Choices in Philosophy 2009-2010 - Introduction

Why do philosophy?

  • Philosophy is fun, and challenging.
  • It helps you reflect on the deeper issues in life.
  • It helps you improve your critical thinking skills.
  • Philosophy provides a solid background for those who intend to go on for further studies in philosophy and many other areas.
  • Studying philosophy is good for your career prospects :
    • You acquire skills valued by most employers, like the ability to analyse and solve problems, to communicate, to organize ideas and issues, to assess pros and cons. These skills are important not just in philosophy but also in the modern job market.
    • Many employers prefer students with broad intellectual experience and skills. This is particularly true of students who study philosophy in combination with other subjects. You can take a social science subject (e.g. politics or psychology) as one of your double majors.
    • The study of philosophy is useful for at least the following careers: business, management, public administration, journalism, law, communication, public relations, teaching and publishing.

Types of courses

Our courses are divided into three levels and four groups. The three levels correspond to the three years of study for an undergraduate degree. But it is open to students outside the Arts Faculty to take, for instance, a first level philosophy course in any year of study (provided that the regulations of their own degree programme permit it). The four groups are rough indications of courses related to each other in subject-matter, though not necessarily in approach. The four general first-level courses correspond to the four groupings of higher-level courses.

Students wishing to take the second/third level courses should normally have taken at least one first-level course, except where otherwise indicated, or with prior approval. Apart from PHIL3810 SENIOR SEMINAR and PHIL3910 SENIOR THESIS, they are all second or third level courses. Some of these courses are also available to students of other faculties as "broadening courses".

Most of these courses consist of 24 teaching hours in one semester.

Of all the second and third level courses listed, twelve to sixteen will normally be given each year. This means that not every course will be available in any two-year period. Therefore, student preferences will play a part in determining which courses are given. Some courses, however, are likely to be given every year (because of our commitments to curricula outside the B.A., and for other reasons), and some we prefer to give at least once every two years to make sure that every student has an opportunity to take them.

Majoring in philosophy

Students who major in philosophy must take at least eight courses in philosophy (i.e. eight second or third level 6 unit courses), and are recommended to take at least one course from each of the following categories:

  • Group I : Knowledge and Reality
  • Group II : Mind and Language
  • Group III : Moral and Political Philosophy
  • Group IV : History of Philosophy

Third year majors are recommended to take the SENIOR SEMINAR (PHIL3810) in their final year, especially if they are considering further study in philosophy, provided that their second year grades reach a good level.

You may also double major, by combining Philosophy equally with any other discipline in the Faculty of Arts or the Faculty of Social Sciences. This is a favoured and good pattern of work.

You may also major in a cross-disciplinary programme in LINGUISTICS AND PHILOSOPHY.

Minoring in philosophy

Students who take a minor in Philosophy must complete 24 credits of second and third-year courses.

Choices in Philosophy - Courses

List of courses 2009-2010

First Level

  • PHIL1001 Knowledge of the world: an introduction to philosophy (semester 1)
  • PHIL1002 The human mind: an introduction to philosophy (semester 2)
  • PHIL1003 Ethics and society: an introduction to philosophy (semester 1)
  • PHIL1004 Chinese and Western thought: an introduction to philosophy (semester 2)

All Levels

(students to consult regulations of their own faculty)

  • PHIL1005 Critical thinking and logic (semester 2)
  • PHIL1006 Elementary Logic (3 credits) (semester 2)
  • PHIL1008 Elementary Logic II (3 credits) (semester 2)

Second/Third Levels

Courses listed under Group I to Group IV below are also offered to second and third year non-BA students for inter-Faculty broadening purposes. Unless otherwise indicated, all second- and third-level courses require a 6-credit first-year course and are assessed by 100% coursework, which may include in-class tests. Each second/third-level course carries 6 credits, except for PHIL3910 SENIOR THESIS which earns 12 credits.

