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Investigating philosophy

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Philosophers like to ask deep and penetrating questions. What does it mean to be moral? Would a perfect God let evil exist in the world? When, if ever, is it acceptable to disobey the law? Is the mind distinct from the brain? What is knowledge? Is race ‘socially real’ and what does that mean? In this module, you will investigate these questions and many more, through six topics central to philosophy. The study materials will guide you to learn how to analyse texts, construct arguments and evaluate philosophical theories, while leaving space for independent study and reflection.

What you will study

The module consists of the following six blocks:

Block 1: Philosophy of Religion
The concept of God is a concept of an all-powerful entity who exists outside time and space. The philosophical puzzles this raises have been studied for millennia, by believers and nonbelievers alike. This block draws on a number of different traditions to study the nature of God, the problem posed by the existence of evil, and the occurrence, or not, of miracles.

Block 2: Political Philosophy through Plato’s Crito
Plato’s Crito was written 2400 years ago, but it still has much to teach us. It makes us ask ourselves the questions “What is the state?” and “Why should we obey the law – if we should?” This block uses Plato’s Crito as the gateway to an exploration of political philosophy today.

Block 3: Philosophy of Mind
Humans and other animals have minds, whereas sticks and stones do not. But what is it to have a mind? The brain seems to have something to do with it, but is it the whole story? In the distant (or not so distant) future might there be robots, or other artificial intelligence, capable or thought, emotion and experience? The block explores these questions.

Block 4: Ethics
This block looks at three philosophical answers to the question of what it is for our actions to be right or wrong. Are the right actions simply the ones with the best consequences? Or do we have ‘moral duties’ we should fulfil regardless of the consequences? Or perhaps we should simply focus on being good, virtuous people and then right actions will follow?

Block 5: Epistemology
Epistemology is the study of knowledge. How do we know about the world? One obvious answer is by using our senses. Do our senses supply all that we know? Even mathematics? Don’t we in fact also acquire knowledge from listening to other people, and reading what they have written? But how do I decide whether to trust other people? Do we all have equal access to knowledge, or are some groups better 'knowers' than others?

Block 6: Philosophy of Race
The final block uses the skills you have gained throughout the module to answer questions in the Philosophy of Race. What is race? Is it a biological category? A social category? How is the idea of racial groups linked to broader societal structures? It will also analyse racism: is it a belief, a disposition to think badly of certain people, or something else?

Entry requirements

This is an OU level 2 module, OU level 2 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies at OU level 1. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject, preferably at the OU.

Preparatory work

No preparatory work is necessary, but if you would like to do some reading in advance, Simon Blackburn’s Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2001) is an accessible introductory book.

What's included

The module combines two textbooks with rich online resources. The books are self-standing, so you will not have to keep jumping back and forth between them and your computer, You'll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module materials
  • specially commissioned audio and video content
  • selections from the rich OU/BBC archive
  • quizzes and interactive activities
  • assessment guide
  • online tutorials and forums

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve
  • guiding you to additional learning resources
  • providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content
  • facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.


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

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying DA223 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Investigating philosophy starts once a year – October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2035.

Course work includes:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment