• Offered by School of Philosophy
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Philosophy
  • Areas of interest Biological Anthropology, Philosophy

A conception of human nature plays a central role in many debates in philosophy, and in the humanities and social sciences more broadly. This course aims to introduce students to evolutionary theories of human nature. We will discuss such issues as (i) whether evolutionary theory undermines the very idea of a fairly fixed and universal human nature; (ii) how and why humans came to be so very different from their great ape relatives; (iii) whether the explanatory toolkit that suffices to explain animal evolution suffices to explain human evolution as well, or whether (for example) the importance of culture to humans changes the rules of the evolutionary game; (iv) the extent to which we can have reasonably reliable knowledge of the human past. Students will engage in interdisciplinary work, analysing and responding to research not just in philosophy but also in relevant empirical disciplines, including archaeology, prehistory, palaeoanthropology, and behavioural economics. The course with not be considering the creation vs evolution controversy; the basic truth of an evolutionary theory of life will be assumed. 

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. analyse and respond to research not just in philosophy but also relevant empirical disciplines;
  2. understand and analyse the distinctive empirical challenges posed by historical sciences;
  3. understand and critically respond to the main claims about the evolution of human nature;
  4. effectively integrate and organize concepts, information and arguments to defend a position; and
  5. evaluate philosophical and theoretical ideas verbally and to engage in interactive dialogue.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Essay 1 (2000 words) (40) [LO 1,2,3,4]
  2. Essay 2 (3000 words) (50) [LO 1,2,3,4]
  3. Class contribution (10) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]

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130 hours of total student learning time made up from:

a) 36 hours of contact: 24 hours of lectures and 12 hours of tutorials.

b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have previously completed 12 units of 2000 or 3000 level Philosophy (PHIL) or Biological Anthropology (BIAN) Courses.

Prescribed Texts

Not applicable


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

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you 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). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found 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
2023 $3960
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2023 $5100
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
8932 22 Jul 2024 29 Jul 2024 31 Aug 2024 25 Oct 2024 In Person View

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