Department of Philosophy

Great Hall


Philosophy is an activity which aims at an understanding of ourselves, our relationships with one another, and our place in the world. It is centrally concerned with fundamental questions about such topics, critically investigating what other subjects and other human activities take for granted.

One benefit of studying philosophy is that it introduces students to important and intriguing issues that are not dealt with at high school or in other subjects - issues concerning the foundations of their thinking and living. Another is that it acquaints them with thinkers and ideas that are of significant historical importance.

For most students, however, the main benefit of studying philosophy is that it develops their powers of reasoning by forcing them to exercise those powers on especially difficult problems. After only a single course in Philosophy, diligent students are usually better at coming to grips with an argument, getting to the heart of an issue, exposing a fallacy and wrestling with a problem. Their critical capacities are generally enhanced, as are their powers of ordering their thoughts and presenting them in a clear, coherent, and well-organized form.

The Wits Philosophy Department is an internationally respected philosophical centre with a long tradition of research and teaching excellence. Staff members have doctorates from top international universities and regularly publish their work in accredited academic journals. The department is vibrant, diverse, and socially engaged. It is home to the Wits Centre for Ethics.

School of Social Sciences  

News and Events

Prof Jonathan Wolff (University College London) will give a Hoernle Research Seminar with the title:

““Social Equality and Relative Poverty””

Although many political philosophers in recent have argued for 'pro-poor' positions, the discussion of poverty itself has rarely featured in discussion of distributive justice, especially in domestic contexts. Yet there are interesting connections to be made between theories of social equality and the concept of relative poverty. Relative poverty is often defined along the lines of not having access to a sufficient level of resources to enable one to be included in the normal activities of one's society. If social equality is to be understood as the over-coming or avoidance of particular harmful social relations, including marginalization, alienation and exclusion, then there is a clear affinity between the two concepts. This paper explores how our understanding of barriers to social equality can be enriched by looking at studies of relative poverty.

THURSDAY 21 Aug 2014, Venue: Central Block, Ground Floor, Room CB3C, 16.15. Everyone is welcome to attend.


Contact Details

Phone: 27 11 717 4345
Fax: 27 11 717 4359

Physical Address

Room CB9
Ground Floor Central Block
East Campus

Postal Address

Philosophy Department
Private Bag 3, Wits, 2050
Johannesburg, 2000
South Africa


The department's Hoernle research seminar series begins on the Thursday, 23 of February in CB3c. Professor Lucy Allais will be giving a talk entitled "Kant on Giving to Beggars"