Faculty of Arts

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This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2016 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

Monash University

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit



Dr Alexei Procyshyn



  • Second semester 2016 (Day)


Our everyday experience suggests that abstract things like money, social status, and human rights are every bit as real as gravity, concrete walls, and subatomic particles. But how are we to make sense of this? What kind of status do we accord to, e.g., money, and how does it differ - if at all - from the statuses we attribute to physical things? How does an abstract thing hold so much sway - power - over our decisions and behaviour? This unit will examine how ways of speaking and communicating create, modify or conform to specific social roles, and how these roles exert pressure on our everyday actions. In order to give students the tools they need to address these issues, the unit will introduce them to speech-act theory, the pragmatics of communication, and social ontology before moving on to analyse the social construction of science, gender, derogatory speech, pornography, and social injustice. Texts to be studied may include work from John Searle, H.P. Grice, Ian Hacking, Rae Langton, Judith Butler, Daniel Whiting, and Miranda Fricker.


Upon successful completion of this unit students will:

  1. understand major developments in social ontology
  2. be able to analyse and critically discuss key texts in the literature
  3. have gained expertise in Speech-Act Theory and the pragmatics of communication, and appreciate their application to topics in social & political philosophy and ethics
  4. demonstrate the capacity to interpret and evaluate important concepts, arguments and texts, as well as to put forward ideas and arguments of their own in a clear and cogent way


Within semester assessment: 60%
Exam: 40%

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. A unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study


Twelve credit points of first-year Arts units. It is highly recommended that students only take this unit after they have completed two first-year level units in Philosophy.