schopenhauer. His response to Kant. His idealism. The idea of double knowledge of the body and of knowledge of the thing in itself. The distinction between the world as will and the world as representation.
  • Hegel. His response to Kant. The dialectical method. The dialectic of lordship and bondage.
  • Kierkegaard. His response to Hegel. His conception of faith. The distinction between the knight of faith and the knight of infinite resignation. Existential themes in his work.
  • Nietzsche. His response to Kant and Schopenhauer. The death of God, herd morality and the overman. Existentialist themes in his work. Similarities and differences between Nietzsche and Kierkegaard.
  • Freud. Psychoanalysis as an attempt to include the human being in a scientific picture of the world. The idea of unconscious mental activity and its philosophical significance. His Kantian analogy (conscious vs. unconscious, phenomena vs. noumena).


  • Coursework: Essay - 2000 words. This assessment has a lower weighting than the later essay of the same length, as it comes early in the course and you may not have much experience in the subject (25%)
  • Examination: Multiple choice test  - 50 minutes in class time (35%)
  • Coursework: Essay - 2000 words. This assessment has a higher weighting than the prior essay of the same length because it comes at the end of the module and so it will better evaluate your summative learning (40%)

Key information

  • Requirements: You are expected to attend all classes and undertake approximately 85 hours of independent study in total during the module. Independent study includes reading and preparation for classes, researching and writing coursework assignments and preparing for other assessments.
  • This module is designed as an undergraduate Level 5 course. See Imperial Horizons level descriptors [pdf]
"Friendly, engaging, a good speaker who can keep a crowd of scientists interested in philosophy and who is clearly very, very knowledgeable"
"Fantastically well delivered lectures, the slides were never superfluous, the work given was always thought provoking and never cumbersome, and the content itself was really very interesting. Very thoroughly enjoyed this course."
"Lectures are very engaging, they are more like a discussion which make them more fun. Really excellent motivating and interesting lecturer!"
"Very good interactive style which involves us in learning the material."