Department of Philosophy
Philosophy seeks to understand the world and our place in it, using reason and logic to answer the big questions concerning reality, meaning, and morality.
Anyone can do philosophy. In fact, most people from childhood have an curiosity about philosophical issues. Many of the central questions can be phrased very simply:
- Is there a God?
- What is consciousness?
- How do we know that things are as they seem?
- Is there a real difference between right and wrong, and how could we tell?
- How do my thoughts and decisions fit into the physical world?
But almost every field of study reveals philosophical controversies, when you delve deep enough into its foundations.
While some philosophical questions may be simply phrased, the range and complexity of possible answers makes formal study in philosophy vital in making progress on these questions. To study philosophy requires no special background apart from a natural philosophical curiosity, a willingness to think clearly and carefully, and an openness to having one's preconceptions challenged.
Philosophers aim to develop a rationally defensible view of the world and our place in it, along the way providing answers to the above questions and many others. The principal tools we use are logic and reason: rational argument, thought experiments, and the careful analysis of language. We aim to build on the discoveries of contemporary science, but we also acknowledge important contributions drawn from the rich history of philosophical inquiry.
As you study philosophy, the process will transform your mind. It will teach you habits of rigor, constructive doubt, and clear thinking. And it will encourage you to question many things we ordinarily take for granted.
The Department of Philosophy has a distinguished history of excellence in teaching since its foundation in 1874. The department today offers courses across the range of contemporary philosophy. Our level I offerings provide introductions to three main branches of philosophy: moral and social philosophy; the philosophy of mind and the theory of knowledge; and logic and critical thinking. We also offer more advanced upper level courses which investigate topics of perennial philosophical interest in greater depth. Our teaching staff have particular expertise in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science, metaphysics, epistemology, and the philosophy of science.
There are several ways to study philosophy:
Philosophy is available as a Major or Minor in many degree programs – most notably the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Philosophy, Politics and Economics. But it is possible to study philosophy as an elective in most programs, and some specialised courses may be especially appropriate for particular programs. (For example, many students in the Bachelor of Psychological Science opt to take courses in philosophy of mind and cognitive science.)
Information about the undergraduate courses on offer, as well as courses we have offered in recent years, can be found through the Course Outlines system.
Honours is one year of intensive study at the end of a Bachelor level degree. Honours will help you develop into a more independent researcher, and prepare you for postgraduate study. To qualify you need a major in Philosophy with at least a 70 average in your Philosophy coursework.
Details about the program are available in our Honours Handbook.
If you’re interested in studying Honours, please contact our Honours Coordinator Dr Jon Opie or apply below.
The Department of Philosophy has a vibrant research culture, and our staff and postgraduates contribute to many areas of contemporary philosophy.
We are proud that the quality of our research in philosophy has achieved the highest score of 5 (‘well above world standard’) in the 2018 iteration of the Excellence in Research Australia exercise. This repeats our achievement in the 2015 round.
We have a strong track record in postgraduate research training, and notable success with national and international competitive grant schemes. We also run regular research seminars, as well as hosting the renowned Gavin David Young Lectures in Philosophy.
Areas of research strength
Our most significant research strengths lie in the following areas of philosophy. These are the areas which we most welcome honours and research higher degree candidates.
- Ancient Philosophy (early Greek philosophy, intellectual history)
- Epistemology (self-knowledge, memory, formal epistemology, scientific knowledge)
- Metaphysics (persistence, time, modality, ontology, fundamentality)
- Philosophy of Logic and Language (modals, tense, conditionals, semantics, paradoxes, fictional discourse, algorithmic randomness)
- Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science (metaphysics of mind, foundations of psychiatry, neurocomputational models of cognition, consciousness, mental representation)
- Philosophy of Science (philosophy of biology, scientific models, confirmation, philosophy of physics, explanation, philosophy of probability, philosophy of scientific practice)
Postgraduate research students in Philosophy have an opportunity to develop original philosophical ideas, working alongside leading scholars with extensive professional experience.
The Philosophy Department offers both an MPhil and a PhD by research. Students are supported by a primary and secondary supervisor, and have access to other members of our active and friendly department.
Postgraduate students in our program also undertake professional development activities through the University's CaRST program to develop diverse skills for the academic and non-academic workplace. During their candidature, students contribute to our annual postgraduate colloquium, participate in our departmental seminar series, and have access to funds to contribute to conference travel and research expenses.
Fur further information please see our handbook.
You can see what some of our former students are doing now at postgraduate destinations.
Current and recent research grants
The department has a very strong track record of success with Australian Research Council schemes, as well as with other national and international grant programs.
Scheme Researcher Project Period ARC Discovery Projects Eagle Everything in its Place: Location, Persistence and Change 2020-24 ARC Discovery Projects Gerrans Philosophical perspectives on psychedelic psychatry 2019-22 ARC Future Fellowship Fernandez The ownership of minds 2017-21 Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship Eagle Unsettledness: Indeterminacy, Time and Chance 2016-17 ARC Discovery Project Fernandez The truth about false memory 2013-18 ARC Future Fellowship Gerrans The Emotional Architecture of Self Representation 2012-15