Close icon
Close icon

Philosophy

About

The Department offers undergraduate (joint honours) and graduate programmes in philosophy (research MA, research PhD).

Philosophy students during Philosophy Mixer in celebration of the UNESCO World Philosophy Day (16 Nov 2023)
Philosophy students during the Philosophy Mixer for the UNESCO World Philosophy Day (16-11-2023)
Basil Vassilicos (MIC) during his talk “Ethical dialogue with remote futures (or aliens or elephants): Williams's skepticism and a Cardian response”
Dr Basil Vassilicos (MIC) during his talk at the IPS Conference at MIC
Éamonn Gaines offering an introduction to the documentary Young Plato during Philosophy Movie Night
Éamonn Gaines offering an introduction to the documentary Young Plato during Philosophy Movie Night
Philosophy students during the voluntary activities for the Limerick (Autumn 2023)Youth Service (
Philosophy students during the voluntary activities for the Limerick Youth Service (Autumn 2023)
Dr Catherine Kavanagh and Karolina Sutton during MIC Open Day
Dr Catherine Kavanagh and Karolina Sutton during MIC Open Day 2023
Fourth-year BA philosophy student Michael Kieran-McDonagh (MIC) giving a talk
Fourth-year BA philosophy student Michael Kieran-McDonagh giving a talk during Research Day 2024

We enjoy an excellent teaching record, and we have research strengths in Ancient Greek, Roman and Medieval Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, Ethics, Phenomenology, and Philosophy of Emotions.  

The Department also contributes to the MA in Climate, Justice and Sustainability and the Pre University Programme. It also oversees the philosophy modules in short-term international programmes in collaboration with the International Office. 

Undergraduate programme

Our undergraduate degree programme consists of a broad, accessible, and solid initiation to Philosophy. The following are our modules on the Bachelor of Arts programme, in descending order from First Year onwards:

This module offers an accessible introduction to some of philosophy's most fundamental and hotly debated topics. It provides students with the skills and historical and conceptual background necessary to access, understand and engage with core debates in ethics, social justice, knowledge and unjustified belief, existence, and topics in the philosophy of mind, language, and religion.

Questions discussed in this module include: What is justice? Can we achieve it for all? What is, if any, the goal of our life? How can we explain the difference between science and pseudo-science? What is the philosophical foundation of human rights? The module will also include philosophical debates and moral dilemmas about immigration, emotions, alternative facts, racism, consent, and criminal justice.

The module emphasises developing critical thinking through the analysis of arguments and concepts, evaluation of competing interpretations, and discussion of objections, counterarguments and competing evidence. It also aims to develop precise, efficient, and coherent academic writing and oral communication skills.

This module begins by tracing the roots of Western culture's shared views and ideas about love and desire. The historical moments considered are Classical Greek and Roman, Medieval, and Modern Philosophy. In this section, we will study the concepts of Eros (erotic love), Pietas (affection), Philia (friendship), the education of desire in Stoicism, and Divine Love in Medieval Philosophy. The second part of the module focuses on contemporary philosophical debates. We will discuss puzzles about the definition of love, socialisation and romantic love, the value of personal relationships, and the ethics of caring for others. The module closes with a section on non-western approaches to love and desire. 

In this module, we will consider the foundation of Ethics as a philosophical discipline, beginning with its origins in the civic and practical speculation of Plato and the theory of Aristotle, who gives it a scientific structure. We will then move on to key variations on that, critically appraising each theory. Key writers are Aristotle (Weeks1-3), Kant (Week 4), and J. S. Mill (Week 5) in terms of historical origins; notable contemporary writers include Elizabeth Anscombe, Roger Scruton, Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley and Alasdair McIntyre (Weeks 6-10). Finally, we will examine some issues in current ethical discourse (Weeks 11-12 – Lumet, McIntyre), using what we have studied to think about them.

