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.