Group I : Knowledge and Reality

  • PHIL2110 Knowledge (semester 2)

Group II : Mind and Language

  • PHIL2075 The semantics/pragmatics distinction (semester 1)
  • PHIL2230 Philosophy and cognitive science (semester 1)
  • PHIL2410 Mind & Language in Chinese thought (semester 1)

Group III : Moral and Political Philosophy

  • PHIL2310 Theories of morality (semester 1)
  • PHIL2340 Moral problems (semester 2)
  • PHIL2360 Political philosophy (semester 1)
  • PHIL2369 Philosophy of nature (semester 2)
  • PHIL2375 Philosophy of art (semester 1)
  • PHIL2480 Confucianism and the modern world (semester 1)

Group IV : History of Philosophy

  • PHIL2010 Plato (semester 1)
  • PHIL2011 Aristotle (semester 2)
  • PHIL2030 Kant's critical philosophy (semester 2)
  • PHIL2077 Habermas (semester 2)
  • PHIL2450 Zhuangzi (semester 2)

Broadening courses

  • YEDU0001 Ethical dilemmas in the modern world (summer semester) (3 credit units)
  • YPHI0007 Morality, Metaphysics and the Meaning of Life: Philosophy through Film (semester 1) (3 credit units)

Other courses

  • PHIL3810/PHIL6810 Senior seminar (semester 2)
  • PHIL3910 Senior thesis (double course, 12 credit units)
    (only students majoring in philosophy may offer a thesis)
  • PHIL6820 Graduate seminar (semester 1)

First level courses

There are four general introductory courses in philosophy with different themes, each earning six credits :

  • PHIL1001 Knowledge of the world: an introduction to philosophy
  • PHIL1002 The human mind: an introduction to philosophy
  • PHIL1003 Ethics and society: an introduction to philosophy
  • PHIL1004 Chinese and Western thought: an introduction to philosophy

All these courses are available to Arts, Science, and Social Sciences students, and students of any other Faculties whose regulations allow them to enroll. There are no prerequisites. Method of assessment for all four courses will be 100% coursework, which may include in-class tests.

All first year students are encouraged to learn some logic, for example by taking the three-unit ELEMENTARY LOGIC course.

PHIL1001 Knowledge of the world: an introduction to philosophy (first semester)

Lecturer : Dr Michael Martin

Human beings have always attempted to understand and control the world they live in by asking questions, and seeking effective answers, about that world. These attempts have taken many forms, but philosophy has always been a central part of this process of explanation and the progress of knowledge. The questions of what we can know, how we can know, and how we can use what we know, are prime examples of philosophical questions that have come down to us in a long history of inquiry - philosophy is a part of the natural and practical curiosity of mankind.

PHIL1002 The human mind: an introduction to philosophy (second semester)

Lecturer : Dr Max Deutsch

This course is an introduction to philosophical issues about the mind. These include metaphysical questions about what minds are, whether the mind is something non-physical or whether it is some kind of a computer. Then there are the epistemological questions about the limitation of human knowledge, such as whether we can really know what other people's experiences are like, or whether there is a God.

PHIL1003 Ethics and society: an introduction to philosophy (first semester)

Lecturer : Dr Alexandra Cook

One of the founders of Western philosophy, Socrates, claimed that the most important philosophical question is "How is one to live?" How are we to live in our relations with others as individuals? And how are we to live together as communities and societies? This course will introduce some of the ways that key philosophers in the Western tradition have answered these questions. Reading texts by Plato and Aristotle in ancient Greece, and modern and contemporary writings by Locke, Kant, Mill, Rawls and contemporary theorists of democracy, we will explore questions about the way we relate to other people.

PHIL1004 Chinese and Western thought: an introduction to philosophy (second semester)

Lecturer : Dr Chris Fraser

The course compares central themes in the philosophical dialogues of the Chinese and Western traditions. Topics may include Confucian intuition, Daoist paradox, Greek rationalism, British Empiricism, Existentialism, Pragmatism, Maoism, Zen Buddhism, and positivism.

Introductory Logic courses

These courses are available to first year Arts Faculty students, and to first, second and third year students from all other faculties.

PHIL1005 Critical thinking and logic (second semester)

Lecturer : Dr Joe Lau (provisional)
2009 Nov update - Dr Lau will be on sabbatical in 2010 and this course will be taught by Dr Kelly Inglis.

Critical thinking is a matter of thinking clearly and rationally. It is important for solving problems, effective planning, and expressing ideas clearly and systematically. We shall study the basic principles of critical thinking, and see show how they can be applied in everyday life.