This module covers some of the most important questions of contemporary political philosophy. These include the following: How should societies and communities, great and small, be organised? 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 should be the spaces for, goals of, and obligations for civic participation? Who is the global citizen, if one exists, and what is their role and function in society? What is global justice, and how can we make sure it applies to everyone? Does something like intergenerational justice exist, and what is it based upon?

This module offers a complete overview of ancient Greek philosophy in chronological order, from Early Greek to Hellenistic philosophy, including Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

The aim of this course is to complete a survey of the developments in philosophy that occurred through the different periods and locales of the ‘Enlightenment’ in Europe. Particular attention is given to the legacy of these developments today in contemporary research and contemporary society and cultures, as well as to how these developments are being challenged and re-evaluated today from a variety of quarters (philosophy of mind, cogntive science, and phenomenology feminism, philosophy of race, critical and postcolonial theory). In examining such developments of the ‘Enlightenments,’ our focus shall have two components: on the one hand, questions about metaphysics, knowledge, and the theory of science, and on the other, questions about morality and social philosophy.

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 in this course 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.

This module focuses on a major and influential branch of contemporary European thought, namely phenomenology. This contemporary approach to philosophy, whose findings and research have impacted many areas of the human sciences, is primarily introduced via a ‘learn by doing’ approach. By looking at some of the major philosophical issues with which phenomenology has been concerned, in authors such as Brentano, Husserl, and Stein, we situate the findings of phenomenology historically and highlight their exploration in contemporary research. As such, this module offers students an in-depth understanding of the historical and conceptual development of phenomenology and the specific impact it has had had upon the contemporary human sciences.

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 modules looks at the field of aesthetics, which can be broadly defined as the philosophical study of, on the one hand, experiences of beauty and the sublime, and on the other, experiences of art. The development and current state of aesthetic theory is examined in connection to three important themes: universality, experience, and politics.  In the first theme, questions of the universality, necessity, and subjectivity of aesthetic properties and experiences is explored, both in a historical context and in respect of the contemporary art world. In the second theme, we explore the roles of representation, imagination, and mimesis in aesthetic experience, as well as considering their problematisation in the 20th and 21st century visual arts of painting and photography. In the third theme, we will consider the relation between aesthetic and political experience, in view of the question of whether art can and ought to have political significance or dimension. To explore this last question, we focus on how some contemporary art attempts a reconceptualisation of sexuality, gender, and embodiment, and consider whether and how it reaches that aim.

You can also take some of these modules as BA and BEd electives or as an international Erasmus student. 

Variety of people smiling at the camera
Bachelor of Arts | Philosophy
BA graduate Noel describes his experience of studying Philosophy

Postgraduate programmes

The Department invites applications from graduates who wish to pursue postgraduate research programmes in Philosophy to Master's, or Doctoral level. Students with interests in the following areas are particularly encouraged to apply:

  • Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy 
  • Medieval Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Ethics 
  • Phenomenology
  • Philosophy of Emotions.  

You can find all the information on how to apply here

For available funding, scholarships, and fees information, visit here

If you studied for your undergraduate degree at MIC, you are also eligible for The President’s Scholarship Awards.

The Research & Graduate School at MIC offers excellent support, training, research funding and facilities. 

 

In collaboration with the Department of Geography, we have recently created the MA in Climate, Justice and Sustainability

Graduation 2019: Dr Lorenzo Girardi pictured with his supervisor Dr Basil Vassilicos
Dr Lorenzo Girardi with his supervisor Dr Basil Vassilicos during the 2019 Graduation
Graduation 2019: Dr Mariangela Esposito pictured with her supervisor Dr Catherine Kavanagh
Dr Mariangela Esposito with her supervisor Dr Catherine Kavanagh during the 2019 Graduation
Spring 2023: Christine Ratzlaff after defending her PhD dissertation. Her supervisor, Dr Catherine Kavanagh; external examiner Prof Felix Ó Murchadha; and internal examiner Dr Daniel Vázquez.
Christine Ratzlaff, her supervisor and examiners, after she defended her PhD thesis in April 2023

Short-term international programmes

In collaboration with the International Office, the Department of Philosophy oversees the academic delivery of two modules (Ethics and Metaphysics) for the Western European Semester programme developed with St John’s University, New York. These are St John’s University courses offered at MIC. 
 
The module lecturer is Dr. Steven Bond (Steven.Bond@mic.ul.ie).

 

Contact
Head of Department
Dr Daniel Vázquez

Subject Overview

Dare to study life’s most fundamental, meaningful, and challenging questions. Become a creative problem-solver, a reflective thinker, and a conscientious leader. Studying philosophy will teach you to think logically and critically about the world we live in, analyse and construct arguments, and be open to new ways of thinking. 

Dr Genco Guralp (UL) addressing an audience of staff and students during his invited lecture
Dr Genco Guralp (UL) addressing an audience of staff and students during his invited lecture
Students, alumni and staff having a philosophical conversation during the Philosophy Mixer
Students, alumni and staff having a philosophical conversation during the Philosophy Mixer
Dr Mariangela Esposito introducing her book to an audience of students, staff and friends of the Department of Philosophy
Dr Mariangela Esposito (PhD MIC) during the presentation of her book The Realm of Mimesis in Plato
Dr Daniel Vázquez introducing some philosophical questions for the Town Hall debate during the GeoNight.
Dr Daniel Vázquez introducing some philosophical questions during GeoNight 2023
Dr Steven Bond presenting his latest research
Dr Steven Bond presenting his latest research

Engage with the questions that the greatest minds in human history have grappled with, including perennial problems like:

  • What can we know, and how do we know what we know?
  • What does it mean to say we are free?
  • Can we prove that God exists or not? What are the consequences of our answer to that question?
  • What is justice? Can we achieve it for all?
  • What sorts of political institutions are best, and why are they needed?
  • To what extent are moral values absolute, and to what extent do cultural factors produce them?
  • What are our duties and responsibilities to ourselves and others?

And new, pressing, and hotly debated topics, for example:

  • How can we achieve racial justice and gender equality?
  • What is consciousness?
  • Should anger motivate political action?
  • How do experiences like emotions or empathy come about? What do they involve, and what do they mean?
  • What is the nature of religious experiences?
  • What ethical challenges arise with science and technology?

In our programme, you will study, analyse, and examine the most influential works of the ancient Greeks, Medieval and Modern philosophers. In addition, you will engage with the different approaches and traditions in contemporary philosophy.

Come and join our dynamic and intellectually stimulating Department. Our dedicated lecturers will make your time as a Philosophy student as enjoyable and educationally inspiring as possible. The Department provides a supportive and friendly environment with a distinctive range of modules, research, and extra-curricular activities.

Taster Lectures

Dive deeper into the world of big questions! The Department of Philosophy is pleased to present a collection of recorded lectures exploring various philosophical topics.

Drawing of a head with a magnifying glass on a question mark
What can Ancient Stoicism Teach Us Today?
This public lecture was recorded on the 25th of May, 2022 at MIC.

Staff

Dr Daniel Vázquez

PhD (King's College London); MPhil (UNAM); PGCAPHE (King's College London); BA (Universidad Panamericana); FHEA
Associate Professor & Head of Department
  • Email: Daniel.Vazquez@mic.ul.ie
  • Location: G16

Dr Catherine Kavanagh

BA; MPhil (NUI); MMS (University of Notre Dame) & PhD (University of Notre Dame)
Senior Lecturer
  • Phone: +353 61 204904
  • Email: Catherine.Kavanagh@mic.ul.ie
  • Location: C104

Dr Basil Vassilicos

BA (Penn State University); MA (KU Leuven) & PhD (KU Leuven)
Lecturer
  • Phone: +353 61 204576
  • Email: Basil.Vassilicos@mic.ul.ie
  • Location: R114

