The Globalisation of World Pictures

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Module code


  • Level 3
  • Semester 2
  • 24 places
  • Philosophy - School of Humanities
  • Coursework 100%


Where do we find ourselves? In 2018, Elon Musk launched a Tesla roadster into space, providing the inhabitants of planet Earth with a curious sight - a mannequin dressed in a spacesuit, known as 'Starman', in the driving seat of a car as it flew into space. Back down on Earth, meanwhile, we have seen in recent years both an increase in anti-globalisation rhetoric and a focus on problems that are thought to be necessarily global in scope, such as global warming. Whilst in philosophy, spatialised accounts of the ontology of human existence revolving around concepts such as 'worlds'or 'spheres' or 'globes' have come to the fore again.

The central question of the course will hence be whether globalisation can be seen to be inherently a philosophical process, and if so, what are the consequences of this, for both conventional accounts of globalisation (deriving from the social sciences) and for philosophy itself. It will thus examine questions such as: What is a globe? What is a world? What are the connections and differences between notions of world and globe? What is (extra)terrestrial? What is it to be deprived of a world? Is globalisation best understood as a process of worlding or unworlding, or something else altogether?

While the primary focus of the course will be on texts, we will also examine a range of (artistic) objects, including terrestrial globes, such as Behaim's Erdapfel, photographs of planet Earth in the twentieth and twenty-first century, such as the Blue Marble photo or Musk's Starman in space, scenes from films, such as Méliès' A Trip to the Moon, Chaplins's The Great Dictator, or Cuarón's Gravity, or poems from such poets as Paul Celan or Seamus Heaney, or the literature of Jules Verne.

  • To provide a systematic understanding of the key questions that motivate spatialised accounts of the ontology of human existence.
  • To acquaint students with the conceptual history of such concepts as cosmos, globus, Earth, terra, sphere, word, Welt, and monde.
  • To develop the students' capacity to engage with texts that simultaneously engage with metaphysical, political, and aesthetic questions.
  • To enable students to critically discuss and systematically evaluate how contemporary thinkers respond to what is called globalisation.


Dr Oisin Keohane


The module consists of 11 lecture seminars and 11 tutorials. 


The assessed components on this module are:

  • 40% Short Essay (2000 words) or practical project with accompanying scholarly reflection (1,000 words).

  • 60% Long Essay (3000 words)


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Intended learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding.

  • To introduce students to the key concepts associated with spatialised accounts of the ontology of human existence.
  • To provide knowledge and understanding of how a number of philosophers have reacted to developments in the social sciences that have involved the notion of globalisation.

Subject-specific practical and intellectual skills and attributes.

  • Employing concepts from various philosophers to illuminate the phenomena associated with picturing the world, from terrestrial globes to satellite imagery.
  • Evaluation of the importance of conceptual systematicity for the practice of philosophy (and the relation to extra-philosophical practices like art and politics and their respective histories).

Transferable, employability and enterprise skills and attributes.

  • Development of the necessary skills to engage with unfamiliar material and of the ability to critically evaluate its explanatory potential vis-à-vis different contemporary contexts.
  • Enhancement of research, discussion and presentation skills.