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.

greek-philosopher-university-of-adelaide

Anyone can do philosophy. All you need is willingness to think carefully, and a curiosity about  fundamental issues like ‘what is the nature of the world in which I find myself? How do I live a good and meaningful life?’

Philosophy aims to develop a rationally defensible view of the world and our place in it.

Philosophers grapple with questions such as:

Is there a God?, What is the nature of the mind?, How do we tell which actions are right or wrong? 
What is beauty?, What is art?, What kinds of things are there? Do we have free will?

Curiosity about questions like these is a good reason to study philosophy. In the process, philosophy 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.

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  • Our teaching

     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 philosophy interest in greater depth. Our teachers have particular expertise in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science, ethics, aesthetics, metaphysics, and epistemology.

    There are several ways to study philosophy:

    Undergraduate

    Philosophy is available as a Major or Minor in the Bachelor of Arts, or as an elective in a number of programs. 
    A list of undergraduate courses we have offered in recent years can be found through the Course Outlines system.

    Study Philosophy  

    Study Philosophy, Politics and Economics

    Honours

    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.

    APPLY FOR HONOURS

  • Our people

    Academic Staff 

    Name

    Role

    Dr Antony Eagle

    Senior Lecturer

    Head of Department

    Course Advisor

    A/Prof Jordi Fernández

    Associate Professor

    Prof Philip Gerrans

    Professor

    Prof Jenny McMahon

    Professor

    Dr Jon Opie

    Senior Lecturer

    Honours Coordinator

    Associated Staff 

    Name

    Role

    Prof Rachel Ankeny

    Professor, History

    Prof Han Baltussen

    Hughes Professor, Classics

    Dr David Hunter

    Senior Lecturer, Health and Medical Sciences

    Dr Steven Stolz

    Senior Lecturer, Education

     

    Emeritus Staff, Research Fellows and Titleholders

    Dr Denise Gamble Visiting Research Fellow
    Prof Gerard O’Brien Research Fellow
    Prof Chris Mortensen Emeritus Professor
    Prof Graham Nerlich Emeritus Professor
    Mr Greg O'Hair Visiting Research Fellow
    Dr Paul Oppenheimer Visiting Lecturer

     

    Current Postgraduate Students

    An overview of our current Postgraduate Students and their research projects can be found here.

  • Our research

    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 our research quality has retained the highest score of 5 ('well above world standard') in the 2018 iteration of the Excellence in Research Australia exercise.

    Our most significant research strengths lie in the following areas of philosophy:

    • Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art (imagination, pleasure, Kant's aesthetics)
    • Ancient Philosophy (early Greek philosophy, intellectual history)
    • Epistemology (self-knowledge, memory, formal epistemology, scientific knowledge)
    • Ethics, Moral and Political Philosophy (metaethics, normative ethics, naturalistic theories of value, ethical issues in genetics, theories of justice)
    • Metaphysics (persistence, time, modality, ontology, fundamentality)
    • Philosophy of Logic and Language (conditionals, semantics, paradoxes)
    • 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)

    We have a sizeable cohort of postgraduate research students, and frequently host workshops and conferences, alongside our regular research seminar series. Members of the department have had notable success with national and international competitive grant schemes.

    Postgraduate Research

    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 and participate in our departmental seminar series.

    Fur further information please see our handbook.

    You can see what some of our former students are doing now at our postgraduate destinations page.

    HIGHER DEGREES BY RESEARCH

Our current research projects

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  • Aesthetics

    Value Theory, Imagination, Pleasure Jenny McMahon
    Aesthetic Judgment Gamble / McMahon
    Classical Aesthetics Jenny McMahon
    Film Theory Denise Gamble

     

  • Philosophy of Art

    Research undertaken by Jenny McMahon.

  • Philosophy of Biology

    History of Biology, Model Organisms Rachel Ankeny

     

  • Cognitive Biology

    The Idea

    Cognition is, first and foremost, a natural biological phenomenon — regardless of how the engineering of artificial intelligence proceeds. As such, it makes sense to approach cognition like other biological phenomena. This means first assuming a meaningful degree of continuity among different types of organisms—an assumption borne out more and more by comparative biology, especially genomics—studying simple model systems (e.g., microbes, worms, flies) to understand the basics, then scaling up to more complex examples, such as mammals and primates, including humans.

    The Rationale

    The start-simple-scale-up approach enabled the truly stunning achievements in molecular biology and genetics in the second half of the 20th century. During the same period cognitive science focused mainly on the most complex end of the cognitive spectrum (e.g., language comprehension, human problem solving). Six decades after the dawn of the ‘cogitive revolution,’ and despite one of the most intensive research efforts in human history, we still can’t even agree on which phenomena are cognitive, except in the most uncontroversial cases (e.g., humans, great apes).

