Philosophy

About the major

Philosophy cultivates the skillful use of critical thinking and intellectual perception that is crucial for adapting to fast-changing social, political and academic environments. A major in philosophy will train you to think precisely, deliberate carefully, and communicate ideas in clear and persuasive ways.

Philosophical questions are often the most intrinsically meaningful to us: “How am I to live?”, “What do I know?”, “Why should I care?”. Philosophy also specializes in teaching skills that are fundamental to success in other academic disciplines and in the workplace, such the ability to identify the essential points of a position, policy or practice; the ability to clarify underlying issues in a debate; precision of thought and expression; clarity and rigor in assessment of arguments and the ability to make rationally persuasive cases.

Students who major in philosophy learn to engage critically with a wide variety of texts, both historical and contemporary. They are able to identify and formulate philosophical problems and assess proposed answers to them. Philosophy majors become adept at discerning and formulating conceptual distinctions and are able to wield them usefully, both in their study of philosophy and in their wider intellectual engagements.

Students who major in philosophy may also expect to acquire intellectual virtues. They learn sensitivity in interpretation and cultural competence through study of a variety of ages and traditions. They learn intellectual honesty and fairness by evaluating arguments carefully, and they learn to discuss matters of the highest importance without recourse to insult or susceptibility to take offense.

Requirements for completion

A major in Philosophy requires 48 credit points from the Unit of Study table including:
(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level units
(iii) 18 credit points of 3000-level units
(iv) 6 credit points of 3000-level Interdisciplinary Project units

A minor in Philosophy requires 36 credit points from the Unit of Study table including:
(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level units
(iii) 12 credit points of 3000-level units

First year

First year introduces the major areas of philosophy.

There are three first year units, each offered every year. Between them they offer an overview of the major areas of Philosophy. PHIL1011 covers metaphysics, ethics and aesthetics. PHIL1012 covers logic. PHIL1013 covers epistemology, political philosophy and issues concerning the self.

Students will typically choose two of these three units, based on their interests (and bearing in mind that they will need to take PHIL1012 if they wish to take certain second and third year units that have it as a specific prerequisite).

After taking these units, students are in a position to form preferences regarding which of our more focussed units to take at second and third year level.

Second year

Second year units introduce more detailed content in the various areas of philosophy, and prepare students for third year units by giving training in reading and understanding philosophical texts, identifying philosophical problems and assessing proposed answers to these problems, and identifying the various respects in which arguments can be good or bad and distinguishing good arguments from bad ones.

In second year units, the focus is on gaining an understanding of difficult material, and becoming proficient at techniques of reading, arguing, analysing and expounding.

Students will typically choose two second year units, based on their interests.

Third year

Third year units continue to introduce more detailed content in the various areas of philosophy, and in these units, students critically engage with philosophical texts, formulate philosophical problems and answers to these problems, and - through this process - gain a deep knowledge of the areas of philosophy covered by the units taken.

In third year units, the focus is on using the skills acquired at second year, engaging with the philosophical material in a deeper way, and actually contributing to the relevant philosophical debates.

Some second and third year units come in pairs: PHIL2XYZ and PHIL3XYZ Advanced. These units share lecture content, but have different assessment tasks and different tutorial content reflecting the difference in focus between second and third year units. Students who enrol in one of the pair are prohibited from enrolling in the other.

Students will typically choose two second year units, based on their interests.

Honours

If you commenced your degree prior to 2018, admission to honours requires a major in Philosophy with an average of 70% or above.

If you commenced your degree in 2018, admission to honours is via the Bachelor of Advanced Studies and requires the completion of a major in Philosophy with an average of 70% or above. You will need to ensure you have completed all other requirements of the Bachelor of Advanced Studies, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units and a second major, prior to commencing honours.

The honours program in philosophy gives students an opportunity to refine their thinking to a very high degree. It is at once a capstone to the training provided in first, second and third year units and a preparation for further study.

Students who take honours in philosophy at the University of Sydney study in one of the world's leading philosophy departments. They work closely with dedicated teachers and active researchers whose interests span a wide variety of fields and methodological approaches.

The honours program in philosophy comprises four coursework units and a thesis of 12,000–15,000 words. Students are also required to give a 20-minute presentation on their thesis topic at one of two Honours Mini-Conferences held each year.

In coursework units, students are introduced to current research specialisation and practice and are given the opportunity to build on their existing knowledge.

The thesis is an extended piece of research on an approved topic of the student's choosing, and is written under the individual supervision of a member of staff. The thesis gives students the experience of formulating and conducting a substantial piece of independent research, working closely with a supervisor who helps to bring their reflections and research into sharper focus.

Advanced coursework

The requirements for advanced coursework in Philosophy are described in the degree resolutions for the Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Advanced Studies.

24 credit points of advanced study will be included in the table for 2019.

Contact/further information

Current contact details for the Chair of Department, Undergraduate Coordinator, Honours Coordinator, and other Academic Coordinators may be found at:
http://sydney.edu.au/arts/philosophy/staff/coordinators.shtml

The Department of Philosophy is administered by the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI). The School office is located on Level 3 of the Quadrangle Building (A14), near the MacLaurin Hall stairway.

Learning outcomes
  1. Read, understand, and critically engage with philosophical texts, both historical and contemporary.
  2. Identify, formulate and assess philosophical problems, and demonstrate an understanding of important conceptual distinctions.
  3. Demonstrate disciplinary expertise in several major areas of philosophy, such as aesthetics, epistemology, ethics, the history of philosophy, logic, metaphysics, philosophy of science and political philosophy.
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of various respects in which arguments can be good or bad, and an ability to distinguish good arguments from bad ones.
  5. Demonstrate a thorough understanding of important conceptual distinctions (such as truth vs knowledge, causation vs correlation and relativism vs pluralism) and an ability to apply them.
  6. Express themselves precisely and demonstrate an ability to make rationally persuasive arguments.
  7. Demonstrate sensitivity, intellectual honesty and cultural competence in interpretation and in argument.
  8. Effectively apply philosophical knowledge and approaches to issues encountered in an interdisciplinary context.