Note: Not available to students who have taken YEDU0001 CRITICAL THINKING FOR EVERYDAY LIFE. Assessment: 60% coursework, 40% final exam

PHIL1006 Elementary Logic (second semester)

Course co-ordinator : Dr Patrick Hawley

This is a web-based self-study course on elementary formal logic. Formal logic uses special symbolic notations to study reasoning and arguments systematically. In this course we shall look at some basic concepts in logic, and learn how to use special logical symbols to construct and evaluate arguments. There are no lectures in this course, and all teaching material is available online for self-study. There are, however, optional tutorials for students to ask questions. Registered students should visit the philosophy department web site at the beginning of the semester to find out how they can obtain access to the learning material. Credit units: 3 Assessment: 60% coursework, 40% final exam Not available to students who have taken PHIL2510 Logic.

PHIL1008 Elementary logic II (second semester)

Lecturer : Dr Patrick Hawley

This web-based self-study course about formal logic is a sequel to PHIL1006 Elementary logic. Topics will include first order predicate logic, deduction systems for propositional and first order predicate logic, elementary soundness and completeness results. Other topics may include applications to computer science, linguistics, and other areas. Credit units: 3 Assessment: 60% coursework, 40% final exam Prerequisite: PHIL1006 or permission of the instructor. Not available to students who have taken PHIL2510 Logic.

Second and third level courses for 2009/2010

First semester

PHIL2010 Plato (semester 1)

Lecturer : Dr O'Leary

This course offers a general introduction to the central concerns of Plato’s philosophy. It focuses on Plato’s early and middle dialogues in which the enigmatic character of Socrates is central. It addresses Plato’s teachings on the role of philosophy in the life of the individual, the relation between knowledge and virtue, and his contribution to questions about the nature of love and desire. There is no prerequisite for this course.

PHIL2075 The semantics/pragmatics distinction (semester 1)

Lecturer : Dr Deutsch

One of the central issues in contemporary philosophy of language and linguistics concerns whether and where one should draw the line between semantic meaning and pragmatic meaning, or the meanings had by the words and sentences a speaker uses, and what a speaker means in using those words and sentences. One reason the issue is central is that there are debates over the semantic meanings of certain expressions, e.g. names and definite descriptions. Without a general account of the difference between semantic and pragmatic meaning, these debates cannot be settled. Another reason the issue is central is that there are some who, in a roughly Wittgensteinian manner, deny that there is any real sense to be made of the notion of semantic, or literal, meaning. According to them, there is, therefore, no line between pragmatic and semantic meaning at all. In this course we will try to determine whether the distinction can be drawn, and, if so, where.

PHIL2230 Philosophy and cognitive science (semester 1)

Lecturer : Dr Lau (provisional)

We shall look at some of the philosophical issues involved in studying minds and behaviour scientifically. We might discuss questions such as: Can we explain all mental phenomena in computational terms? What is consciousness? What is the role of language in thinking? How useful are neural networks in understanding the mind?

PHIL2310 Theories of morality (semester 1)

Lecturer : Dr Martin

This course covers some of the main highlights of 20th century moral philosophy, with passing attention to some of the earlier, historical background as needed. Questions covered include: Is morality relative or absolute? Can a moral practice be right in one culture but wrong in another? Is morality basically a form of personal or social opinion, or is there any way it can be made objective or even scientific? If morality is not science, is there any rational way of resolving moral disputes? Perspectives considered include religious and nature-based theories, performative theories, rational intuitionism, utilitarianism and modern theories of justice.

PHIL2360 Political philosophy (semester 1)

PHIL2375 Philosophy of art (semester 1)

PHIL2410 Mind & Language in Chinese thought (semester 1)

Lecturer : Dr Fraser

Issues pertaining to the philosophy of mind and language played a crucial role in the philosophical dialectic of classical China. This course will guide students in reconstructing this role and exploring its philosophical significance by interpreting and critically evaluating selected early Chinese philosophical texts that treat mind, language, and interrelated aspects of psychology.

Topics to be discussed include the nature and functions of the heart-mind (xīn), its relation to other organs, the nature of perception and knowledge, semantic theories, the role of language in knowledge and action, and the ontological grounds of linguistic distinctions. Texts may include the Analects, Mozi, Mencius, Daodejing, Xunzi, Zhuangzi, and Lushi Chunqiu. Class time will be divided approximately equally between lecture and discussion. Students will be asked to read primary source texts and participate actively in discussions. They will be encouraged to read the original sources in Chinese, but translations will be made available for those without reading knowledge of classical Chinese.

