Only mathematics has been studied longer than Philosophy. Both were principal subjects studied in Ancient Greece within the first schools which tried to do something like what Universities do today in developing and passing on learning. Philosophy and mathematics both deal with arguments. But philosophers are concerned with arguments because they seek well reasoned answers to the most difficult questions to answer definitively. These are large questions that people often ask, such as: What is knowledge? What is consciousness? What is freedom? Do we have a soul? Is there a God? What is rational? What is good? What is just? Since these questions are large and difficult, students cannot expect definitive answers from a few semesters' study. But from an investigation of what philosophers have thought about these questions they will learn how to understand answers that philosophers have given to them, and will learn how to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their arguments. They will also be in a better position to arrive at their own more reflective and critical views on these questions. The skills students develop in the course of their study of Philosophy will prove invaluable in studying other subjects and in meeting requirements for promotion in subsequent employment.
The centrality of Philosophy to a University education was recognized when Flinders University was formed and the first Professor of Philosophy, Brian Medlin, was one of the founding professors of the University. The Philosophy Department continues to provide an introduction to the study of all the fundamental questions listed above, grouped into two broad streams. The first stream has topics dealing with questions about the nature, and our knowledge of, the world and our place in it. The second stream deals with questions about how we ought to live.
At present, the Philosophy Department has four full time members of staff, four visiting or adjunct scholars, several hundred undergraduate students and 10-15 post graduate and honours students.