Honours

General information about Honours

Interested in doing an Honours Degree in Philosophy at UOW? An Honours qualification adds lustre and extra value to your undergraduate degree. It equips you with research skills that are of value to many employers, and can serve as a pathway to Higher Research Degrees at Masters and Doctoral (PhD) levels.

In our most recent cohort of Honours students, five out of six students received First Class Honours and were offered scholarships to undertake postgraduate research. They are now pursuing fully funded PhD’s in Philosophy.

In studying for a Philosophy Honours degree, you will learn how to carry out advanced independent research in academic philosophy. You will learn how to write a research proposal, which methods should be used in designing and planning a philosophical research project, and what is required for writing strong research papers. You will have the opportunity to test your ideas by presenting your work through work-in-progress sessions. You will also learn what is required for developing a research career in philosophy, strategies for publishing in strong venues, why it is important to work on topics that have impact beyond academia, and what should be included in a competitive CV.

If you are thinking about pursuing an Honours in Philosophy, please get in contact with our Honours coordinator, Dr. Michael Kirchhoff via email: kirchhof@uow.edu.au. He will be able to assist you with questions and can help point you to a potential Honours thesis supervisor.

To learn more about how previous students benefited from Honours, check out the Testimonials page. If you would like to get in touch with someone who has recently graduated from Honours at UOW, feel free to email Cameron (cjl849@uowmail.edu.au) or John (jr138@uowmail.edu.au).

Application Deadline: The normal deadline for Honours applications is at end of October.

On this page you can find the following:

Honours application process

At the Honours application-stage we understand that you are still preparing to embark on an exploratory journey. As such, treat what you say in Honours application as provisional and subject to further refinement and development during your Honours degree.

The Honours Application form requires you to fill out the following parts:

Below we have supplied a list of potential research questions relating to various topics – e.g. emotions and law, free will, the extended mind – that staff can potentially supervise. We have listed the questions and their related topics under the main branches of philosophy. Choose a question and describe the broad topic area briefly, describing the latter in general terms of no more than 50 words.
Chose a research question from those listed under the various branches of philosophy below. Briefly describe the research question in no more than 50 words. We encourage you to think of your chosen research question as provisional. It may not be the exact one that you investigate in your thesis. This is because a major part of your Honours training in Philosophy will include learning how to choose a non-trivial thesis topic and question. This is a major focus of PHIL470, a subject that you must take as an Honours student in Philosophy.
Say, in approximately 150 words, something about the kind of overall approach you will take in addressing your provisional topic and question. You are asked to detail what form your analysis will take. Will it be a purely analytic conceptual analysis? Will you engage in empirically informed-theorising? Will it be an exegesis of the history of ideas? Say why your chosen approach is appropriate to your chosen question.
Say how you will conduct your research in approximately 150 words. Provide a rationale for a step–by–step plan of work. Say what the main arguments and objections you will deal with in answering your question. Ensure there is overlap with your chosen theoretical perspective outlined in Step 3.
Identify the main sources that you will use and consult in addressing your question. Say why you have chosen to look at these and not others.
It is assumed that you will have a Major in Philosophy. However, it may still be possible to purse Honours in Philosophy even if you have only done a Minor in Philosophy or have studied a substantial amount of philosophy. If this applies to you please discuss your case with the Philosophy Honours Coordinator: Dr. Michael Kirchhoff on kirchhof@uow.edu.au
List a number of different articles and books that are relevant to your investigation, ideally between 5 and 10.

List of Philosophy branches and questions for Honours projects

Aesthetics

  • How does one appreciate nature aesthetically? In a similar way to how one appreciates works of art?
  • Can art be defined? Does it matter if it cannot?
  • Must all art be beautiful?
  • How can we feel for fictions?
  • How can we account for imaginative resistance?
  • How should we understand embodied, enactive forms of the imagination?

Epistemology

  • Can we ever know other minds? And, if so, how?
  • What would an enactivist epistemology look like? Would it re-shape the knowing-how/knowing-what debate?
  • What would an empirically-informed virtue epistemology look like?
  • Could virtue epistemology satisfy all of our epistemic needs?
  • What is the role of thought experiments in science?
  • What is narrative explanation? How does it differ from other forms of explanation and is it valuable?
  • Is there any epistemic value to fiction and falsehoods?
  • How are beliefs justified?
  • Can we have knowledge of the world or should we embrace skepticism?
  • If knowledge is possible, how is it acquired and justified?
  • What is truth?
  • What is self-knowledge and can we have it?

