Philosophy
Welcome to Stellenbosch University

Undergraduate

The Department of Philosophy offers a broad range of courses at different levels of study. These form part of Stellenbosch University's programme-based teaching approach.

Philosophy can be studied as part of the BA programmes in Humanities, Social Dynamics, Language and Culture, Fine Arts, Information Science, International Studies, Social Work, Law and Value and Policy Studies. Moreover, Philosophy forms an integral part of the PPE programme (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) – a highly acclaimed programme that is structured along the lines of the renowned PPE degree offered at Oxford University. 

Please consult the faculty yearbook for detailed information about possible subject combinations and available modules. ​Click on the following link to view the yearbook: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences 2016


Module content for undergraduate programmes

112: Introduction to Systematic Philosophy 

Systematic study of the nature, methods and aims of philosophy as a distinctive discipline. Overview of the most important philosophical problem areas and their mutual relations. Exercises in independent conceptual analysis.

122: Greek Philosophy and Philosophy of the Middle Ages
The Greek Enlightenment and the most prominent Ancient Greek philosophers, most notably Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The intersection of Greek and Judeo-Christian thought in Late Antiquity. The historical development of ideas in the philosophy of the Middle Ages, with reference to thinkers like Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham.

142: Practical Logic and Critical Thinking Skills
Basic concepts of logic (truth, validity, soundness, deductive and inductive argumentation, the principle of non-contradiction, logical form and basic patterns in argumentation, etc.) Meaning and language use; disputes and definitions; recognising fallacies; the manipulation of language and meaning; rhetorical strategies. Exercises in the analysis of reasoning.

152: Moral Philosophy
The nature of moral problems and of ethics as discipline. An overview of important approaches to moral reasoning (e.g. consequentialism, rule morality, human rights, virtue).

212: Political Philosophy
Introductory study of the most important questions in classical and modern political philosophy. Topics include: the legitimation of political authority, the social contract, the justification of the state, the problem of private property, the nature of and conditions for freedom and the debate between liberalism and communitarianism.

222: Modern Philosophy
The development of philosophy from the end of the Renaissance up until the end of the Enlightenment. Philosophers such as Descartes, Hume and Kant are studied, with specific reference to their views on the main questions in modern philosophy (for example, problems concerning knowledge, physics, metaphysics, body, soul, ethics and God).

242: Philosophy of Religion
This module runs for a term and is an introduction to the philosophy of religion, traditionally one of the most important sub-disciplines of philosophy.  You will be introduced to the subject a critical analysis of the notion of “religion” itself, as well as of what is meant by “the philosophy of religion” as a discipline distinct from theology.  Serious attention is paid to some of the best known and influential proofs for the existence of God, namely the ontological and cosmological proofs.  This is followed by a critical analysis of the best known argument for disbelief in God, namely the problem of evil.  The problem of evil and different versions of the responses to it will be critically examined. These are specifically the theodicy-arguments, which are attempts to reconcile God’s alleged omnipotence and perfectly loving nature with the existence of evil in the world.  Other issues raised in this module are the problem concerning the cognitive meaningfulness of religious language, and different theories that try to provide a solution to this problem, as well as the problem regarding the verifiability of religious knowledge-claims and the relationship between faith and science.  In the tutorials, interesting areas such as alternative notions of God, the problem regarding the conflicting claims made by different religions, the relation between the religious claim that miracles occur and the scientific worldview of Modernity and the relevance of feminism for religion will be discussed.

252: Philosophy of Culture
The nature of and issues surrounding culture and cultural products, with specific reference to art and artworks. The study of themes such as: Art as a conceptual philosophical problem. The origin and scope of contemporary philosophical views of art and related issues. Normative questions raised by our understanding and practice of art.

262: Philosophy of Science
History of the philosophy of science. Themes include: The standard image. Critical Rationalism. Post-empiricism. Central debates in the philosophy of science, such as: The relation between the natural and social sciences. The understanding of causality. The understanding of truth.

314: Critical Social Theory and Ideology Critique
Contemporary trends in ideology critique, for example eco-feminism, critical race theory, postcolonial theory and queer theory. The relevance of ideology critique for the analysis and evaluation of various social discourses (e.g. literature, political rhetoric, policy formulation, science, sexuality) prevalent in South African society.

324: Phenomenology and Existentialism
This semester long module is primarily divided into two parts. The first section devotes attention to the philosophy of Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology and one of the most important and influential thinkers of the 20th century. In this regard, attention will chiefly be given to the central concepts and themes in Husserl’s thinking, e.g. the phenomenological reduction and epoché, intentionality and the horizon structure of experience. In the second section of the module we will cover a number of the central themes in a very prominent and influential branch of 20th century philosophy, viz. existential philosophy. Themes that will be covered include the concept of existence, the relationships between existence and world, existence and the other, as well as the existentialist meaning of concepts such as time, feeling, knowledge, finiteness and death. In discussing these themes we will deal with the contributions of important existential philosophers such as Soren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Martin Buber, Albert Camus and others. 

334: African Philosophy
A thorough discussion of prominent themes, texts and thinkers in African Philosophy. The module may include themes such as the following: metaphilosophy, epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, political philosophy and feminism.

344: Structuralism and Post-structuralism
The course entails the study of structural and post-structural philosophical positions, with specific reference to the work of Ferdinand de Saussure, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida. The focus of the course is on the nature of meaning. The greater part of the course will be dedicated to a systematic study of Dreyfus and Rabinow’s text Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, as well as Jonathan Culler’s text On Deconstruction. Other articles, including some primary texts, will also be read and discussed.

354: Analytic Philosophy
The origins of analytic philosophy and philosophical logic (Moore, Russell, Frege, Wittgenstein). Themes may include: Logical positivism (e.g. Schlick, Carnap, Neurath, Feigl, Waismann, Ayer). Linguistic analysis/philosophy of ordinary language (e.g. Wittgenstein, Ryle, Austin). Scientific naturalism (e.g. Quine). Philosophical logic and the understanding of modality (e.g. Kripke, Putnam). Philosophy of mind: the analysis and evaluation of functionalism (e.g. Ryle, Putnam, Dennett, Searle, Chalmers).

364: Social Justice
Moral principles for the distribution of benefits and burdens among members of a society, e.g. fairness, equality, liberty, desert, need, communality and well-being. Specific problems of social justice, especially in the South African and African contexts, e.g. poverty, inequality, property ownership, affirmative action and the free market.