PHIL2480 Confucianism and the modern world (semester 1)

Second semester

PHIL2011 Aristotle (semester 2)

Lecturer : Dr Cook

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BCE) researched virtually every aspect of human knowledge, producing works that influence philosophy and many other fields down to the present. This course looks at his political and social philosophy; we will read his Parts of Animals, Politics and Constitution of Athens, examining his concepts of nature, human nature, slavery, property, citizenship, democracy, education and the ideal city.

PHIL2030 Kant's critical philosophy (semester 2)

Lecturer : Gray Kochhar-Lindgren (Fulbright General Education Fellow)

This course will serve as an introduction to the work of Immanuel Kant, focusing on familiarizing ourselves with the contours of his thought concerning objective knowledge; the limits of reason; the Ideas of God, freedom, and the self; the imperatives of morality; the experience of beauty and the sublime; the question of the purposes of nature; and the meaning of "Enlightenment." We will also briefly contextualize his importance for 19th and 20th century philosophy. Kant is an extremely difficult writer; we will enjoy reading him together.

PHIL2077 Habermas (semester 2)

Lecturer : Professor Jiwei Ci

The important German philosopher Habermas, combining strengths of the Continental and Anglo-American philosophical traditions, has developed a highly influential theory on a wide range of moral, political and historical issues. This course is designed to provide a general introduction to Habermas's interdisciplinary, comprehensive, and politically engaged way of doing philosophy. Topics covered include discourse ethics, the public sphere, social action and rationality, technology and science as ideology, the nature of modernity, and legitimation problems in late capitalism.

PHIL2340 Moral problems (semester 2)

Many practical problems give rise to moral controversies. Among the questions to be considered in this course are 'Should one person treat all others equally?'; 'Is abortion a type of killing, and is it acceptable?', 'Should certain types of pornography be banned?’; 'Can capital punishment be justified?'; 'Is it right to take affirmative action in favour of groups who have been discriminated against in the past?'; 'Should old people be helped to die, if that is what they wish?'. These are all 'large-scale' questions, but we shall also be discussing less grand, but no less important moral dilemmas that we each confront from time to time.

PHIL2369 Philosophy of nature (semester 2)

Lecturer : Dr Cook

In this course we will develop an understanding of historically and philosophically significant approaches to the environment such as anthropocentrism (mainstream environmentalism) and biocentrism (deep ecology). We will read authors both from the history of philosophy (Bacon, Descartes and Locke) as well as modern philosophers. We will look at the implications of these philosophies in recent environmental controversies in Hong Kong. There is no prerequisite for this course.

PHIL2450 Zhuangzi (semester 2)

Lecturer : Dr Fraser

This course will guide students in interpreting and discussing the philosophy of the Daoist anthology Zhuangzi. Besides reconstructing the place of the Zhuangzi in classical Chinese thought, we will examine the relationship between the philosophy of the Zhuangzi and contemporary epistemology, ethics, and political philosophy. Classes will include lectures on the background to Zhuangist thought, joint discussion of competing interpretations of key textual passages, and student discussion of exercises assigned by the instructor. Readings will include selections from the Zhuangzi and a series of secondary source materials. Discussion will focus on the original Chinese text, but materials in translation will be made available for students who do not read Chinese.

Broadening courses

YPHI???? Ethical dilemmas in the modern world (summer semester) (3 credit units)

Lecturer: Dr Inglis

YPHI0007 Morality, Metaphysics and the Meaning of Life: Philosophy through Film (semester 1) (3 credit units)

Lecturer: Dr Inglis

Other courses

PHIL3810 Senior seminar (second semester)

Lecturers : Dr Hawley (co-ordinator), Dr Ci, Dr Martin, Dr Deutsch, Dr Cook

This course will focus each year on a different key philosophical text. Presentations will be made by students and discussed according to a schedule worked out in advance between students and the course co-ordinator. Selected third-year students will be included. Assessment: 100% coursework.

This is a third-year course, and is normally offered every year. Permission to attend it will be given to those students with good second year grades.

