Philosophy & Ethics

An Arts or Social Sciences degree, with a major in Philosophy or a minor in Ethics, will help you develop the skills needed for the jobs of the future. Ethics is one of the four major subdisciplines of Philosophy, and the Philosophy Programme at Waikato has particular strengths in this area.

Study Philosophy

Philosophy looks at big questions about the natural world and our place in it. Philosophy is for thinkers and doers. It's about solving real-life problems, and applying intellectual rigour to how we understand and interact with others, society and the world. Questions include: What is the difference between right and wrong? Why should I be moral? Do we have obligations to future generations? What is truth? What is consciousness? Does God exist? What is art? Are any human actions truly free? Does life have a meaning?

Studying Philosophy will teach you how to think and write clearly and systematically, argue vigorously, and question deeply held assumptions. It teaches you skills that are useful in your other studies and your future career. A Philosophy Major can serve as the core of a strong liberal arts education. Philosophy is a popular second Major (or Minor) in the BA or BSocSc, and it may also be taken as a second Major (or Minor) within other undergraduate degrees (subject to the approval of the School or Division in which you are enrolled).

Philosophy - Truth and Lies

Study Ethics

The study of Ethics provides an excellent grounding in evaluative theory and reasoning for a professional future in the public service, the health sector, with environmental agencies, and in business.

Studying Ethics will give you the tools you need to become an inspirational leader in the community and in your working life, and will enable you to feel confident in your capability to reflect on doing “the right thing” and following through on that reflection.

Ethics at Waikato is an interdisciplinary programme with a philosophical core. It includes the study of fundamental moral concepts and the nature of morality as well as applications of evaluative thinking to diverse subject areas such as politics, law, management, Māori and Pacific Studies, religion, art, the media, and the environment.

Ethics - right or wrong

Career opportunities

With a theoretical core but an applied emphasis, Ethics provides a pathway into any government and private sector employment where sensitivity to ethical issues is a significant requirement.

A great strength of the Ethics programme is that it offers an edge in employability when combined with other professional degrees. Examples include law, counselling, management, teaching, accountancy and computer science.

Employers understand the value of graduates who can think, and decide, for themselves. Studying Philosophy is invaluable for a range of careers because it focuses more on the quality or strength of one’s reasons for believing things than on the content of one’s beliefs. It develops the analytic, holistic, critical, and creative thinking skills needed in tomorrow’s workforce. Philosophy graduates are well-prepared for all the interesting jobs of the future, where problems are ill-defined or continually evolving, and when it is essential to be able to think outside the box, see the big picture and possible flow-on effects, and come up with creative solutions.

Philosophy graduates have the practical and analytical skills needed for careers within the public and private, health, business, environmental, publishing, information technology and education sectors, among others.

  • Business Consultant
  • Data Analyst
  • Editor
  • Environmental Consultant
  • Health Policy Advisor
  • Human Resource Manager
  • IT Analyst
  • Lawyer
  • Policy Analyst
  • Public Relations Practitioner
  • Teacher
  • University Lecturer


Benjamin D. Young

PhD in Philosophy

"Studying philosophy is very rewarding personally and will provide you with a core set of robust analytical skills that are highly beneficial to a wide range of careers."

Tell me a bit about your background, where you grew up, what did you want to be growing up?

I grew up in rural Australia until I was 13. I spent lots of my time roaming around the 'bush' and swimming or fishing in the Murray river. I also loved basketball, classical ballet, skateboarding and music (in that order). I then moved to Hamilton, New Zealand to attend Tihoi Venture School at St Paul's Collegiate. This experience cemented my love of the outdoors. As a teenager I could most often be found at the beach, probably surfing in Raglan or the Coromandel.

I was always drawn to philosophy. While my friends were thinking about rugby I was thinking about metaphysical questions. As a teenager, I didn't have a clue what kind of job I wanted but I always knew that sooner or later I would have to pursue philosophy. This wasn't a choice so much as it was a calling. A philosophical mindset has drawn me towards career paths that involve abstract thinking and problem solving.