Dr Steven Bond


Part-time lecturer in Philosophy
  • Phone: +353 87 2905269
  • Email: Steven.Bond@mic.ul.ie

Karolina Sutton

MA Phil (The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin), MA TESOL (University of Limerick), Cert TESOL (Trinity College London)
PhD Researcher & Departmental Assistant
  • Email: Karolina.Sutton@mic.ul.ie

Christine Ratzlaff


Philosophy Department PhD student, MISU Postgraduate Officer
  • Email: Christine.Ratzlaff@mic.ul.ie
  • Location: John Henry Newman Building

Retired staff

Prof. John Hayes

MA; S.T.L. (Aquinas Institute, 1968); Ph.D (Duke University, 1973).

Lecturer (1975-77); Head, Department of Philosophy (1977-2008); Co-ordinating Head, Arts Departments (1991-2007); Dean, Faculty of Arts (2007-2008).

Email: John.Hayes@mic.ul.ie

Prof. John hayes full profile.

 

Dr Stephen Thorton 

Emeritus staff MIC, former HoD Philosophy

Email: Stephen.Thorton@mic.ul.ie

Events

Each year, the Department of Philosophy hosts an Invited Lecturer Series and a Postgraduate Work-in-Progress seminar. We also organize other outreach events and public taster lectures.

IPS Conference 2023

The Department of Philosophy at MIC hosted the 2023 Irish Philosophical Society Conference on Friday 20 and Saturday 21 October 2023.

The theme of the Conference wass Moral Development and Moral Failure and the Keynote speakers were Lisa Tessman (Binghamton University in New York), Christopher Crowley (UCD) and Katy Dineen (UCC).

For more about IPS Conference 2023 click here.

Philosophy Cafés

Philosophy cafés are events open to the public where interested individuals can discuss complex questions in welcoming settings. Everyone is invited to participate, but participation is not mandatory. The format will include a brief presentation and a round-table discussion.

The next Philosophy café will be on 28 March, room G08, at 10.30 am.

This session will discuss three related topics: justice worldwide, solidarity with those in need, and hope in the face of extraordinary challenges.
 

Drury Archive & Minerva Archive

Maurice O'Connor Drury
Maurice O'Connor Drury
Drury, probably photographed by Wittgenstein. Dublin 1936.

Drury Archive

The Department of Philosophy at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, was presented with an important and valuable archive when Paul and Luke Drury gifted their father's collection of papers to the College.

Maurice (or Con as he was more commonly referred to) Drury was born in 1907 in Exeter, of Irish parents. He read philosophy in the University of Cambridge where he studied with G. E. Moore, C. D. Broad and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Drury studied medicine at Trinity College Dublin, graduating in 1939, and worked for most of his life in Saint Patrick's Hospital, Dublin. He maintained a close, lifelong friendship with Wittgenstein; the basis of their friendship appears to have been their common interest in medicine and Psychiatry subjects.

Drury is the author of The Danger of Words (1973) and the articles 'Some Notes on Conversations with Wittgenstein' and 'Conversations with Wittgenstein' (included in Ludwig Wittgenstein: Personal Recollections, edited by Rush Rhees). 

Following consultation with the former Dean of Arts at MIC, Prof. John Hayes, Drury's sons, Luke O'Connor Drury, Professor of Astrophysics at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies and Paul Drury, Managing Editor, Associated Newspapers, decided to donate their father's papers to the College.

The papers were archived by Jacqui Hayes, Limerick City Archivist, on behalf of the College. Emma O'Connor of MIC library completed the task of imaging the papers electronically, which means that interested researchers who wish to consult the papers in the library can do so without handling the original material.

Intellectual Property

The donated materials shall be made accessible to bona fide scholars for purposes of private study and research only, in accordance with Mary Immaculate College policies. Such scholars will be entitled to publish limited extracts from the material (no more than about 10 per cent of any one document) in line with standard ‘fair usage’ practice and provided there is due attribution of the source. For any more extensive publication, prior permission would have to be sought from the relevant copyright holders (Luke and Paul Drury for the Drury material, the Rush Rhees Archive for the Rhees material).

