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Unit Overview


Deep philosophical issues arise inexorably from the scientific study and clinical treatment of the human mind and brain. Scientific psychology and modern psychiatry have both been deeply intertwined with philosophical reflection since their inception more than a century ago. Moreover, recent decades have seen an explosion in interdisciplinary research, with philosophers, psychiatrists, and psychologists collaborating in an effort to understand the mind in health and disease. Topics covered in this unit may include, but are not limited to: cognitivism and behaviourism; the status of introspection and first-person reports; the nature of emotions, beliefs, desires, imagination, and other mental states; personal identity and the self; the relationship between different levels of explanation (neural, cognitive, and phenomenological); the place of neuroscience in psychology and psychiatry; the ‘medical model' of psychiatry; the nature and definition of mental disorder; psychiatric nosology (taxonomy of mental disorder); and philosophical issues relating to psychopharmacology and the use of drug treatments in psychiatry

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 2UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 2 option in the Philosophy; Humanities in Health and Medicine major sequences
  • Level 2 elective

Students are able to (1) independently interpret philosophical texts; (2) locate philosophical ideas in their historical context; (3) evaluate philosophical positions, including identifying counter-examples and identifying and questioning their basic assumptions; (4) compare and contrast philosophical positions; (5) construct persuasive arguments; (6) demonstrate strong written communication and research skills; (7) have a critical understanding of some of the fundamental problems in philosophy of psychology and psychiatry; and (8) assess philosophical theories and arguments regarding these issues.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) essay; (2) examination; and (3) participation. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Chris Letheby
Unit rules
any Level 1 Philosophy unit
PHIL2290 Problems in Philosophical Psychology
Contact hours
20 x 1hr lectures (two per week, for 10 weeks) and 10 x 1hr tutorials (one per week, for 10 weeks)
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.