I also had a dream to travel the world and live as a nomad before I started 'adulting'.

Can you explain why you chose to study your specific qualification?

The words of Socrates sum this up best, 'The unexamined life is not worth living.' There are many practical paths that one may pursue in life but for me, a meaningful life involves contemplating one's existence and the nature of the reality that we find ourselves in.

At a more pragmatic level, I love thinking about complex problems and using my mind to solve them. Whilst I enjoy tackling practical problems, philosophy presents one with some of the most interesting and toughest problems to think about. Each level of academic study provides even greater problems to contemplate. It is the challenge of the greater problem that has led me to study at PhD level.

What were some of the highlights for you while studying? Have there been achievements or experiences throughout your studies that stood out for you? (E.g. scholarships, awards, student exchanges, travel opportunities?).

I am humbled to have received scholarships from the University of Waikato. On a personal level, I feel a great sense of pride to have been awarded two scholarships. On a general level, I have a deep appreciation that the University of Waikato recognises the importance of supporting research in philosophy and the arts.

The opportunity to work with and learn from hugely talented philosophers such as my PhD Supervisor, Joe Ulatowski, as well as other departmental staff, Dan Weijers, Justine Kingsbury and Stephanie Gibbons has been incredibly enjoyable and rewarding.

Participating in departmental conferences has been very enjoyable and rewarding. I arranged and ran an Australasian conference which gained funding from the Australasian Association of Philosophy. I feel proud to have achieved this.

The biggest highlight of my PhD has been traveling to Seoul, South Korea and also Boulder, Colorado to participate in the International Association for the Philosophy of Time (IAPT) conferences.

What did you / are you really enjoying about your study?

It is an absolute privilege to have the opportunity to think deeply about an issue. There are not many times in life when one can dedicate years to researching a topic with a singular focus. Being able to dedicate my time in this way has been thoroughly enjoyable.

I have loved developing friendships with other PhD students. In particular, I have developed a great friendship with another PhD student, Lorenzo Buscicchi, whose home country is Italy. Lorenzo's research topic was 'philosophical hedonism'. Although our areas of research are quite different, spending hours talking to each other about our research has been very enjoyable and rewarding, not to mention beneficial to my research.

What was the student experience like on campus? (E.g. class sizes, interactions with lecturers, group work, the campus itself?).

The philosophy department provides a caring and inclusive environment. Covid has had a negative impact on 'campus life'. Nevertheless, interactions with University staff and other students are always enjoyable and rewarding. The Waikato campus is a beautiful place to spend time and I will miss it when I finally graduate.

If you’re still studying, when you finish your study what is the plan? How do you want to use what you have learnt for the next stage in your life?

I am enjoying my studies too much at present to spend too much time thinking about what I will do when I finish. That time will come. I plan to use the research, analytical and problem solving skills that I have developed and to apply these in my future areas of work. I will align myself with an organisation that I can genuinely benefit and that can offer me new and interesting challenges. I consider that the future is bright with opportunities and I wish to keep my options wide open.

If you’re still studying, what is the most important/valuable thing you’ve learnt so far?

The more you know, the more you know that you don't know.

Do you feel your degree has put you in good stead professionally? If so, how?

Yes. Further developing my technical skills in research, analysis, problem solving and writing puts me in good stead to add value to many different kinds of organisations in many different kinds of roles. I have subject matter expertise in a number of philosophical areas yet I can apply the technical skills and methods that I have learned in a wide arrange of contexts. I have developed a strong set of highly transferable skills which are essential to the success and competitive advantage of organisations in today's rapidly evolving environments.

What advice would you give to someone from home or another prospective student, wanting to follow the same study path as you?

Do it! Don't worry about how you will use your degree to get a job. Study what interests you and focus on doing the very best that you can do. Studying philosophy is very rewarding personally and will provide you with a core set of robust analytical skills that are highly beneficial to a wide range of careers.

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