PHIL3910 Senior thesis (12 credits)

A thesis may be prepared under supervision for submission not later than March 31 of the final year. Students have to decide a topic on which they would like to write, then select a teacher in the relevant field and discuss the project with him/her, before the end of their second year. If the teacher deems the project viable, then a thesis title must be agreed by the closing date of June 15. The student will then have to work on the thesis over the summer, and be able to demonstrate progress made. If the progress is adequate, work on the thesis may continue; if not, the student will have to take two courses instead.

There are no word limits prescribed, but theses tend to be between 15,000 and 25,000 words in length. Assessment will be based entirely on the completed thesis. This course is only available to students majoring in Philosophy.

Choices in Philosophy 2009-2010 - Other information

Special joint major programme - Bachelor of Arts Major in Linguistics and Philosophy

This programme is jointly organised by the Department of Linguistics and the Department of Philosophy. If you need any further information you may contact either of the following members of staff who will be happy to answer your queries:

  • Dr. Chris Fraser, Department of Philosophy

Why Linguistics and Philosophy?

Philosophers have long been interested in languages for various reasons. First, our linguistic capacity is one of our most distinguishing features. It allows us to express and record complex ideas, and to communicate with each other. Understanding this capacity is one way to find out more about human nature and our psychology.

Second, many philosophers think that language has a deep connection with many philosophical problems. Some philosophers think that we should study languages because they reflect the structure of reality. Others think that our ordinary languages are actually not precise enough and that artificial languages should be constructed for philosophical and scientific purposes. Still others think that philosophical problems are not real problems, and that they arise because we misunderstand the nature of our own languages.

Finally, many philosophers are interested in language simply because it is in itself a fascinating topic. This is especially more so with the recent growth of linguistics. Linguistics is the scientific study of our language capacity. The development of linguistics is exciting because it offers new perspectives and methods in looking at many philosophical questions about language, questions such as: How are the rules of language different from other social norms? To what extent is our language capacity innate? Is it possible to build machines that understand languages as well as we do? These and similar issues involve not just empirical studies but also conceptual clarification. This is why philosophers and linguists collaborate and debate with each other actively on such matters, and this makes the field even more interesting.

What can I do with a Major in Linguistics and Philosophy?

Studying philosophy improves critical thinking and analysis, since you will have to think systematically about both sides of an issue, and evaluate arguments and reasoning carefully. In studying linguistics, students will learn more about the role of language in our psychology and society, and acquire concepts that help them gain a deeper understanding of the grammar, history and sound system of natural languages. By majoring in these two areas, students not just gain the benefits of studying both disciplines. It also helps develop the ability to integrate theories and information from two different subjects. The intellectual and linguistic skills you acquire as a result will be very important for a wide variety of occupations, both in the private commercial sector and in the public sector.

Who can enrol in this Programme?

This programme is open to all Arts students who have passed the following first-year courses:

  1. LING1001 Introduction to Linguistics
  2. Any introductory philosophy course from PHIL1001 to PHIL1004.

Course Structure

In order to major in Linguistics and Philosophy, a student must study in the second and third year no less than eight courses in the two departments, including:


  • LING2003 Semantics : meaning and grammar
  • LING2027 Phonology: An introduction to the study of sound systems
  • LING2032 Syntactic theory
  • LING2050 Grammatical description


  • PHIL2610 Philosophy of language
      and any three of:
  • PHIL2060 Wittgenstein
  • PHIL2075 The semantics/pragmatics distinction
  • PHIL2110 Knowledge
  • PHIL2120 Topics in analytic philosophy
  • PHIL2220 The mind
  • PHIL2230 Philosophy and cognitive science
  • PHIL2250 Logic, computation, and neural networks
  • PHIL2310 Theories of morality
  • PHIL2350 Philosophy of law
  • PHIL2380 Philosophy and literature
  • PHIL2420 Chinese philosophy: metaphysics
  • PHIL2460 Philosophical Chinese
  • PHIL2510 Logic
  • PHIL2511 Paradoxes
  • PHIL2520 Philosophy of logic

The remaining eight courses in a student's second/third year programme may be selected from those offered by any department, as permitted by the regulations.

It should be noted that not all courses are offered in both departments every year. Choices are subject to approval by the Head of the School of Humanities on the recommendation of the Undergraduate Coordinators of the departments.


