Welcome

Moira Gatens

Professor Moira Gatens

Welcome to Philosophy at the University of Sydney. Our department is exceptionally well regarded both for its teaching and research achievements. We strive to provide you with a rich and varied suite of units that are taught by dedicated and enthusiastic scholars whose outstanding research informs our teaching at every level. Our aim is to excite, provoke, and stimulate our students to reflect, to argue, and to learn how to assess claims and counterclaims, whatever the topic. We offer study of most of the issues that you would expect to find in the top class Universities in the world – everything from the history of ethics through to non-classical logic and philosophy in film.

Philosophers boldly venture into virtually every subject in the natural and social sciences and the humanities but they do so in a distinctively philosophical way. Plato had Socrates refer to himself as a gadfly that attaches itself to a large lazy horse (Plato’s image for Athens). The philosopher-gadfly irritates but also serves to awaken, provoke, and reproach those who have become opinionated or complacent. Philosophy asks difficult, often counter-intuitive, questions and doesn’t mind if the first question leads to further even more difficult questions. What is consciousness? What is a person? Must a definition of a person exclude non-human beings? Should we preserve biodiversity? What is happiness and should we pursue it? Is time travel logically possible? Although these questions might seem varied, they do share common ground. Philosophy is concerned to investigate the major domains of human existence: knowledge, ethics, and human striving. The Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant posed the central questions thus: What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope? Philosophy at Sydney is a diverse and welcoming community interested in exploring these questions in concert with others. We extend a warm invitation to you to join us in critical reflection and debate.

Students of philosophy can expect to radically improve their abilities to speak and write clearly, logically, and convincingly. These skills, along with the quintessential philosophical bent for independent thought, are powerful aids to future success in any profession. Philosophy at the University of Sydney has an enviable record of placing its students in excellent graduate schools and academic posts. Our former students work in areas as different as law, education, government, NGOs, the private sector, and the arts. The broad skills you will acquire in philosophy are eminently transferable to many desirable professions. Finally, and as many who have studied philosophy in a serious manner will know, a brief acquaintance with Sophia can turn into a lifelong love for an endlessly fascinating and loyal companion.

Moira Gatens
Professor and Chair,
Department of Philosophy