Philosophy: The Big Questions

Subject PHIL10002 (2015)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2015.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 1 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2015:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 02-Mar-2015 to 31-May-2015
Assessment Period End 26-Jun-2015
Last date to Self-Enrol 13-Mar-2015
Census Date 31-Mar-2015
Last date to Withdraw without fail 08-May-2015

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 2x 1-hour lectures each week and 1x 1-hour tutorial in weeks 2-12
Total Time Commitment:

170 hours

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:


Assoc Prof Howard Sankey


Subject Overview:

This subject provides a general introduction to philosophy through an examination of three big questions: (1) Knowledge and scepticism. What is knowledge and do we actually know what we take ourselves to know? Do we know that there is an external world or might we be subject to a massive illusion created by an evil demon? How is it possible for scientific knowledge of laws of nature to be based on limited observation of empirical facts? (2) Personal identity. What makes you you? Is personal identity just a form of identity in general -- i.e. is the identity that obtains between 4-year old you and you-now the same as the identity that obtains between 2+2 and 4 -- or is personal identity something different? Can you survive radical physical or psychological changes? Is there an objective answer to the question of personal identity or is it a purely subjective matter? (3) Ethics. Does the moral rightness of an action depend solely on its consequences? Or are there some actions, like torture, which are morally wrong no matter how desirable the consequences? What is the responsibility of members of developed countries for global poverty? Is it morally permissible to spend money on non-essentials while children die of preventable poverty-related causes?

Learning Outcomes:

Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • have a familiarity with a variety of important philosophical problems and the theoretical tools used to address them;
  • be able to present accurate and well-expressed exposition of philosophical problems and positions;
  • be able to present informed and fair-minded philosophical evaluation of them.

Mini paper 1, 500 words, 15% (due week 4), mini paper 2, 500 words, 15% (due week 8), mini paper 3, 500 words, 15% (due week 12), final essay, 2500 words, 55% (due during the examination period).

This subject has a minimum hurdle requirement of 75% tutorial attendance. Regular participation in tutorials is required. Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day, after 5 working days late assessment will not be marked. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:

A subject reader will be available on line or in hard-copy at the Coop bookshop at the beginning of semester.

Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information:
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Philosophy
Philosophy Major

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