Plagiarism, especially from the internet, is an increasing problem in this department and at this University; it is a serious offence against both the rules and the spirit of the University. Plagiarism is defined as the use of other people's ideas without correct and full acknowledgement. Your coursework should be your own; you will learn nothing by copying, either from peers or from websites. Furthermore, copying others' work is unfair to your fellow students. We certainly encourage discussion of ideas among students, but any ideas not your own that you introduce into your written work must be properly referenced. Please see this web page for further details:

Postgraduate study

The department offers two higher degrees by research, the MPhil and the PhD, and can arrange for supervision over a wide range of philosophical topics. If you are interested in pursuing postgraduate studies, please contact Dr TE O’Leary.

Staff-student consultative committee (SSCC)

This committee meets regularly to discuss any matters of concern, and to consider ways of improving the work of the department. All students are welcome to make suggestions, and to attend the meetings.

Teachers in the department

The main areas of research of the current department members are:

  • J. Ci - agency and subjectivity, theories of justice, philosophical and cultural dimensions of capitalism, ethics and politics of modern and contemporary China
  • G.A. Cook - early modern European philosophy (17th -18th centuries), philosophy of nature and science, environmental philosophy, social and political philosophy
  • M.E. Deutsch - philosophy of language, philosophy of mind
  • C. Fraser - Chinese philosophy, epistemology, philosophy of action, and ethics
  • P. Hawley - epistemology, philosophy of language, theory of action
  • J.Y.F. Lau - philosophy of mind and cognitive science, philosophy of language
  • M.R. Martin - epistemology and philosophy of language, history of early modern philosophy, classical Confucianism, comparative philosophy, moral and social philosophy (including the ethics of collecting and preserving cultural property)
  • T.E. O'Leary - contemporary European philosophy (especially Michel Foucault), ethics, political philosophy, philosophy of art and literature

Jiwei Ci, Ph.D. (Edin)

Jiwei Ci was born in Beijing and studied in Beijing and Edinburgh. Before coming to Hong Kong, he had taught in Beijing and had been an Andrew Mellon Fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center, a Fellow at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina, and a Member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He teaches various subjects in moral and political philosophy, from time to time also offering courses on continental philosophy and on Confucianism. His research interests include agency and subjectivity, theories of justice, the philosophical and cultural dimensions of capitalism, and the ethics and politics of communist and post-communist China. He is the author of Dialectic of the Chinese Revolution: From Utopianism to Hedonism (Stanford University Press, 1994) and The Two Faces of Justice (Harvard University Press, 2006).

Alexandra Cook, B.A. (Wellesley); M.A. (Virginia); Ph.D. (Cornell)

Alexandra Cook was born in Washington, DC. She studied at Wellesley College, the University of Virginia and Cornell University. She received the PhD in political philosophy from Cornell in 1994, where she specialized in Continental thinkers. She has taught in the College at The University of Chicago, at Colgate University (Hamilton, NY), and at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Her major interests are early modern philosophy and the European Enlightenment, environmental philosophy and history and philosophy of science. Her research on the botanical writings of the eighteenth-century philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau brings all these interests together. She has published a translation and critical edition of Rousseau's botanical writings; currently she is writing a book on Rousseau's theory of nature.

Max Deutsch, B.A. (Calif., Santa Barbara); M.A. (Calif., Berkeley); Ph.D. (Rutgers)

Max Deutsch came to Hong Kong in 2001. He began his graduate studies in philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. After finishing his M.A., he moved to New Jersey to begin a dissertation on the mind-body problem at Rutgers University. He completed his Ph.D. in May 2001.

Max's current research is focused on the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language. Topics in the philosophy of mind that interest him include the mind-body problem, the nature of consciousness, representational theories of phenomenal character, and the internalism/externalism debate. Topics in the philosophy of language that interest him include the semantics of names, the semantics of attitude reports, the semantics/pragmatics distinction, and theories of indexicals and demonstratives. Max reads novels and listens to music in his spare time.

Chris Fraser, B.A. (Yale); M.A. (Natl. Taiwan); Ph.D. (HKU)

A native of Canada, Chris Fraser holds degrees from Yale University, National Taiwan University, and the University of Hong Kong. He specializes in Chinese philosophy, particularly philosophy of mind, epistemology, action theory, and the various ways in which these fields intersect with ethics. He has also taught contemporary Anglo-American philosophy, including epistemology, philosophy of mind, ethics, and political theory. Before coming to HKU in 2009, he taught at the Chinese University of Hong Kong for eight years.

