• Offered by School of Philosophy
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Philosophy
  • Areas of interest Philosophy
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person

“Individuals, Societies & Cultures”

The course centres on two themes. The first concerns the relationship between individual agents and the cultures to which they belong. Does the actions of agents make cultures and societies what they are, or, instead are agents constructed by the societies in which they live? The second theme is methodological. How do we explain the actions of humans and groups of humans? Are the human sciences like anthropology or history distinct in critical ways from the natural sciences? To a considerable extent we shall consider these issues through an evolutionary lens. For we shall ask whether the richly co-operative life of humans could evolve through, and be maintained by, individual agents pursuing their own interests. The course begins by setting up the central problems of the course through a contrast between human and chimp social life. The tools of the individualist approach are then introduced, and their adequacy tested in the light of human co-operation and human culture.


The course will be open to second and third year students in philosophy or students with a strong background in the social sciences, with the permission of the lecturer.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand the problem of explaining the uniquely co-operative nature of human and cultural life, and other striking features of human social evolution;
  2. Understand the basic structure of ideas of methodological individualism and the critical responses to it; and
  3. Evaluate some of the methodological debates that surround explanation in the social sciences. 

Indicative Assessment

2 X 2000 word essays, each 50% [addresses Learning Outcomes 1, 2 and 3]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


2 x 2-hour lecture-seminars per week (no tutorials). 

Students will be expected to spend an average of 6 hours per week outside these contact hours to prepare for tutorials and to research and write the research essay.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed 24 Units of Philosophy (PHIL) Courses, or by permission of course convenor.




Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2015 $2604
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2015 $3576
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

There are no current offerings for this course.

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions