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MA Philosophy part 1

The module will introduce you to graduate-level philosophy through the study of four varied and interesting areas: the beauty of nature; a classic text in Ancient Philosophy – Plato’s Meno; the nature of consciousness; and issues surrounding global justice. Your tutor will guide you through issues such as conducting independent research, and you will have ample opportunity to liaise with fellow-students online. There is also a comprehensive tutorial strategy that involves both tutors and module team authors. The module encourages independent thought and independent study using the huge range of online books and articles available via the OU Library. You can use this module to extend your studies in the subject, or to change to philosophy from another discipline.

Vocational relevance

Employers greatly value the skills taught in philosophy courses: the capacity to think well about important issues, to assess and formulate arguments, to communicate clearly and succinctly, and to be an independent and flexible thinker. In addition, this module also pays attention to presentation skills, and the skills underlying peer interaction and review.


A853 is a compulsory module in our:

A853 is an optional module in our:

Excluded combinations

There are no excluded combinations. That is, successful completion of this module will earn you credit regardless of what other OU module you have taken.


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
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Module cost
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Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

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What you will study

This module consists of four blocks, each lasting five weeks, and five further weeks in which you'll have the opportunity to think about and discuss the nature of philosophical study. The four blocks are as follows:

Block 1: The aesthetics of nature 
What do we mean when we call a piece of nature ‘beautiful’? Do we only mean that we like it? Or is it being beautiful an objective fact about it? Is all of nature beautiful? When we ruin a piece of nature, do we make everything alright again if we make it look like how it looked before? This block asks all these questions – plus more – and guides you towards the arguments that will enable you to answer them.

Block 2: Plato’s Meno
Plato’s dialogue, The Meno, is a classic text by one of the founders of Western Philosophy. You will learn how to read and interpret the text through looking at some contemporary interpretations. Such interpretations make vivid the claims and arguments that, even today, underpin important philosophical controversies surrounding the nature of knowledge, the nature of virtue, and whether virtue is teachable.

Block 3: Consciousness
There is perhaps no greater mystery than the nature of consciousness. What is it that we have that sticks and stones do not? What is it to be aware of the world, to experience colours and sounds? Is consciousness a physical phenomenon? If so, what is the relation between a sensation (a feeling of pain, say) and a state of our brain? Drawing on dramatic recent work in the philosophy of mind, this block attempts to throw light on these issues.

Block 4: Global justice
It is a fact that some people in the world have plenty, and other people in the world have not enough, or barely enough, on which to live. Global justice has always been important in Political Philosophy, but it is emerging as a central issue of debate. This block will go into the history of the debate (since the 1970s) and consider the key current points of contention: who is responsible for how things are? What should we do about it?

Throughout the module you will engage with key contemporary and classic material. The module will be of interest to those who wish to extend their knowledge and understanding of philosophy and of the research methods and perspectives of those working in this field of study.

Although you can gain the Postgraduate Certificate in Humanities from studying this module, it is the first module in the two-part MA in Philosophy. As such, it is preparation for the MA Philosophy part 2 (A854) which culminates in a dissertation. You'll choose the topic for your dissertation, provided it is appropriate to the subjects in these taught modules. This includes all the topics on this module together with Nietzsche, Foucault and Arendt, the philosophy of mind, and political philosophy, which you would study on A854.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Your tutor will help you with the module work and mark and comment on your assignments. Both modules in the MA in Philosophy are supported with a mix of online tutorial support. You are encouraged to take part in the online tutorials with your tutor and tutor group, as well as the Module-wide Forum. There will also be events led by course authors. Tutorials will be held throughout the year and can be accessed from any computer with internet access. They are likely to be a blend of asynchronous online discussions, in which you can participate at times of your choice, and synchronous (‘live’) tutorials at set times. Further information about tutorials will be provided at the start of the module.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

Course work includes

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Future availability

MA Philosophy part 1 starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2019. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2024.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Entry requirements

    To take this module, you must declare the MA in Philosophy (F30) (or another qualification towards which this module can count) as your qualification intention. You should have an undergraduate honours degree, which, ideally, should contain at least 20% study of philosophy. If this is not the case, you should ensure you are aware of the nature of philosophy (in particular, Anglo-American philosophy). This module assumes that a candidate for a master’s degree already has the knowledge and skills usually acquired by pursuing the subject at undergraduate level. If you do not, we recommend you take one of the OU undergraduate philosophy modules prior to your study. Doing so will increase the chances of successfully completing the MA.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Preparatory work

    Reading the following will be useful preparation for the MA:

    • Glenn Parsons, Aesthetics and Nature, Bloomsbury, 2008.
    • Plato, The Meno. Many editions available.
    • David Chalmers, The Conscious Mind, Oxford University Press, 1997.
    • Thom Brooks (ed.), The Global Justice Reader, Wiley-Blackwell, 2008. Particularly sections IV-VII.


    Start End England fee Register
    05 Oct 2019 Jun 2020 £2100.00

    Registration closes 19/09/19 (places subject to availability)

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2024.

    Future availability

    MA Philosophy part 1 starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2019. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2024.

    Additional costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

    Ways to pay

    We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

    That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

    Study materials

    What's included

    With the exception of the set text, everything you need to study this module is available online either through the module website, or through the OU online library. This includes module books, primary and secondary sources such as PDFs, a website with interactive audio and visual material, and access to a range of scholarly resources including journals and electronic books.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

    Materials to buy

    Set books

    • Warburton, N. The Basics of Essay Writing Routledge £15.99 - ISBN 9780415434041

    If you have a disability

    Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader (and where applicable: musical notation and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way). Other alternative formats of the module materials may be available in the future. Most of the module is delivered online so you will need to spend a significant amount of time studying from a personal computer or other screen based device. 

    If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Disability support website to find more about what we offer.