Profile of the programme
The primary aim of the three-year Philosophical Studies course, structured in a single programme, is that of providing a solid basic knowledge of the traditional areas of philosophy, both from a historical and theoretical standpoint. Ample space is given to history of philosophy, structured traditionally from ancient to contemporary philosophy, with particular attention to reading the classics of philosophical thinking. Logical-linguistic instruction provides the tools for the study of contemporary analytic philosophy. A third area, represented by ethical-political, sociological and aesthetic studies, concentrates on contemporaneity and the complex relationship between philosophy and human sciences. The strictly philosophical training is complemented by historical studies, with the aim of promoting students’ access to traditional career opportunities such as teaching.
In general, the course aims to develop students’ analytical, critical and argumentative skills. It offers a solid theoretical base for the development of interdisciplinary skills that can be employed in different professional environments that can differ greatly from traditional teaching careers: professions connected with publishing, information, preparation of cultural events, intercultural mediation, public relations, and organization of work and staff in public and private companies.
For admission to the Course, students should have a secondary higher school diploma, or another qualification taken abroad and recognized as equivalent in accordance with current legislation. Other educational and cultural requisites may be required in accordance with article 10 of the University’s Academic Regulations. Any such requisites are specified in the course Manifesto.
However, no particular expertise in specifically philosophical or historical-philosophical skills are required. In the first few days following the start of the course, students will be given a writing test to verify their capacity for expression and argumentation. Students showing grave problems in this area will have to follow a preparatory course lasting three months, on the subject of philosophy and “critical thinking,” in accordance with an approach that is common in many European Union countries.
Key learning outcomes
A primary objective for the degree course in Philosophy, structured into a single syllabus, is that of providing a consolidated foundation in traditional areas of philosophy, which can be identified in the sectors within M-FIL/01-08, all part of this course’s syllabus. Considerable space is dedicated to the history of philosophy, subdivided into its traditional fields, and to moral and political philosophy, with additional teachings in the areas of sociology and the history of political thought. The inclusion of logic and linguistic subject areas is designed to develop students’ skills in argumentation, and it also represents a preparation for more detailed analytical philosophical studies.
Students in the three-year cycle are required to combine knowledge regarding historical subjects with their purely philosophical studies. The reasons for this can be found on one hand in the traditionally close relationship between history and philosophy, and on the other in the necessity of contextualizing moral and political philosophical notions against a backdrop of fundamental historical and social knowledge. Historical subjects are compulsorily accompanied by lectures in general sociology, in accordance with Parma University’s consolidated approach of attention to the contemporary situation. To this is added the objective of giving students professionally significant employment opportunities, such as access to teaching.
An independent academic approach has been created that develops students’ skills in analysis, their critical judgement and their argumentation. At the same time, the foundation training offered by the course provides a solid base for further study in the various areas of contemporary philosophical research – the history of philosophy, moral and political philosophy, and analytical philosophy.
As regards the capacity of “using at least one European Union language, as well as Italian, effectively in written and oral form, within the specific area of use and for the exchange of general information,” 3 credits are assigned to the language examination, which yields an assessment of eligibility or ineligibility. The University’s language centre provides the necessary educational support, according to methods determined by the University and the Faculty of Literature. During the final examination, specific attention will be dedicated to ensuring that students show familiarity with significant parts of foreign language literature regarding the chosen theme.
The course guarantees access to the Master’s Degree course in Philosophy, and it is configured in such a way as to integrate with the following two-year cycle. At the same time, the course also provides access towards the possibility of teaching in secondary schools, in classes of History and Philosophy, with access to the respective successive courses without any gaps in preparation. In addition, the course, within the limitations represented by the three-year duration, provides a solid foundation for professional roles in communications, cultural training, publishing, the promotion and multimedia distribution of culture, and the communications, organizational and planning activities performed by public and private-sector structures.