Ethics, including Bioethics

  • What principles and limits should govern technologies for human enhancement?
  • How should healthcare resources be allocated?
  • Is the use of animals for scientific research justifiable? For what reasons?
  • What does respect for autonomy mean for medical practice and medical research?
  • Is empathy necessary, sufficient or harmful for ethics?
  • Can we be virtuous? If so, how?
  • Is virtue theory psychologically realistic?
  • Should wealthy people give money to aid agencies? If so, how much?
  • Are current responses to climate change adequate?
  • Many ethical problems are so vast that it seems unlikely that an individual can make a significant impact on them. Should individuals not do anything, then? Or, if we are morally required to so something, what?
  • Should we be vegetarians or vegans?
  • Should people researching real-world problems make a positive impact on those problems in the real world?
  • What types of decision making authority should be devolved to algorithms?
  • What are the ethical implications of data-based surveillance?
  • Are there any ethical constraints in virtual reality?
  • Does new media threaten democracy?
  • Do human rights have a foundation? Do they need one?
  • Is the best picture of moral psychology Humean, Kantian, Aristotelian, or something else?
  • What is self-deception and how is it possible?
  • Does neuroscience leave room for moral responsibility?

Metaphysics

  • Does physics fix all the facts? Are facts all there is?
  • Is any version of idealism credible?
  • Do the life and mind sciences require a process ontology?
  • How can we make sense of grounding relations (constitution, composition, realisation) in the sciences of life and mind?
  • Bottom-up causation doesn’t seem to be a problem. But what about top-down causation?
  • What is the nature of time and its role in contemporary cognitive science?

Metaphilosophy

  • How should we understand the relation between philosophy and science?
  • What is the job of philosophy if not conceptual analysis?
  • What are intuitions? Do they/should they play any part in philosophy?
  • What are concepts? How should we best understand them?
  • What is conceptual engineering? Is this the future for philosophy?
  • Should philosophy only describe and clarify, eschewing all explanatory ambitions?
  • Is experimental philosophy the way forward? What might it do for us?
  • Is there a viable, workable version of philosophical naturalism?
  • How should we understand philosophical pictures and metaphors? Must they always mislead?
  • What parts do the imagination and thought experiments play in philosophy?
  • How is philosophy different from other disciplines? Is it important?
  • Can philosophy give us knowledge?

Philosophy of Language

  • What is semantic externalism? Should we endorse it? What are its implications?
  • Is all meaning rooted in some kind of content, mental or linguistic?
  • Can inferentialism adequately account for content?
  • Are expressive theories of content adequate?
  • Do metaphors mean anything? If so, how?
  • What is truth? Can it be explained?
  • Can we explain the natural origins of content?
  • Does meaning depend on relations between language and the world? Or on social norms and community standards, or both?
  • What can we do with words, and why?
  • How is it possible to speak a language? What conditions must an agent meet to be a language user?
  • Is language a social tool that evolved for communication, or a private tool for thinking, or both?
  • Concepts like words can be used to correctly or incorrectly. How can we explain this feature of them?

Philosophy of Law and Politics

  • What is free speech and what are its limits?
  • How can we manage disagreement in pluralist democracies?
  • What is the rule of law and what are the relevance of procedures?
  • What is the relationship between procedural justice and legal legitimacy?
  • What are our obligations to asylum seekers?
  • What role does the expression of emotion play in law?
  • Does it make sense to talk about social or distributive justice on a global scale?
  • What do social and distributive justice require?

Philosophy of Medicine

  • How should we understand the concepts of health and disease?
  • Are health and disease objective categories, or are they reflective of subjective values, or both?
  • Do concepts of health and disease only apply to whole organisms, or can they also apply to parts of organisms?
  • Can concepts of health and disease be applied to collections of organisms, such as a species?
  • What kinds of entities, properties and processes are needed in order to understand mental health and mental disorders?

