School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations

Philosophy Overview

"Philosophy is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom."  (Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy)

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Quick References

Philosophers explore the nature of argument and justification and examine the rational basis of belief in all areas of enquiry. Philosophers seek to answer questions like "What things exist?", "Is there a single truth about what's right and wrong?", "What can we know for sure?", and "Is there a god?".

Philosophy staff at Victoria are engaged in research across a large range of topics within philosophy. We have particular strengths in logic, ethics, metaphysics, aesthetics, and philosophy of biology. Logic is reflected in Philosophy postgraduate offerings - BA(Hons), MA and Phd degrees in Logic, or Logic and Computation.

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Why Study Philosophy?

The literal meaning of the word 'philosopher' is 'lover of wisdom'. However, Philosophy is also about the love of critical and creative thinking, intelligent discussion, and cogent argument.  These are skills that can be applied to almost any issue in almost any context.

Philosophy courses are an important component of any degree from Victoria. Since creative, critical, and cogent thinking is fundamental to every subject, the concepts and methods of contemporary philosophy can useful for students majoring in most other fields. Philosophy gives you a competitive academic edge and enhances the overall quality of your degree.

The Philosophy Programme at Victoria has strong links to other disciplines outside the School, including connections with computing and mathematics through logic; with science through the philosophy of biology, and ethics and genetics; and with art and art history through the philosophy of art.

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What can I do with a qualification in Philosophy?

Philosophy graduates find employment in a wide variety of fields. The Philosophy Programme at Victoria University of Wellington has had an excellent employment and placement record over the years and people interested in learning about the potential for their philosophy qualification should refer to the Australasian Association of Philosophy Employment Guide and the Philosophy Career View. Those considering completing a degree majoring or specializing in philosophy should also be aware that your degree is likely to increase your salary! According to Vic Careers, the average salary ranges for graduates in their first job after leaving Victoria are as follows: Bachelor's Degree $40,000-$46,000; Honours Degree $42,000-$47,000; Master's Degree $47,000-$60,000; PhD $65,000-$75,000 per annum. Philosophy graduates are currently all the rage with employers as a recent article in the Guardian shows.

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Programme Research Seminars are held regularly during teaching periods. Postgraduate Philosophy students are expected to attend this staff seminar series.

Postgraduate students are also expected to attend the student seminar series, which is run by the students themselves. All PhD and MA students must make a work-in-progress presentation. To find out more about our current postgraduate students check out our student profiles page.

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Tutoring or marking work is often available for Philosophy MA and PhD students. To find our more please see Philosophy resources.

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Further Information

For more information on Philosophy at Victoria please go to the Philosophy subjects page.

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Graduate Attributes

Programme Specific Attributes

  • An ability to think logically and critically. Reasoning involves evaluating arguments by weighing up the evidence in support of a conclusion. It involves distinguishing between deductively valid arguments, inductively strong arguments, and evidentially weak arguments. It involves identifying any fallacies in arguments, and distinguishing between the plausible and implausible premises of an argument. Logical thinking is the study of the more formal aspects of reasoning; critical thinking is the study of the informal aspects of reasoning. Philosophy majors will be proficient logical and critical thinkers.
  • A proficiency at conceptual analysis. Conceptual analysis involves breaking a complex concept into its simpler parts and exhibiting the logical relations that hold between them. An analysis of a concept can be given by way of a (special kind) of definition of a word. Such a definition will be clear and precise. It will help eliminate ambiguity and vagueness. Philosophy majors will be proficient at giving conceptual analyses.
  • An ability to make rational and ethical decisions. A rational decision is (roughly) one that maximises expected utility for the agent. An ethical decision is (arguably) one that maximises expected utility for everyone. Philosophy majors will know how to make rational and ethical decisions.

Generic Attributes

  • A capacity for independent and original thought. Independent thought involves coming up with a solution to a problem on one's own rather than rehearsing a solution that has been provided by someone else. Original thought involves providing a unique solution to a problem, that is, a solution that hasn't been canvassed before. Philosophy majors will have the ability to think originally and independently. The answers they provide to problems will not only be independent and original, they will also be good.
  • An ability to express ideas clearly and precisely. One expresses an idea clearly when the idea is easily understood by an intended audience. One expresses an idea precisely when there is no ambiguity in the idea. Philosophy majors will have the ability to express themselves clearly and precisely in their written work and oral presentations.