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The Philosophy Department at Mary Immaculate College was founded in 1974. Today the Department continues to offer Philosophy in the Bachelor of Arts programme, as well as offering opportunities for postgraduate study in Philosophy (by research and thesis) leading to postgraduate degrees.

The department also offers a taught MA in Philosophy and Literature, in conjunction with the Department of English Language and Literature at MIC and a Structured PhD in Philosophy of Art and Culture, in conjunction with the Department of Philosophy, NUI Galway and the History Department, University of Limerick.

Our undergraduate degree programme consists of a broad and accessible initiation to Philosophy. The Department enjoys an international reputation for research and an excellent teaching record, with members active on a range of national and international bodies. Our dedicated lecturers are here to make your time as a Philosophy student as enjoyable and as educationally inspiring as possible. As such, our Department provides a supportive and friendly environment for students, with a distinctive range of modules and extra-curricular activities. Our programme is structured to provide students with the skills necessary to appreciate more fully the central concerns of human existence and to develop abilities in problem-solving, reflective communication, persuasion, writing, and critical thinking.

The Philosophy Department at Mary Immaculate College is committed to offering a programme which allows its undergraduates to engage all of these facets of the subject.

Prof. Michael Breen
+353 61 204990

Subject Overview

Philosophy is an activity people undertake when they seek to understand themselves, the world they live in, and the relations to the world and each other. No other field can help you understand a world changing so rapidly in cultural, technological, and natural terms. Philosophy trains you to stand back from what’s taken for granted and to examine it and expands your horizons, leading to personal and professional growth. Those who study philosophy are engaged in asking, answering, evaluating, and reasoning about some of life’s most basic, meaningful, and difficult questions. Far from being an abstract field, philosophy is among the most practical courses of study.

Taking philosophy courses imparts skills that will be useful not only in any career but also in your personal life. The study of philosophy will enable you to think carefully, critically, and with clarity, take a logical approach to addressing challenging questions and examining hard issues, reason well and evaluate the reasoning of others, discuss sensibly, and write effectively. Studying philosophy will teach you to think logically and critically about issues, to analyze and construct arguments and to be open to new ways of thinking. In addition, you will learn to write clearly and persuasively, absorb and sift complex information and to distinguish between different views and come to a reasoned position. You will also learn to be self-motivated, creative and able to prioritize your work and working to deadline – all talents sought after by employers.


The following are Philosophy modules on the Bachelor of Arts programme, in descending order from First Year onwards:

This module introduces students to Philosophy by exposing them to accessible contemporary treatments of the basic questions in the area, such as freedom, mind-body problem, personal identity, and subjectivity, language and culture, science and technology, ethics and politics.

This module is designed to introduce students to certain key issues in the relation between philosophy and film and to the reasons why there is, at present, a growing interest in the relation between these means of expression. It will also explore some of the ways in which film can significantly contribute to reflection on certain ethical, metaphysical, religious and epistemological matters.

This course breaks down into three parts. Firstly, Meta-ethics -- the question of objectivity in ethics. Secondly, the three standard classical theories -- Naturalism, Utilitarianism and Kant's. Thirdly, practical ethics. Further details are as follows: Hume and the ethics of sympathy; GE Moore and the naturalistic fallacy; the history of the emotive theory: Ogden, Richards and Ayer; Prescriptivism: Stevenson and Hare; Is morality an illusion? J.L. Mackie; Ethical Motivation: Egoism and Altruism; Plato: Psychic justice and the practice of the virtues; Aristotle and eudaimonia. Utilitarianism: Bentham and Mill; Deontological Theory.

The main objective of this course is to provide an introduction to the works of some of the most influential political philosophers, through history, with attention also given to more contemporary thought. We will analyse the concepts articulated by these philosophers, paying attention to their divergent perspectives on some of the most important questions of contemporary political philosophy. Some of the questions we will address in this course are the following: How are citizens formed and how should they be educated? What are the rights and obligations of citizens and from what do they stem? What is a decent or fair society, with chances or flourishing for all?