Philosophy of Mind/Psychology/Cognitive Science

  • How should we understand the cognitive basis of our agency, skills and expertise?
  • Are 4E-approaches to cognition – embodied, enactive, embedded, ecological, extended – theoretically compatible?
  • What’s the current status of connectionist theories of cognition? How might they fit into contemporary thinking about the mind?
  • Is basic emotion theory outmoded? Has it been shown to be empirically false?
  • Are predictive processing theories of cognition compatible with enactivism?
  • Are life and mind deeply connected?
  • Can the free energy principle unify and explain the structure and function of biological and cognitive systems?
  • What might a probabilistic view of cognition look like?
  • If perception is probabilistic, why don’t we see the world probabilistically?
  • Is there a distinction between perception and thought?
  • Is there such a thing as cognitive penetration?
  • Is there a tenable enactive theory of concepts?
  • Do minds only extend sometimes or are they always naturally extensive?
  • Can there be such a thing as extended consciousness?
  • Can we understand cognitive scaffolding through niche construction?
  • What is empathy and how can we achieve it?
  • Is there hope for any version of evolutionary psychology?
  • Is functionalism finished?
  • What roles do socio-cultural narratives play in folk psychology?
  • Must intentionality be contentful?
  • Can content make a difference? Is so, how?
  • How should we understand different kinds of memory? How do they inter-relate?
  • Is there a difference between remembering and imagining?
  • Do representational/content-based theories of memory hold up to empirical scrutiny?
  • Is mental time travel possible? What does it involve? What is its basis?
  • Is there really a hard problem of consciousness? Can it be solved or only dissolved?
  • Is neurophenomenology credible?
  • Can neurophenomenology make any progress on the hard problem of consciousness?
  • Is perception contentful, at all?
  • Is perception cognitively penetrable?
  • What are group/social/collective minds? Are they possible?
  • Is panpsychism feasible?
  • Is there such a thing as a self? If yes, what might it be? If no, what makes you, you?
  • How do we understand our own mind and the minds of others? What is involved in social cognition?
  • How did the mechanisms for social cognition evolve and what is their biological function?
  • What is joint action? Do we need to know the minds of others to do things with them?
  • What role does cooperation play in the evolution of the human species?
  • Can we know others in the same way we know ourselves?
  • Is collective self-awareness possible? Is it different or similar to individual self-awareness?
  • Can we share beliefs, emotions or intentions? If so, what does this ‘sharing’ consist in?
  • How do we understand and plan our actions?
  • How do we understand and plan collective actions?
  • How does action unfold in time? Do we always need a reason to make plans for the future?
  • What does reasoning consist in?
  • Are quick, unplanned, immediate, and non-reflexive actions ‘mindless’ or does mental activity ‘go all the way down’ to the most basic forms of action?
  • Are there basic forms of interaction: joint actions that are quick, unplanned, immediate and non-reflexive? If so, might music and dance be examples of such basic interactions?

Philosophy of Psychiatry

  • Are mental illnesses and mental disorders natural kinds or social constructs?
  • Does network theory provide an adequate way to understand psychological disturbances?
  • Are delusions cognitive? Should we understand psychotics as wedded to false beliefs or strange stories?
  • Are autism/schizophrenia/borderline personality disorder best explained by faulty theory of mind capacities?
  • What is the phenomenology associated with mental illness?
  • Can phenomenology help in explaining and understanding the nature of mental disease?
  • What are the social dimensions of different mental diseases? Are some mental diseases ‘social’ rather than ‘individual’?

Philosophy of Science

  • Does the success of science give us good reasons for thinking that scientific theories are true?
  • Do scientific explanations require laws?
  • What makes one scientific theory more fundamental than another? Should we expect science to converge on one fundamental theory?
  • How are models in different areas of science distinct? Are models in physics entirely different from models in chemistry or biology?
  • How does scale affect our ability to draw inferences from measurements and observations?
  • How can explanations and models at different scales be integrated? Should we expect them to be integrated in some way?
  • How do concepts of emergence and reduction in science relate to concepts of emergence and reduction in philosophy of mind?
  • Some physicists argue that space and time emerge from some more fundamental features of the universe. How do such views relate to other discussions of emergence in science?
  • Universal phenomena involve systems with diverse components producing the same kind of behaviours. How should we explain these common behaviours?
  • What does it mean to be ‘unphysical’?
  • What is the explanatory reach of mechanistic explanation?
  • Must interventionist approaches to explanation in science target difference-makers at the constituent level?
  • Can dynamical systems be explanatory?
  • What is causation?