Am I wrong to judge Durham's UG Philosophy class by the dissertation examples?

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username2652051
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Estreth
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Yes you are.

I don't think you're wrong to take into account the titles of undergraduates' dissertations in judging what kind of leanings the philosophy department has, but I do think you're wrong in the conclusions you've drawn from the evidence.

I think your continental / analytic divide is somewhat misguided. There isn't a sensible distinction between 'continental society-critiquing philosophy' and 'logical argument-based theories of truth, perception and knowledge'. You have at least three viable distinctions mixed up there:

(i) society-critiquing philosophy v theories of truth, perception and knowledge

By this I assume you mean something like the widely accepted distinction between 'practical' and 'theoretical' philosophy. Practical philosophy is, roughly, moral, political, and legal philosophy (possible also aesthetics - certainly if we rename the category 'theory of value'). Theoretical philosophy is, roughly, epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of logic and language. Both of these very broad categories of philosophy can be conducted in different ways, and it is at best highly misleading to suggest that the continental tradition focuses on practical philosophy, while the analytic tradition focuses on theoretical. Heidegger's work, for instance - arguably the single most influential figure in 20th century continental philosophy - was much concerned with truth, perception, and knowledge. The whole phenomenological tradition is focused on perception.

(ii) continental v analytic

This is a contentious division, but it has at least some validity. There is no doubt that the style of philosophy done in the tradition stemming from Frege, Russell, and other philosophers (who themselves focused on theoretical philosophy) at the beginning of the 20th century is different from the tradition that traces itself through Heidegger and Husserl, back to Hegel and ultimately to Kant (sometimes called 'post-Kantian' philosophy). But the 'analytic' style, though most prevalent in the UK, US and Australia, is also strong elsewhere, including in 'continental' Europe. Similarly, the 'continental' style is very influential in some departments in the UK and US (especially in literary studies).

(iii) logical argument-based theories and... something else!

The most important misapprehension in your question is the idea that 'society-critiquing' philosophy can't be done using logical argument. Contemporary analytic philosophy includes plenty of work in ethics and political and legal philosophy. And that's where your conclusion goes wrong. You seem to have looked at the proportion of practical philosophy to theoretical in the dissertation titles, and on the basis of a prejudice that practical philosophy is not logical and/or not done by 'analytic' philosophers, concluded that Durham specializes in continental philosophy. But I see no evidence of any such bias (and in fact I know that Durham doesn't have one). And in fact, the number of dissertations that suggest a continental style of philosophy are very few.

The long and short of it is this: Durham has a very good philosophy department, which will cater to the interests of any undergraduate quite satisfactorily, and you definitely don't need to worry about getting a good grounding in theoretical subjects, or about the rigour of argument required.
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Estreth
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(Original post by zeroteneleven)
Firstly: thank you very much, this was a great reply and I am very thankful for the time you put into making it! I hope I didn't come off as initially arrogant.

I think I do agree with all of your points. But, however, is it still wrong of me to say that from the dissertation titles Durham comes off as a philosophy department that has more focus on practical philosophy rather than theoretical philosophy - which I believe is more abstract and suited to my tastes, as of course it is similar in a sense to Maths/Comp Sci.

Thanks again !
Well, perhaps it looks a bit like that. But I think then you're just reading too much into it - I don't think it reflects a bias in the way the subject is taught. Take a look at the taught modules available, that'll be a much better guide:

https://www.dur.ac.uk/philosophy/cur...styearmodules/
https://www.dur.ac.uk/philosophy/cur...ndyearmodules/
https://www.dur.ac.uk/philosophy/cur...rdyearmodules/
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