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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 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.

Dr. Basil Vassilicos
+353 611774576
Senior Lecturer
Catherine Kavanagh
+353 61 204904
Head of Department & Senior Lecturer
Dr Daniel Vázquez

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 adopts a conventional historical approach to Philosophy. The historical approach aims at tracing the roots of common views and ideas about love and desire in western culture. The main historical moments considered are: Classic Philosophy, Medieval Philosophy, Modern Philosophy and Contemporary Philosophy.

Beside the historical approach; students are encouraged to practice conceptual analysis and critical thinking during class and tutorials, establishing an interactive dialogue with the lecturer(s). Each of the above-mentioned historical moments is divided into two or three parts, spanning two or three lectures. Each lecture discusses a different type of love by a main author of reference and it is integrated with a suggested reading whose contents are mentioned and discussed in the lecture.

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 and arguments articulated by these philosophers, taking note of and weighing for ourselves their divergent perspectives on some of the most important questions in contemporary political debates and theories.

Some of the questions addressed 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? How should societies be organised? 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? Such questions have a long history. Here, we will hope not to solve them but to gain a deeper understanding of their complexity, and of the further exploration they require. 

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 (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.

The module examines the golden age of Greek philosophising which began with Socrates (470-399), 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 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.

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 how 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.

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.


Dr Daniel Vázquez

PhD (King's College London); MPhil (UNAM); PGCAPHE (King's College London); BA (Universidad Panamericana); FHEA
Head of Department & Senior Lecturer
  • Email:

Dr Catherine Kavanagh

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

Dr Basil Vassilicos

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

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:

Christine Ratzlaff

Philosophy Department PhD candidate, MISU Postgraduate Officer
  • Email:
  • Location: John Henry Newman Building

Conor Mardell

MA Researcher & Departmental Assistant
  • Email:
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