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The University of Southampton

PHIL1027 Freedom and Responsibility

Module Overview

Human beings have free will, and that is why they are responsible for their actions and choices. Or so we tend to think. But is it really so? Are our choices and actions not determined by factors outside our control—are they not the inevitable upshot of causal processes that start at a distance from us? If so, doesn’t this show that free will is an illusion, and that nobody is responsible for what they do? Embracing this conclusion would radically change the character of our relationships with others. This module aims to explore the question of what it would be to have a free will, to consider in light of answers to that question whether we possess such a thing, and to examine the connections between freedom and responsibility.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • competing views of freedom.
  • the arguments for and against those views.
  • the implications of those views, in particular for the issue of whether and to what extent we are responsible for our actions and decisions.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • interpret, synthesise and criticise complex texts and positions.
  • present ideas, both orally and in writing, clearly and carefully.
  • debate and criticise ideas and arguments in an even-handed fashion.
  • articulate and defend your own views regarding the issues the module concerns.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • undertake independent work, including identifying and using appropriate resources.
  • work effectively to deadlines.
  • take notes from talks and written materials.
  • contribute to discussion in a critical but dispassionate way.
  • express views clearly and concisely.


The syllabus for this module may vary from year to year. Topics covered may include: - determinism and indeterminism - compatibilism and incompatibilism - libertarianism - the nature of responsibility.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include - Lectures - In-class discussion - One-on-one consultation with module co-ordinator Learning activities include - Attending classes - Contributing to class discussion - Doing independent research for and writing assessed essays and exams

Follow-up work24
Completion of assessment task22
Wider reading or practice24
Preparation for scheduled sessions24
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

T Pink (2004). Free Will: A Very Short Introduction. 



Draft essay


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 50%
Timed Assignment 50%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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