Full information on how to access the archive is here.

Picture of Prof John Hayes giving his lecture at Yale University
"Wittgenstein & Drury" by Prof John Hayes
Prof. John Hayes (MIC) on the enduring friendship of Wittgenstein and Drury

Minerva Archive

For 19 years (1997-2015), the Department of Philosophy at MIC published Minerva, an online open-access journal of Philosophy edited by Dr Stephen Thornton. 

The contents of the 19 published volumes of the journal are available here

Minerva Archive
Minerva Archive
Online open-access philosophy.

Funding

The Department of Philosophy invites applications from outstanding applicants who wish to pursue postgraduate research programmes in Philosophy.

Mary Immaculate College offers a range of MA and PhD funding opportunities, and we would like to highlight the following three funding schemes

MIC Doctoral Award

Consists of an annual stipend of €12,600 and a full fee waiver renewable for three years, with a fee waiver in the fourth year of normal registration (College-wide competition).

The closing date for applications is 26 April 2024 at 12 noon. 

More information about the MIC Doctoral Award here

MIC Studentships Award

Consist of an annual stipend of €6,900 and a full fee waiver renewable for three years, with a fee waiver in the fourth year of normal registration (College-wide competition).

The closing date for applications is 26 April 2024 at 12 noon.

More information about the MIC Studentships Award here.

MIC Philosophy Departmental Assistantship

The Department of Philosophy at MIC is accepting applications for one Departmental Assistantship in Philosophy beginning in September 2023 (PhD or MA by research).   

The Departmental Assistantship provides an annual stipend of €6,900 per annum and a fee waiver. Awards are annually renewable for up to three years, with a fee waiver in the fourth year of normal registration. The successful applicant will provide up to 120 hours of tutoring, research assistance, or other departmental work across the academic year to the Department of Philosophy (an average of 5 hours per week per semester and may not exceed 10 hours in any given week). The scheme includes induction sessions, close monitoring and mentoring by the Head of the Department, and training opportunities available to all staff members at MIC.

The deadline for applications is on Monday, 3rd of June 2024 

(Late applications will be welcome if the Departmental Assistantship remains unfulfilled after the deadline; please contact Dr Daniel Vázquez Daniel.Vazquez@mic.ul.ie)

More information about the Departmental Assistantship in Philosophy here.

Research

Meet the Researcher

Dr Daniel Vázquez
Dr Daniel Vázquez
Associate Professor & Head of Department of Philosophy.

Dr Daniel Vázquez is the Head of the Department of Philosophy at MIC.

Dr Vázquez talks to us about his main area of research in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy. He is currently leading two fascinating projects: the first is about the ethics of arguing for both sides of the same question, and the second examines ancient Greek and Roman ideas about the nature and origin of the universe and their conception of time.

He also tells us what he enjoys most about undertaking research projects and gives sound advice for those considering undertaking research-themed postgraduate study.

I started my studies in Mexico City, where I took two years of a BA in Communications (ITESM) before transferring to the BA in Philosophy (Universidad Panamericana), where I graduated in 2006. I then studied for an MPhil in Philosophy (UNAM), graduating in 2010 with an award-winning dissertation on ancient scepticism. The same year, I moved to the UK to study for my PhD in Philosophy at King’s College London, where I graduated with a dissertation on Plato and the Stoics in 2015. I also hold a Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP) in Higher Education from King’s College London (Merit 2014) and am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, UK (2017). In addition, I have spent research visiting periods in the Trinity Plato Centre in Dublin (2019-2020), Sapienza University of Rome and ILIESI, CRN (2019), Princeton University (2018), the Department of Philosophy of the University of Oxford (2015-2016), Cornell University (2013), and Yale University (2012).

