Department of Philosophy & Applied Ethics

Philosophy is different from any other discipline in its focus and its range of inquiry. It arises out of the persistent effort to respond to the most important and inescapable questions concerning human life:

  • What is the meaning of life: why is there suffering and evil?
  • How should we organise society? Are we all equal?
  • What is a person? Do human beings differ essentially from animals?
  • What is the nature and extent of human knowledge? Is the mind like a computer?
  • How should we live? Why be moral?

Philosophy reaches every area of life: art, science, business studies and economics, politics and law, education and religion.

Why do Philosophy?
Philosophy develops the skills of critical thinking and logical analysis that enable you to clarify the basic ideas and concepts in different fields of knowledge. At the same time it helps you to relate and integrate new points of view. It develops your ability to see problems and situations from many sides. It helps us relate different fields of study and to appreciate and enter into the perspectives of different people and different cultures.

Who Needs Philosophy?
Everyone needs philosophy to some degree. You cannot avoid it, so the only choices are careless, second-hand philosophy or reflective first-hand thinking.

Philosophy at St Augustine
The postgraduate degrees in philosophy (BA (Hons), MPhil and DPhil), are designed to produce reflective members and leaders of society who are able to think clearly and critically about intellectual and ethical and cultural issues in a complex multicultural and globalized world at an advanced level. Particularly at Honours and Masters levels, they are destined for persons from a broad range of fields (including but not limited to educators, professionals, leaders in civil society, pastoral leaders, administrators) who wish to extend and deepen their professional abilities. Consistent with the aims of our institution, graduates from all our philosophy programmes are better able to reflect and consider how to make reasoned decisions in light of what promotes human dignity and the common good in a variety of sectors and fields.

Applied Ethics

There is increasing interest in and growth in the field of Applied Ethics. At St Augustine Private Tertiary Institution of South Africa, the MPhil in Applied Ethics is perhaps one of the most unusual programmes offered in that it is a truly interdisciplinary degree where the student is exposed to a mixture of philosophy, ethics, politics, theology, business ethics as well as other disciplines that relate to what is in effect a critical reflection on reality. But it is more than a critical reflection It is an ethical reflection, which takes a further step by not simply analysing the world in various ways, but by asking further questions 

  • Is this situation just?
  • In a world where many seem to think current realities just ‘are’ and that ‘there is no alternative’ we pose the question: what alternative might there be?
  • Finally, we recognise that there are many different ways of judging a situation –religious ways and secular ways (often combined in fact); for though we are unwilling to accept that ‘there is no alternative’, we certainly recognize that often there are no easy answers.

Those who might be interested in this degree would include:

  • Theology and philosophy students (particularly those interested in moral problems) are an obvious group. They will find themselves challenged by real issues and by our cross-disciplinary approach
  • Business people will find our emphasis on Business Ethics challenging and exciting; it will help them address the practical issues they encounter in daily life
  • Social scientists (sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists, etc) who believe that observing reality is not enough – that challenging and perhaps changing reality is as important – will be drawn to this programme.
  • Graduates in other disciplines concerned about the world we live in will find it stimulating.
  • Politicians and other change agents in society should apply – as nation-builders they will find the programme helpful in developing and implementing a vision for moral revival and change

The degree may be done by dissertation or by course work.
Course Structure: Two specialisations are offered, one in Business Ethics and one in Social and Political Ethics. Both specialisations include core modules and elective modules as well as an 18 000 word research paper. The specialisation in Business Ethics would include six core modules, one elective and a research report as follows: 

Core modules:

Dignity of the human person
Considers the philosophical and theological understanding of what it is to be human and why human beings deserve their rights to be respected

Foundations of ethics
Asks the question: what is ethics and why is it important? It also examines methods of making moral decisions and dealing with moral dilemmas 

Business ethics A: The market  economy & Christian ethics
Examines origins of & approaches to Business Ethics, including Catholic Social Thought; the relationship between economics & ethics; approaches to ordering the economy including Classical Economic Liberalism, Marxism, the Social Market Economy & Catholic Social Thought; globalisation & both national & global macroeconomic ethical issues.

Business Ethics B: The  moral purpose of    business in the new millennium
Focuses on the nature, role & moral purpose of the corporation in a national & global context, theoretical approaches to the corporation, Catholic Social Thought & the corporation, & ethical business practice & ethical principles in business

Business Ethics C: Ethical business leadership
Focuses on ethical business leadership, examining approaches to leadership, the relationship between ethics & leadership, issues of work with a focus on Catholic Social Thought, moral decision making & conflict resolution, ethical leadership in the service of the common good & leadership in the South African  business context

Business Ethics D: Ethical dilemmas in business
Considers specific ethical issues & dilemmas facing business in the global & South African context at the systemic, organizational & individual levels

For the Social and Political Ethics specialisation, 5 core modules, 2 electives and a research paper are necessary. In addition to Dignity of the Human Person and Foundations of Ethics (see above), students must take the following three core modules:

Social and Political Ethics A: Ethics of democracy
Examines the notion of democracy, its theory and PRACTICE. The module may focus on a variety of approaches to democracy, depending on the lecturer: theories of democracy; the tension between liberty and equality (the ‘Rawls-Nozick’ debate); democracy and human rights

Social and Political Ethics B: Power and corruption
Takes a multidisciplinary look at the notion of (political) power and the dynamics of political corruption, examining means to manage power and challenge and defeat corruption

Social and Political Ethics C: Reconciliation and nation-building
considers reconciliation as a theme crucial to church and world, though  misunderstood; it draws on local and international case studies to develop a political praxis and/or spirituality of reconciliation, a sociology of truth-telling and an “ethic for enemies”

Doctoral Studies
It is also possible to do doctoral research in Applied Ethics. Students suitably qualified may register for a D Phil in either Philosophy or Theology with their research focus in Applied Ethics, or in Social and Political Ethics, depending on whether their research examines philosophical or theological aspects of the area they have chosen

Head of Philosophy & Applied Ethics, Proctor (Senior Lecturer)

BA (Hons), Th.B (Hons), MA (North West University), D. Litt. et Phil (Unisa)

Our newly appointed Head of Philosophy brings a fresh approach to the

Professor of Applied Ethics (sessional)

One of our first and most 'faithful' visiting lecturers, Prof Jan Jans is an

Lecturer in African Philosophy (sessional)

Dr Matolino works as a Senior Lecturer at University of KwaZulu Natal. At St

Lecturer in Philosophy (sessional)

Former Head of Philosophy Department and Vice-Presidet of St Augustine