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Study Philosophy at Otago

Critical thinking for a complex world.

There is no limit to the issues to which philosophers apply their reason: from knowledge (Are scientific claims certain?), to language (What is meaning?), from ethical and social problems (How should we run the country?), to metaphysical issues (Is the future less real than the past?

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Apply for the Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) through the Dunedin campus in 2021

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Apply for the Bachelor of Arts with Honours (BA(Hons)) through the Dunedin campus in 2021

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Apply for the Diploma for Graduates (DipGrad) through the Dunedin campus in 2021

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Apply for the Master of Arts (Coursework) (MA(Coursework)) through the Dunedin campus in 2021

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Apply for the Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Subjects (PGDipArts) through the Dunedin campus in 2021

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Why study Philosophy?

The skills and knowledge you gain from studying philosophy will make you a better student in other subjects; they will also be invaluable in a wide variety of occupations because philosophy focuses less on what you believe and more on the quality of your reasons for believing it.

By examining the reasons we have for the claims we make, philosophy develops your powers of argument, analysis, and critical reasoning. It will help you to express yourself more clearly and give you the abilities required to address complex and difficult problems.

Philosophy provides a tool kit to critically engage with difficult and important questions. It seems that some actions are right and others are wrong but it is difficult to explain if this is because one produces better outcomes or the other respects humanity. It seems that some scientific claims are almost certainly true, but a crucial element of the success of science is its willingness to revise its claims in light of new evidence. It seems that there is little more to our brains than complex neural networks but how do these networks generate intense feelings?

Discussing these abstract problems develops the philosophical tools necessary to deal with practical problems, such as whether an unpopular theory should be accepted, or to what extent we can appeal to common sense when arguing about a radical claim. In grappling with these issues philosophers seek to build a well-grounded picture of the world and of human life. The key skill for a philosopher is the ability to construct and dissect arguments, so a central part of all philosophy is training in clear and effective reasoning. The core philosophical disciplines focus on the nature of reasoning, knowledge and existence. But philosophical issues arise in many disciplines and professions (including law, medicine, business and science, among others).

Philosophy at Otago

The Philosophy Programme at Otago University has an outstanding reputation for research, in a country known internationally for its strength in philosophy. In the 2012 New Zealand Performance Based Research Fund Quality Evaluation, we were the highest scoring philosophy department in the country, and the second highest department in any discipline. Our research strengths include metaphysics, epistemology, ethical theory, philosophy of science, philosophical logic, early modern philosophy, philosophy of language and mind.

The Programme has a friendly and open atmosphere in which staff and postgraduate students regularly socialise. We are an active community – we have a steady stream of visitors from overseas to our weekly seminar programme, so that students have the chance to meet and hear papers by a wide range of leading philosophers. Our undergraduate Philosophy Club meets monthly for pizza and philosophical discussion.

Studying Philosophy

Philosophy can be studied at all levels (BA, BA Hons, MA and, PhD). It may be taken either as a major or a minor in a BA. Some philosophy papers can be taken as science subjects and Critical Thinking (PHIL 105) may be taken as a Humanities, Science or Commerce course.

Many students choose to add philosophy to their skill set by doing a double major or double degree such as BA/ LLB, BA/BSc or BA/BCom.

Philosophy forms part of the interdisciplinary PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) Arts major.

It also may be taken as part of the Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc), which provides the competitive advantage of a double degree in arts and science in a much shorter time frame.

Background required

No previous acquaintance with philosophy is needed to take any of our 100-level papers, or many of our 200-level papers.

Career opportunities

Some of our students go on to successful careers as professional philosophers, but for most of our students, it’s not about getting a career in philosophy, it’s about getting some philosophy into their careers.

Many surveys of salary by degree only look at salary after a few years of graduation, which can be misleading. A survey of 1.2 million degree holders by PayScale, Inc., cited in the Wall Street Journal, shows that Philosophy majors increase their starting salary by 103.5% after 10 years, an equal best with mathematics among all majors. The overall mid career salary for a philosophy major at the 75th percentile is 127,000 U.S. dollars, 9th among all 50 majors surveyed.

Philosophy gives you a unique mix of analytical and literary skills that are highly sought after by employers whether you are pursuing a career in academia or elsewhere.

A recent destinations survey showed that our graduates live in cities across the world such as Vienna, London, Frankfurt, Vancouver, Berlin, Singapore, New Orleans, and all over New Zealand and Australia. See the placements of some of our recent students.

Philosophers find work in a huge variety of careers, including:

  • Acting
  • Computing
  • Diplomacy
  • Dispute resolution
  • Documentary film making
  • E-commerce
  • Economics
  • Journalism
  • Law
  • Medicine
  • Nature conservation
  • Politics
  • Publishing
  • Science
  • Social services
  • Software Design
  • Sport
  • Systems analysis
  • Teaching

Qualifications

Explore your study options further. Refer to enrolment information found on the following qualification pages.

Programme requirements

Bachelor of Arts (BA) majoring in Philosophy

Level Papers Points
100-level Two 100-level PHIL papers 36
200-level

Two 200-level PHIL papers

One further PHIL paper at 200-level or above

One of GEND 201  Introduction to Feminist Theory, POLS 202  Theories of Justice, or PSYC 204  Justice, Race and Class, may be substituted for one 200-level PHIL paper

36

18

300-level

Four 300-level PHIL papers (or three 300-level PHIL papers and one 400-level PHIL paper)

One of BITC 301  Bioethics, CLAS 340  Love, Death and the Good Life: Socrates and Plato, POLS 301  Power and Liberty, or POLS 307  Nature, Conflict, and the State, may be substituted for one 300-level PHIL paper

72
Plus

198 further points; must include 54 points at 200-level or above.