In 2021 I became the Head of the Department of Philosophy at Mary Immaculate College. Before that, I worked for three years as an ERC Research Fellow based at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (2018-2021), two years as a FAPESP Research Fellow at the University of Sao Paulo (2016-2018), and two years as a College Tutor in Ethics in Oriel College, University of Oxford (2014-2016) and a Lecturer in Ancient Philosophy in the Philosophy Department of the University of Oxford (2014-2015).

My main area of research is ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, from the early Greeks to Late antiquity. I am currently leading two projects. One is about the ethics of arguing for both sides of the same question, a controversial practice developed by Greek intellectuals and philosophers in the 5th and 4th centuries BCE (including Protagoras, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle) and continued during the Hellenistic period by ancient sceptics and dialecticians, but a practice that is still highly relevant today. Allowing space to argue for both sides of a difficult question or case often benefits our understanding, belief formation, risk assessment, and decision-making. However, one might wonder whether discussing both sides of an issue is always morally appropriate. Should we always allow equal time to advocate for both sides? Examples like pseudoscientific theories, political filibusters, and vested interests that manufacture doubt suggest not. But where and under what minimal moral principles should we draw the line? I believe Ancient Greek philosophers can help us develop an ethical framework to answer these questions. This project stems from my previous work on suspension of belief in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, especially the last chapter of my recent book, Suspension of Belief (Cambridge University Press 2024). It also builds upon much of my work on argumentation and scepticism, recently compiled and translated into Spanish in my book Escepticismo, Metafísica y Argumentación [Scepticism, Metaphysics, and Argumentation] (NUN 2024).

The second project examines ancient Greek and Roman ideas about the nature and origin of the universe and their conception of time. This project is a collaboration with Prof Alberto Ross (Universidad Panamericana, Mexico), where we are particularly interested in Plato and Aristotle, the two most influential philosophers of the classical period of Greek philosophy. This work continues the successful collaboration that resulted in the publication of two co-edited books: Cause and Explanation in Ancient Philosophy (Routledge 2024) and Time and Cosmology in Plato and the Platonic Tradition (Brill 2022).

I like to study ancient Greek and Roman philosophy because it offers an immense treasure. On the one hand, it provides an escape from everyday life and the worries of today’s world. The philosophical problems in these texts are so interesting, abstract, and sometimes so challenging that they make everything around me disappear. Ancient philosophy thus serves as a refuge, a secret hiding place where I retreat to think about fundamental distinctions, arguments and concepts. It is also an escape when I divert my attention from the logic of the arguments to the words in the original language and the grammatical constructions to the historical context and the enormous distance between ancient philosophers and their current readers. I enjoy reading each word and sentence as if I were walking through ancient civilisations’ ruins: learning new things at every step, marveling at what I understand and how much I cannot, and how all these aspects affect my interpretation of philosophical arguments.

However, ancient philosophy also offers a way back to our current life and circumstances. Many of the themes it addresses, the questions it asks, and the theories it proposes are as central today as they were then. For example what counts as knowledge? How should we live our lives? What makes an argument a good argument? What is the fairer political system? On other occasions, even if the specific answers are wrong or we do not agree with them, the methods, the structure of the arguments, and the clarity to analyse the concepts provide masterclasses, models and examples that allow us to return to our lives transformed, with a fresh and sometimes sharper vision of the things around us.

The best part of supervising postgraduate students is witnessing their intellectual flourishing. I enjoy guiding and helping them think deeper and more carefully about their research questions, learning from them and discussing their innovative arguments and contributions to the scholarly debate.

Look for a good match between your research project and the research expertise of your prospective supervisor. Prioritise the importance of studying in a welcoming and academically thriving place with a friendly community of graduate students and a supervisor willing to become your mentor and advocate in the academic world.

  • About
  • Subject Overview
  • Staff
  • Events
  • Drury Archive & Minerva Archive
  • Funding
  • Research