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. 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.
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's several ways to study philosophy:
Philosophy is available as a Major or Minor in the Bachelor of Arts, or as an elective in a number of programs.
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.
Current Postgraduate Students
An overview of our current Postgraduate Students and their research projects can be found here.
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 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.
Our current research projects
Philosophy of Art
Philosophy of Biology
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 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).
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.
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)
Dr Pamela Lyon ARC Postdoctoral Fellow
708 Napier Building North Terrace
Phone: +61 8 8303 4920 Fax: +61 8 8303 4341
Greek and Roman Philosophy
Philosophy of Language
Philosophy of Mind
Philosophy of Religion
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