The Honours degree in Philosophy is a fourth year of study beyond the normal B.A. It is possible to do Honours part-time. It is also possible to enter the Honours program at midyear. Honours is a pre-requisite for entry to higher degrees by research, such as the M.A. (research) and Ph.D.
The Honours Curriculum
See the Philosophy Honours handbook entry for more information on the curriculum and units involved.
The Research Project
When you complete your research paper you will have produced a substantial piece of philosophy (around eight thousand words) on a topic of your own choosing. Because philosophy is a discipline in which journal articles are the most common way of transmitting research findings, we will teach you how to write one. We think this is more valuable than getting you to produce a longer thesis. A student excelling at this paper will have produced an original contribution on a philosophical issue, suitable for submission to a scholarly journal.
Each student is assigned to a supervisor, who will oversee your work on the project. You will work up to the writing of the main research paper by a series of shorter assessment tasks and attending a series of Research Skills Workshops. Initial meetings of the workshop will include presentations on the use of research tools in philosophy. You will be guided in the preparation of a bibliography and literature review for your chosen topic. With your supervisor, you will plan and execute a first draft of your research paper. You will then receive feedback from examiners and will revise your work – just as you would if your paper were provisionally accepted for publication in a journal. You will also present your paper to the Department and field questions about it – just as you would if you were giving a paper at a philosophy conference.
For full details of assessment, please check the latest edition of the Undergraduate Handbook.
ATS4868 Honours A and ATS4869 Honours B are modularised subjects. You complete each one by completing two sub-units of coursework, which you choose from a of a selection of offerings made available each semester. (There will be at least three offerings in each semester, and in most cases there will be four.) The subject areas for the coursework sub-units will include:
i) Metaphysics and Epistemology
ii) Value Theory
iii) Foundations of Analytic Philosophy
iv) Contemporary European Philosophy
v) Philosophy of Mind and Cognition
vi) Philosophical Pedagogy
Each unit consists of nine two-hour seminars. The specific topics covered in the coursework sub-units will be different in each semester and will reflect the particular research interests of the staff members teaching them. The primary assessment task for each coursework sub-unit will be a 4500-word essay, except for Philosophical Pedagogy which will involve variety of exercises and a practical (the practical may involve teaching a tutorial under supervision).
Students may ask staff members to arrange a supervised reading unit around a topic of particular interest to the student, in lieu of one of the coursework sub-units. However, these kinds of arrangements will only be practicable from time to time, based on the availability and interest of particular staff members; hence we cannot make any guarantees about our capacity to offer this kind of specialised assessment as part of the Honours programme.
What else happens in Honours?
Throughout the year you will have the opportunity to interact with staff, post-graduate students and other Honours students in the life of the department, seeing first-hand what it means to be a member of a community of shared inquiry.
Since Philosophy has a relatively small Honours cohort, you will have greater opportunities than you had at undergraduate level for close and sustained interaction with your teachers and fellow students.
You will also be strongly encouraged to meet with other honours students informally and outside of class, to carry on the debates and discussions that have been initiated in your classes, and to talk about the topics you’re working on for your research. The honours coordinator will from time to time arrange gatherings to facilitate these kinds of part-social/part-academic interactions.
Where will Philosophy Honours take me?
In general, any Honours degree adds to the prestige of your B.A. If you decide not to pursue further studies, your Honours degree tells potential employers that you are intelligent, articulate and capable of self-directed research. If you want to pursue post-graduate studies, such as an M.A. or Ph.D., an Honours degree is an essential first step.
Whichever direction you choose to go, Honours in Philosophy from Monash is a particularly good start in terms of both preparation and prestige. Monash Philosophy leads all other philosophy programs in the Group of Eight universities in research and post-graduate degrees. Monash philosophers have an international reputation for excellence in a number of areas, including Ethics, Formal Logic, Metaphysics, Philosophical Logic, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Language, and Philosophy of Religion.
Thus, if you can achieve first class Honours in Philosophy at Monash, you will be in a competitive position to apply for MA or PhD Programmes in Philosophy, both in Australia and abroad.
Will I qualify for Honours?
Students who want to do Honours in Philosophy should have a B.A. with a major in philosophy. You should have a Distinction average over four later-year philosophy subjects: at least three of which must be at 3rd year level.
If possible, we recommend that you do more than just a major in philosophy, as preparation for honours. From 2014, the B.A. will include the option of an extended major in philosophy, which involves taking two extra subjects at 3rd year level. We strongly encourage intending honours students to take the extended major.
Please note that acceptance into the Honours program is always conditional upon sufficient places being made available by the Faculty. For enrollment inquiries, contact the Department Honours coordinator.
Are there any Scholarships?
If your average in the four subjects used to calculate your eligibility for Honours is greater than 80%, you may have a chance at a Faculty Honours scholarship, worth $3000.
Why do Honours?
Philosophy students are accustomed to evaluating reasons. One reason to do Honours is obviously the prestige of the degree, or the opportunity to go on to further studies. But the best reasons are much more simple.
First, in Honours, you’ll get to undertake further study in areas of philosophy that you are interested in. In your thesis you’ll be expected to add something of your own to the ongoing conversation that is the history of philosophy. That’s exciting and challenging.
Second, you should do Honours in philosophy precisely because it’s hard. You won’t know whether you are truly excellent if you don’t try.
Some useful resources:
Here are some places you might want to go for further information.
Check out the research interests of individual staff members to find a suitable supervisor. You can also get the most up to date contact details for the Honours Coordinator.
The undergraduate handbook contains the formal details of assessment for Honours units.
If you are thinking of a thesis topic over the holidays, it would be an excellent idea to check this site (of an outstanding online encyclopedia) for some background reading before approaching a prospective supervisor.
Once you have narrowed down your thesis topic to something reasonably specific, why not start looking for some recent journal articles in the Philosopher’s Index?