Philosophy Units 3 and 4


Philosophy is the investigation of some of the deepest questions that confront human beings. For example, in Units 3 and 4 we consider questions such as:

  • Do we have souls, or immaterial minds?
  • Can the mind be identified with the brain?
  • When is somebody no longer the same person that they once were?
  • What does the very best life for a human being look like?
  • How do contemporary issues relating to technology relate to living a good life?

Who is it for?

Philosophy is ideal for those who ask “why?” a lot – those who wonder about life, about right and wrong, about freedom, truth, beauty and a thousand other things. It is for those who want to confront difficult questions and develop the skills required to make rational judgments about them.

What do you do?

In Philosophy Units 3 and 4 we really get down and dirty with some of the great philosophical thinkers of the past. The course will guide you through close readings of excerpts from works by Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Armstrong, Locke, Hume, Nagasena, Nietzsche and Singer. As we explore these fascinating texts we shall be keen to discover the positions these thinkers give on topics of philosophical interest and the arguments they offer for thinking theirs is the right view to take on the matter. But the most exciting part of Philosophy is developing the skills to actually test these arguments out and judge for yourself whether they are any good.

What skills do you need?

Philosophy Unit 1 or 2 is recommended, but not compulsory. However, Philosophy students should enjoy reading and rereading texts. They should enjoy developing and improving their own views with others. They must understand that in Philosophy it is never sufficient just to give an opinion, you need to give reasons for why anyone else should agree with you.

Students must be open minded and able to weigh up different reasons in order to come to a justified conclusion. They should have the courage to tackle difficult ideas. And they must have the personal integrity to be willing to give up a treasured belief if they are given convincing evidence that it is false.

What skills do you develop?

Apart from being a lot of fun, Philosophy offers you the opportunity to achieve a number of very important things.

For a start you can sort out your own beliefs on various significant topics – and having coherent, non-contradictory beliefs is part of becoming your “own person” and being a complete, independent member of society. In adult life you will be required to make on-the-spot decisions on critical issues; you will need to be pretty sure of what you believe and why you believe it if you are to act responsibly in such situations.

Also Philosophy as an academic discipline requires and fosters the development of some very specific (and very useful) skills in the recognition, analysis, evaluation and creative production of arguments. These critical thinking skills are essential if you are to really succeed not only in Philosophy but also in almost all your other subjects.

In particular, study in Philosophy will guide your development and understanding of the structural principles and the writing skills required to write a really convincing piece of argumentative prose. That is a really important ability to learn.




Students will require regular access to the internet. Students share their reasoning in a forum that is accessible to all other class members and teachers.

The first Unit 3 set text, Plato’s The Phaedo, will need to be purchased at the start of the year. You must buy the VCAA-prescribed edition:

Penguin Classics edition The Last Days of Socrates (translation by Christopher Rowe) published in 2010.

Unit 4 set text required to be purchased are:

  • Plato 2008, Gorgias, trans. Waterfield, R, Oxford World’s Classics, Oxford University Press (ISBN 978-0-199-54032-7)
  • Aristotle 2009, The Nicomachean Ethics, trans. Ross, D, ed. Brow, L, Oxford World’s Classics, Oxford University Press (ISBN 978-0-199-21361-0)

Things to think about

If you don’t like the idea of challenging some of the most influential, dense and difficult arguments made throughout history, you should find another subject. Likewise, if you don’t like reading, writing, or negotiating ambiguity, then this isn’t the subject for you. Students should be prepared for Philosophy to forever change the way that they see life. You will not come out of this subject the same. You have been warned.

Things you can do now

There is a basic logic component to this course. Students can hone their logic skills in preparation for the intellectual rigors to come by working through the Critical Thinking Web’s Identifying Arguments module.

You can make a start on some of the logic activities in our first couple of weeks of work, if you email one of the subject teachers and ask for them.

The first text for Unit 3 is Plato’s Phaedo.

A great idea would be to acquire this text early and read it over the holidays so that you can really hit the ground running in Term 1.

Go to the VCAA website for more information about this subject.





Things to have a look at

VCE Philosophy

Is VCE Philosophy right for you? Some general questions set to basic animation.

Units 3 and 4 Overview


An almost-5min overview of Units 3 and 4 Philosophy by a DECV Philosophy teacher, getting into all of the gritty details about what this sequence entails.

DECV Philosophy Students

Some former DECV Philosophy students discussing Unit 3 Outcome 1 topcis: Mind Body and Soul