Up to 90 points may be taken from outside Arts

198
Total   360

Bachelor of Arts with Honours (BA(Hons)) in Philosophy

Papers
  • PHIL 490  Dissertation

  • Three further papers from 400-level PHIL papers or CLAS 440  Advanced Studies in Socrates and Plato

    Prerequisites: One of PHIL 105  Critical Thinking, or PHIL 222  Introduction to Formal Logic, or equivalent

Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Subjects (PGDipArts) in Philosophy

The Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Subjects (PGDipArts) programme in Philosophy is the same as the programme for the degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honours (BA(Hons)).

Master of Arts (Coursework) (MA(Coursework)) in Philosophy

Papers

CLAS 440 may be substituted for one 400-level PHIL paper.

Master of Arts (Thesis) (MA(Thesis)) in Philosophy

Thesis
  • Thesis: PHIL 5

Note: Students who have not completed a Bachelor of Arts (BA(Hons)) in Philosophy or a Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Subjects (PGDipArts) in Philosophy must complete the required papers for the BA(Hons) in Philosophy prior to undertaking the thesis.

Minor subject requirements

Philosophy as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BAppSc, BCom, BHealSc, BACom, BASc or BComSc degree

Available as a minor subject for a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Music (MusB), Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA), Bachelor of Theology (BTheol), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Applied Science (BAppSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Bachelor of Health Science (BHealSc), Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom), Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) or Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc) degree

Level Papers Points
100-level Two 100-level PHIL papers

36

200-level

Two 200-level PHIL papers

36

300-level

One 300-level PHIL paper

18
Total   90

Papers

Paper code Year Title Points Teaching period
PHIL101 2021 Mind and Reality 18 points First Semester
PHIL103 2021 Ethical Issues 18 points Second Semester, Summer School
PHIL105 2021 Critical Thinking 18 points First Semester
PHIL106 2021 Radical Philosophy 18 points Second Semester
PHIL222 2021 Introduction to Formal Logic 18 points First Semester
PHIL223 2021 Metaphysical Questions 18 points First Semester
PHIL225 2021 Philosophy of Science 18 points Second Semester
PHIL227 2021 Morality and Politics: Hobbes to Hume 18 points Not offered, expected to be offered in 2022
PHIL228 2021 Ethics 18 points First Semester
PHIL229 2021 Reason, Belief and the Sacred 18 points Second Semester
PHIL231 2021 Early Modern Philosophy A: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz 18 points Not offered, expected to be offered in 2022
PHIL232 2021 Early Modern Philosophy B: Locke, Berkeley, Hume 18 points First Semester
PHIL233 2021 Philosophy of Mind and Language 18 points Second Semester
PHIL234 2021 Are there moral facts? 18 points Second Semester
PHIL235 2021 Environmental Philosophy 18 points First Semester
PHIL236 2021 An Introduction to the Philosophy of Language 18 points Not offered, expected to be offered in 2022
PHIL239 2021 Bertrand Russell: Ethics, Logic, Pacifism and Truth 18 points Not offered, expected to be offered in 2022
PHIL240 2021 Epistemology: The Theory of Knowledge 18 points Not offered, expected to be offered in 2022
PHIL312 2021 Advanced Formal Logic 18 points Not offered, expected to be offered in 2022
PHIL314 2021 Themes from Hume 18 points First Semester
PHIL315 2021 Are There Moral Facts? 18 points Second Semester
PHIL323 2021 Metaphysical Questions 18 points First Semester
PHIL329 2021 Reason, Belief and the Sacred 18 points Second Semester
PHIL331 2021 Early Modern Philosophy A: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz 18 points Not offered, expected to be offered in 2022
PHIL332 2021 Early Modern Philosophy B: Locke, Berkeley, Hume 18 points First Semester
PHIL333 2021 Philosophy of Mind and Language 18 points Second Semester
PHIL334 2021 Philosophy of Biology 18 points Not offered, expected to be offered in 2022
PHIL335 2021 Why Be Moral? 18 points First Semester
PHIL336 2021 An Introduction to the Philosophy of Language (Advanced) 18 points Not offered, expected to be offered in 2022
PHIL338 2021 Ethical Theory 18 points Second Semester
PHIL339 2021 Bertrand Russell: Ethics, Logic, Pacifism and Truth (Advanced) 18 points Not offered, expected to be offered in 2022
PHIL340 2021 Epistemology: The Theory of Knowledge (Advanced) 18 points Not offered, expected to be offered in 2022
PHIL401 2021 Advanced History of Philosophy 20 points Second Semester
PHIL405 2021 Philosophy of Biology 20 points Not offered, expected to be offered in 2022
PHIL406 2021 Why Be Moral? 20 points First Semester
PHIL409 2021 Advanced Metaphysics 20 points Not offered, expected to be offered in 2022
PHIL413 2021 Ethical Theory 20 points Second Semester
PHIL414 2021 Themes From Hume 20 points First Semester
PHIL415 2021 Meaning and Metaphysics 20 points Not offered, expected to be offered in 2022
PHIL416 2021 Philosophy of Memory 20 points Not offered, expected to be offered in 2022
PHIL451 2021 Special Topic 20 points Not offered, expected to be offered in 2022
PHIL458 2021 Special Topic 20 points Not offered, expected to be offered in 2022
PHIL462 2021 Special Topic: Philosophy of Mathematics 20 points Not offered, expected to be offered in 2022
PHIL480 2021 Research Essay 20 points First Semester, Second Semester
PHIL490 2021 Dissertation 60 points Full Year, 1st Non standard period
PHIL590 2021 Research Dissertation 60 points 1st Non standard period, 2nd Non standard period

Key information for students

Contact us

Email philosophy@otago.ac.nz
Website otago.ac.nz/philosophy