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Unit information: Ideas and Society in 2021/22

Unit name Ideas and Society
Unit code AFAC20002
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Malay
Open unit status Not open




School/department Arts Faculty Office
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit takes a single philosophical idea that has been influential in the history of human society, and considers its philosophical basis, its historical importance, the way in which it changed over the course of history, and the ways in which it spread and means by which it was suppressed. The unit explores the arguments that have surrounded the idea, both in favour of it and against it, as well as arguments that serve to clarify or amend the idea. It investigates, through case studies, some of the effects that this idea has had on society at various points in its history. Some possible topics include environmentalism, human rights, scientific method and the rise of modern science, equality, or reason and its discontents. Weekly lectures could explore the history and conceptual foundation of the idea, while seminars could ensure that concepts were understood while exploring a selection of case studies.

The unit aims:

  • To introduce students to elements of philosophical analysis of concepts
  • To impart an awareness of the history of ideas
  • To enhance students’ awareness of the historical contingency and philosophical underpinnings of ideas that shape the society they live in
  • To encourage critical reflection on such ideas and their social impact
  • To improve skills of verbal and written presentation

As part of this unit, students are asked to submit a formative essay on a topic related to the course. This formative essay may also be seen as opportunity to submit a draft or outline of the final, summative essay of up to 1,500 words and to receive feedback on this.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit, students should be able to:

  1. Understand and critically assess the philosophical arguments for and against the various positions surrounding the idea in question.
  2. Compare how the idea emerged in different ways and different forms at different times and places in history.
  3. Compare how different media have played a role in the spread of the idea and its suppression.
  4. Construct coherent, relevant and persuasive arguments on different aspects of the subject, showing critical thought and displaying full understanding of academic conventions.

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities, including lectures, group discussion, writing exercises, and reflective activities. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis. There will be opportunities for tutor and peer feedback.

Assessment Information

1. Summative 3,000 word essay (100%). [ ILOs 1-4]


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. AFAC20002).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.