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Undergraduate Module Descriptor

PHL3046A: The Holocaust, Genocide and Society

This module descriptor refers to the 2023/4 academic year.

Module Aims

This is an interdisciplinary course, and not as such a history of the Holocaust or detailed comparative study of genocide. The overarching questions to be pursued are: What kind of events are the Holocaust and genocide, how do they fit into and relate to the modern societies in which they occur, and what are their ramifications and significance for the normal civilised lives that we currently enjoy? The module combines historical and social scientific inquiry with philosophical reflection on the nature and significance of the Holocaust and possibly kindred events, processes and institutions. Reflecting its interdisciplinary ethos, the module is delivered simultaneously to social science students under SOC3046a and philosophy students under PHL3046A - because historical and social scientific explanation and understanding of the Holocaust and kindred phenomena inherently raises questions of a philosophical nature. The module therefore draws on theories, methodologies and concepts from sociology, social psychology, historical explanation and moral philosophy. Issues to be explored include: questions on the distinctiveness and newness of genocide, whether the Holocaust is a unique event, what kind of knowledge and understanding it affords, and its relationship to other events and practices of a putatively similar kind; different approaches to explaining the causes, conditions and essential features of the Holocaust; the nature of evil and the moral character of perpetrators and other participants; the relationship between the Holocaust, genocide and modernity; reflection on human nature, civilisation, social organisation and social progress; questions on perpetrator motivation and action, moral responsibility and blame.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

This module's assessment will evaluate your achievement of the ILOs listed here – you will see reference to these ILO numbers in the details of the assessment for this module.

On successfully completing the programme you will be able to:
Module-Specific Skills1. Reflect philosophically on the nature, origins and causes of the Holocaust in particular and genocide more generally.
2. Reflect critically on the significance and import of the Holocaust and genocide for wider conceptions of the social organisation and ethical life of modern societies.
3. Examine critically and assess some of the leading philosophical, social scientific and interpretative attempts to account for socially organised evil- and wrong-doing in modern societies.
Discipline-Specific Skills4. bring philosophical analysis to the evaluation of a range of social scientific and historical explanations and theories of the Holocaust and genocide and to identify and reflect on the puzzling and disturbing issues that they generate.
5. Reflect critically on the core social scientific and historical disciplines as explanatory and interpretive endeavours and assess their success and limitations in making sense of the Holocaust, genocide and other kindred events, processes and institutions.
Personal and Key Skills6. Critically reflect on, and examine, taken-for-granted moral and cultural beliefs and values
7. Analyse and communicate, clearly and directly, a range of philosophical, theoretical, explanatory, epistemological, ontological, and normative issues arising from study of the Holocaust, genocide and other kindred events, processes and institutions.
8. Work independently, within a limited time frame, and without access to external sources, to complete a specified task