Chad Hansen, B.A. (Utah); Ph.D. (Michigan)

Chad Hansen first came to Hong Kong over thirty years ago where he became fascinated with Chinese language and culture and set out to understand and explain Chinese philosophy. Returning to the United States, he went to University where he majored in philosophy then went to the University of Michigan to study for a Ph.D. He studied Mandarin in Taiwan for a year then returned to Hong Kong after a decade for his dissertation research. He finished his dissertation at the University of Michigan and began teaching philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh in 1972 where he was enlightened two years later.

From there he went to the University of Vermont after the publication of Language and Logic in Ancient China. Later he was selected as University scholar for his second book, A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought. He has also served as visiting professor at The Universities of Michigan, Hawaii, Hong Kong, UCLA and Stanford before returning to HKU in 1991 where he was appointed Professor in 1994.

He is presently translating the Daode-Jing and writing a book on Comparative East-West Ethics and an introduction to Chinese Philosophy. Besides Chinese philosophy, his main interests are in comparative ethics, philosophy of law, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind. He values the dynamism of Hong Kong as well as the language and especially the food.

Patrick Hawley, B.S.E. (Princeton); Ph.D. (MIT)

Patrick Hawley earned his PhD from MIT in 2003. He arrived at Hong Kong University in 2005, after teaching at MIT, Tufts University and Brandeis University.

Patrick is currently pursuing projects in epistemology and philosophy of language. In epistemology, he is particularly interested in the limits and value of knowledge, and the relation between our practical ends and our theoretical goals. In philosophy of language he is working on pragmatics and context sensitivity.

He also maintains a lively curiosity about computers – his initial degree was in computer science, and he worked in research laboratories before turning seriously to philosophy. He also taught computer science for a year at the national university of Cambodia.

Gray Kochhar-Lindgren

Professor Kochhar-Lindgren is a Fulbright Scholar in General Education visiting the University of Hong Kong. Please visit his web page here:

Joe Lau, B.A. (Oxon); Ph.D. (MIT)

Intrigued by the mysteries of the universe, Joe Lau went to Oxford to study physics and philosophy. While he was there, he became interested in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science, and so he went to MIT for graduate studies in philosophy. He joined the HKU Philosophy Department in 1994. His main research interest concerns the nature and scope of computational theories of cognition and consciousness. He is currently finishing a few books on critical thinking. When he is not busy, he likes to hike, code, and conduct post-modernist cooking experiments.

Michael Martin, A.B. (Princeton); M.A., Ph.D. (Harvard)

Dr Martin grew up on the relaxed and environmentally pure shores of Honolulu, Hawaii. After receiving his university and postgraduate training on the east coast of the United States, he came to HKU in 1980. His main philosophical interests are moral and social philosophy, and early Chinese philosophy, especially Confucianism. In his teaching Dr Martin's main courses include Chinese Philosophy: Ethics, Moral Problems, Theories of Morality and Early Modern Philosophy. From 1993 to 2002, Dr Martin served as the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, after serving five years as Associate Dean. In his leisure time Dr Martin enjoys art collecting, travel and swimming.

Timothy O'Leary, B.A. (Dublin); M.A. (Paris); PhD (Deakin)

Timothy O’Leary left Ireland in 1989 having completed a BA at University College Dublin, and went to Paris where he did a Maîtrise de Philosophie at the University of Paris X (Nanterre). In 1992 he went to Australia, where he completed a PhD on ethics and aesthetics in Foucault's late work. A book based on this research was published in 2002 (Foucault and the Art of Ethics, Continuum). He taught at several Australian universities before joining the Department of Philosophy at the University of Hong Kong in January 2001. His major research interests are in the fields of ethics (both ancient and modern), politics and literature, with a particular focus on European philosophy since (and including) Nietzsche. In recent years he has published in the area of the philosophy of literature, especially in relation to the works of contemporary Irish writers. His current project is a book that draws together the work of a range of philosophers (including Foucault, Dewey, Deleuze and Aristotle) in order to explore the transformation of experience that literature makes possible.

Department of Philosophy

  • General Office: Room 312, Main Building
  • Office staff: MS Loletta Li

School of Humanities

  • General Office: Room 256, Main Building

Further information

To find out more about the department, please visit the department web site at There you will find study guides and links to other philosophy resources on the web.