Applying knowledge and understanding
Reading philosophical texts, if possible in their original language, is without doubt one of the most effective ways of demonstrating the successful comprehension of a written text. Another system for attaining the same objective is the application of argumentation skills, by means of the study of logic. The course follows both these approaches. In lectures on the history of philosophy, considerable space is dedicated to reading classics of philosophy, accompanied by detailed commentary. The authors are contextualized in the respective debate, in order to demonstrate to students the implications of their statements and the interaction between the different positions on the theme. In addition, teaching in logic, assigned 12 credits, is compulsory for all students of the course, in accordance with a tradition that has only occasionally been interrupted throughout the entire history of philosophy teaching. As regards the content of the specific areas of knowledge imparted by the course, students will attain a satisfactory grasp (a) of the principal texts by a fair number of classical authors in the area of philosophy; (b) of the different concepts of the philosophical method, (c) of the directions in which argument on the theory of knowledge is moving, (d) of the principal positions in the field of moral and political philosophy, (e) of the principal positions in the field of philosophy of the mind (students interested have the chance of directly attending lectures by authoritative contemporary neuroscientists), (f) of the fundamental notions of modern logic and the philosophy of language.
The expected results, in terms of knowledge and understanding, will obviously be assessed by means of normal examinations, because such knowledge and skills go hand in hand with specifically philosophical knowledge.
The development of good skills in understanding is generally nurtured by the study of classical texts of philosophy and logic. In addition, within each subject, students are asked to demonstrate their skills in understanding and argumentation by means of compiling essays on the subjects studied, which will be commented and corrected by the professor. This will give the professors a clearer picture of students’ individual progress. It also represents a useful exercise for students, requiring them to apply their knowledge to a variety of themes chosen independently or assigned by the professor. Likewise, the compilation of a final dissertation, which will be assessed during the degree examination, represents an important stage in the individual student's process of acquiring analytical skills and independent judgement.
A further exercise in the same skill consists of oral discussion, in which students are encouraged to participate, not just during seminars but also in lessons, in which their active intervention is strongly encouraged.
Students’ compilation of essays in each subject area, and above all for the final dissertation, will enable the constant evaluation of the degree to which students have attained skills in the application of knowledge and understanding.
The student’s active participation in lessons and seminars, which is strongly encouraged in all the course’s subject areas and which is facilitated by a favourable numerical ratio between the professors and students, is the best method for developing skills in independent judgement. In addition, students will be specifically asked to demonstrate their skills of judgement in the essays required for the final assessment – at least one for each subject. (For some subjects, such as Logic, students have the possibility of demonstrating their skills by means of the solution of exercises, instead of writing an essay.)
Again, the essays required for final assessment enable the accurate verification of the degree to which students have attained independence of judgement.
The complexity and variety of the subjects treated by classical philosophy texts are a test for the learning ability of any reader. Succeeding in understanding the content of such texts is a conclusive demonstration of learning skills. For this reason it does not seem necessary to utilize further methods of their verification within the course.
The compilation of written essays, which are carefully commented and corrected by professors, is an exercise that helps students develop their capacity for communication. The limited number of students enrolled in the course also provides opportunities, not possible in other courses, for active participation during lectures and seminars, and it is on these occasions that students’ skills in communication are most effectively and rapidly developed. Laboratories for linguistic studies and exercises in writing, which are organized during the course to compensate for the insufficient scholastic preparation that hallmarks most students, will provide further opportunities in this regard. The information technology laboratories provide indispensable skills in the use of new communications media.
Again, precise assessment of the degree to which students have attained the expected skills in communications will be performed by means of the compilation of written texts, commented and corrected by professors.
Final examination, if any
Essay and respective discussion. The essay should consist of a number of pages varying from about thirty to fifty. It will include a structured bibliography. Students will have to present the hypothesis or stance that they intend to adopt with clarity, using relevant lines of argument. In addition, they have to contextualize their chosen subject in the respective scientific subject area.