    The Project

    With funding from the Australian Research Council (DP0880559), philosophers and scientists at the University of Adelaide and several other institutions in Australia and overseas are aiming to develop a conceptual toolkit for describing cognitive (and/or proto-cognitive) phenomena across diverse kinds of living things. The idea is to look first at the simple model systems that have proved so successful elsewhere in biology to see whether analogues or homologues of the cognitive functions and mechanisms we know from research in more complex animals (e.g., rodents, apes, humans) can found be there. It is hoped a theoretically well-grounded toolkit of basic cognitive concepts will facilitate the use and discussion of research carried out in different fields to increase understanding of two foundational issues: what cognition is and what cognition does in the biological context.

    Bio Humanities

    Cognitive Biology was inspired by and is firmly situated within the 'biohumanities' framework  initiated by Professor Paul E. Griffiths (University of Sydney), during his Federation Fellowship, and since elaborated as a programme with his longtime colleague, Dr Karola Stotz. As they describe it in a recent issue of the Quarterly Review of Biology:

    Biohumanities is a view of the relationship between the humanities (especially philosophy and history of science), biology and society. In this vision, the humanities not only comment on the significance or implications of biological knowledge but add to our understanding of biology itself. (Stotz and Griffiths 2008, p. 37)

    Contact

    Dr Pamela Lyon ARC Postdoctoral Fellow
    708 Napier Building North Terrace
    Phone: +61 8 8303 4920 Fax: +61 8 8303 4341

  • Cognitive Science

    Foundations of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry Philip Gerrans 
    Neurocomputational Models of Cognition O'Brien / Opie
    Theories of Perception Jon Opie
    Cognitive Biology Opie / Lyon 
    Automated Reasoning, Computer Vision Paul Oppenheimer

     

  • Computational Philosophy

    Automated Reasoning applied to Philosophy Paul Oppenheimer

     

  • Epistemology

    Self Knowledge, Memory Jordi Fernandez
    Formal Epistemology Antony Eagle
    Ancient Epistemology Han Baltussen

     

  • Greek and Roman Philosophy

    Early Greek Philosophy, Aristotle’s School Han Baltussen
    Aristotle's Physics Antony Eagle

     

  • Inconsistent Images

    Find details of the Inconsistent Images research on this page.

  • Intellectual History

    Ancient Exegesis and Hermeneutics  Han Baltussen
    History of Emotion  

     

  • Kant

    Aesthetics Gamble / McMahon
    Epistemology, Moral Theory Denise Gamble

     

  • Philosophy of Language

       
    Semantic Realism, Linguistic Meaning  Denise Gamble
    Conditionals, Modality, Pragmatics, Fictionalism Antony Eagle
    Generics and Habituals, Propositions Antony Eagle

     

  • Legal Philosphy

  • Logic

       
    Paraconsistent Logic, Impossible Picture Chris Mortensen
    Modal Logic, Algorithmic Randomness Antony Eagle 
    Philosophy of Logic, Philosophical Logic Eagle Oppenheimer

     

  • Philosophy of Mind

    Consciousness, Mental Representation, Self O'Brien / Opie
    Rationality, Weakness of Will, Self-deception Jordi Fernandez

     

  • Metaphysics

    Mental Causation, Program Explanation Fernandez / O'Brien
    The Determinable-Determinate Relation Jordi Fernandez
    Reduction and Emergence Fernandez / Opie
    Causation, Mereology, Ontology Eagle / Opie
    Persistence, Time, Modality Antony Eagle
    Axiomatic Metaphysics Paul Oppenheimer

     

  • Moral Philosophy

    Metaethics, Normative Ethical Theory Garrett Cullity
    Naturalised Theories of Ethics and Value  Gerard O'Brien
    Bioethics, Personhood, Moral Status of Animals Denise Gamble
    Ethical/Policy Issues in Genetics and Reproduction Rachel Ankeny
    Moral Fictionalism Antony Eagle

     

  • Political Philosophy

    Theories of Justice, History of Political Thought Philip Gerrans

     

  • Philosophy of Religion

    Research by Paul Oppenheimer.

  • Philosophy of Science

    Philosophy of Physics, Space and Time Eagle Nerlich / Mortensen 
    Foundations of Quantum Mechanics Eagle / Nerlich / Mortensen 
    Philosophy of Bohmian Mechanics Paul Oppenheimer
    Scientific Knowledge, Confirmation, Explanation Eagle / Opie
    Models and Case-based Reasoning in Science Rachel Ankeny
    Realism/anti-realism, Chance and Probability Antony Eagle

     

  • Public Understanding of Philosophy

    Research by Paul Oppenheimer.

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