This module examines the transformation of the entire Western intellectual tradition effected by the work of the rationalist (Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz) and empiricist (Locke, Berkeley, and Hume) philosophers of this period, culminating in the transcendental idealism of Kant. Descartes and the egocentric turn; methodic doubt and the 'Cogito' principle; matter, mind, and the body-mind problem; Spinoza's pantheistic monism: holism versus reductionism in theory of knowledge; Leibniz's monadology; freedom and determinism in Leibniz's philosophy. Newton, Locke and Leibniz on human knowledge and the nature of reality; Locke and the empiricist tradition: experience, knowledge and the principle of induction; the representative theory of perception; Berkeley's subjective idealism; Hume on induction and causation, and his ethical subjectivism. Kant's response to Humean scepticism: transcendental idealism and the ethic of duty.

The module examines the golden age of Greek philosophising which began with Socrates (470-3990), was continued by Plato (429-348) and was brought to a conclusion by Aristotle (384-322). The course begins with an account of Socrates and the Sophists; significant time is dedicated to Socratic dialectic as a way of reaching moral values, principally Justice; contemporary implications of this are discussed. Plato's account of the trial of Socrates is studied in detail; the Platonic theory of knowledge, of the Forms/Ideas, of the soul are all introduced. The political theory of The Republic is introduced. The course finishes with a brief account of Aristotle's logic and epistemology, his hylemorphic and causal analysis of nature to explain its changeableness and of eudaimonia, the goal of the virtues.

BA students follow the Off-Campus Programme for both semesters of the third year. This is comprised of international study placement and/or relevant work placement. Philosophy students who wish to study abroad are advised by department staff on the availability of appropriate courses. Guidance is also provided for those who wish to use the opportunity to begin research work for final year projects in Philosophy. 

The aim is twofold: to cover both historical and contemporary philosophical conceptions of science and technology, and to cover and problematise the relation of philosophy to science and technology.

The course falls into two parts: the first focuses on evidence for the existence of God and seeks to understand His relationship with the world; the second deals with the nature of religion as a fundamental human phenomenon. The first part of the course will consider contemporary accounts of the origins of life and the universe; metaphysics and the question of origins; the intelligibility of the universe; randomness and order; the structure of intelligence and the structure of being; the act of unrestricted understanding; Persons and Eternal Thou; personal being; interpersonal relationships and their ground; faith and fidelity; suffering and hope.

This module explores the main trends in contemporary European thought from phenomenology through to existentialism and to various instantiations of post-modernism. These three schools of thought are historically, culturally and thematically connected and their influence on contemporary intellectual life is undiminished. As such, this module offers students an in-depth understanding of the historical and conceptual development of phenomenology and existentialism in the twentieth century and the specific impact these movements have had upon contemporary European thought.

This modules looks at defining ‘the aesthetic’ and ‘aesthetic experience’: theories of the nature of art and aesthetic judgement: art as representation and mimesis; art as expression; genre and tradition; art as play; the institutional theory of the ‘artworld’; art as ideology: selections from: art and the emotions; the relationship between aesthetic and moral values; the ontological status of fiction and the relationship between art and truth; the nature of metaphor; art and reception; the aesthetics of photography and film.

An opportunity for personal work/study, with supervision, on an approved philosophical topic.


The Department of Philosophy offers a taught MA in Philosophy and Literature, in conjunction with the Department of English Language and Literature at MIC.

MA and PhD by Research

The department also invites applications from graduates who wish to pursue postgraduate research programmes in Philosophy to Masters or Doctoral level.

Students with interests in the following areas are particularly encouraged to apply: Philosophy of Language; Philosophy of Religion; Philosophy of Science and Technology; Modern Philosophy; Phenomenology; Hermeneutics; Philosophy of Culture; Social and Political Philosophy.


Mariangela Esposito

BA (University of Florence) & MA (University of Florence)
PhD Researcher & Departmental Teaching Assistant
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Dr Catherine Kavanagh

BA; MPhil (NUI); MMS (University of Notre Dame) & PhD (University of Notre Dame)
Senior Lecturer & Acting Head of Department
  • Phone: +353 61 204904
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  • Location: C104

Dr Basil Vassilicos

BA (Penn State University); MA (KU Leuven) & PhD (KU Leuven)
  • Phone: +353 61 204576
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  • Location: R114

Conor Mardell

MA Researcher & Departmental Assistant
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