With my third year now completed, I'm trying to figure out what to do next. I was going to spend another year getting a double degree, but now I think I'll go straight into honours instead. (The main advantage being saving a year's time in getting into more advanced philosophy. Though as an added bonus, because I've done more than one degree's worth of courses already, I'll be able to discard those three courses where I only got an 'A', thus yielding a perfect GPA for my bachelor's degree.)
The big questions are 'where?', and 'doing what?'. My main goal for now is getting a good grounding in philosophy that will allow me to gain entrance to a top American university (or Oxford or ANU) for graduate study in 2007. Well, that and doing challenging and enjoyable philosophy, of course; but I expect they should go together.
As far as topics go, I'd most want to do some metaphysics and philosophy of mind, then some philosophy of science (especially as I haven't done any yet), and I feel vaguely obligated to get some history of philosophy under my belt at some stage too.
I'm not too sure how the honours thesis works (particularly, how much choice of topic the students have, or how much it is constrained by one's choice of supervisor), but some interesting topics that spring to mind include:
- Philosophy of mind, esp. intentionality, subjectivity.
- Micro-macro relationships: reductionism, supervenience, emergence.
- Indirect reasons (the common thread between such diverse issues as: indirect utilitarianism, caring about reliability/knowledge rather than just truth, generalizations, etc.)
- Philosophical logic, e.g. problems involving indexicality, and/or philosophy of probability, esp. the principle of indifference, Bertrand's paradoxes, etc.
- Metaphilosophy, esp. the role of "intuitions" in philosophy.
- Political philosophy of collaboration: open source, creative commons, wikipedia, etc.
It would probably be best if I could get into one of the better Australian universities -- particularly ANU if I'd get to work with philosophers in the RSSS (e.g. Chalmers, Hajek, etc.). But it might be difficult to organize at this late date. In particular, I'd need significant financial assistance, and probably accommodation at a "Halls of Residence" (to make the transition to a new country a little less stressful). So I need to look into whether those are still open possibilities. [Update: looks like accommodation is probably available, but too expensive for me to afford. Honours scholarship applications were due back in October.]
Or I can stay at Canterbury for another year. Some of the offered honours courses do sound quite interesting. In the first semester I would likely do PHIL 453 Cognitive Science and two more out of: PHIL 431 History of Philosophy (Kant), PHIL 433 Moral Philosophy (Punishment), and MATH 441 Computability Theory. In the second semester I would do PHIL 463 Contemporary Philosophy (non-existence), plus choices from PHIL 439 Formal Logic, PHIL 458 Philosophy of Mathematics, and HAPS 401 Philosophy of Science.
Actually, Otago might be worth looking at too. They're a pretty small department, but look well suited to what I'm looking for. There I could do philosophy of science with Alan Musgrave (PHIL 308), metaphysics of modality with Josh Parsons (PHIL 459), would hopefully get one of the above as supervisor for my honours thesis, and have my other course(s) be the interesting-sounding ones on advanced ethics and/or advanced metaphysics. So much metaphysics! It would be wonderful.
Otago's main disadvantage is the lack of any philosophy of mind (for history of philosophy I could sit in on Charles Pigden's 300-level course). Plus financial concerns, as my current scholarship probably won't follow me around the country. But I guess that's what student loans are for.
Any advice is welcome, though obviously I can't promise to give great weight to random blog comments!